The word procrastination is familiar to all of us and describes situations in which we ignore tasks or postpone the deadline for their implementation. However, does procrastination only bring negative changes or does it have a number of advantages?
We all know this – we fill our planner with a variety of tasks, examine the nature of the task and the time it takes to perform it, set a deadline and simply reject it. For the most part, procrastination is described as a negative trait that affects productivity and efficiency also prevents people from realizing their full potential. However, can procrastination also lead to positive changes? Several studies have examined the subject.
What causes us to postpone tasks?
The reasons for procrastination are many and varied. Sometimes, the main culprit in endless foot-dragging is poor time management and inability to schedule and prioritize tasks. Procrastination can also develop as a result of the need to reduce stressors in the short term.
However, more and more studies have shown that procrastination is a complex psychological response. For example, one study found a positive link between procrastination and psychological vulnerability. Another study indicated that people who tend to delay tasks for the last minute have lower self-esteem than their peers.
What is the connection between procrastination and anxiety?
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK have found that people who tend to delay tasks suffer from higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-pity. Low levels of self-pity, which characterize serial rejectionists, lead them to treat themselves harshly and critically after failure to perform tasks on time which may impair overall well-being and even mental health.
A study published in 2017 supports this idea. The study showed a correlation between certain types of procrastination and neuroticism – a personality trait that represents interpersonal differences in adjustment and emotional stability. Those with this characteristic are more sensitive to feelings of anxiety, worry, or frustration.
Another study, whose findings were published in the Journal of Psychological Science, indicated that those most likely to have serial procreation had a larger amygdala compared with non-adjuvant study subjects. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure found in the middle temporal lobe of the brain.
The amygdala is involved in the regulation and control of emotions, especially anxiety and fear. The possible explanation for this, according to the researchers, may be that people with a larger amygdala volume attribute great importance to past mistakes and have assessed the results of their future actions. This excessive evaluation may lead to concern and hesitation, as observed in the subjects who were characterized as serial swimmers.
How procrastination affects our health?
In a study conducted at the University of Carlton in Canada, researchers hypothesized that people could use procrastination as a quick solution to improve the negative mood created by a stressful task. However, in the long run, procrastination is expected to achieve the opposite effect – to cause greater stress and even affect mental health.
An in-depth study conducted in 1997 also showed that procrastinators may enjoy lower levels of stress when they avoid doing tasks but in the long run, procrastination can lead to poor mental health and even impair the ability to perform various tasks.
Are there advantages in procrastination?
Some researchers argue that procrastination is not devoid of advantages and in fact, there are several types of procrastination that may lead to different outcomes. In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, it was argued that not every delay in carrying out a task could lead to a negative outcome and the origin of procrastination should be understood.
The researchers distinguished between two types of procrastinators:
- Passive procrastinators. People who do not intend to postpone the mission, but still do so because of the difficulty in making decisions quickly and performing tasks efficiently.
- Active procrastinators. People who delay with performing tasks consciously because performing under time pressure increases their level of motivation and effectiveness.
According to the researchers, the psychological profile of active procrastinators is more similar to those who do not tend to postpone tasks and therefore may lead to surprising benefits. Although active procurers can plan their activities in an organized manner, they do not limit themselves to a defined and planned schedule.
As a result, active procrastinators are more flexible and able to cope with new changes and demands and perform several tasks simultaneously. In fact, if anything unexpected happens, the active procrastinators will prioritize the more urgent tasks. In other words, active procrastinators show greater flexibility in task planning and may adapt more easily to changing demands.
A study published in 2017 found another surprising advantage in active procrastination. The study of 853 Chinese university students found that those defined as active swimmers may also have a more creative personality.
In summary, while rejecting tasks from feelings of fear and self-doubt may be paralyzing and ineffective, it is likely that little deliberate procrastination is harmless and may even provide us with time to accomplish the task more creatively. Also, for some of us, the approaching deadline may cause us to mobilize the most energies and focus to accomplish the task in the best and most creative way possible.