Procrastination: Give cease a chance

By Jeanette Cowley on April 19, 2016

Amongst our endless attributes, procrastination gets a dire press. Think what it evokes: delay, indecision or most reprehensible of all for some people, non-
delivery. As a public enemy, procrastination is up there with fatty food, bad weather and toothache. Is that fair though?

In truth, most of us procrastinate at some point, unless you’re perfect. In which case, good luck because you’ll need to wait around at the finishing line for the majority of humanity. Maybe you could catch up on your emails or something. For most of us however, pausing to think is inevitable, if sometimes not always welcome. Nevertheless, it’s high time we consider the potentially positive aspects of procrastination and rehabilitate it back from the wilderness to which our task-driven, 24/7 world has inexorably driven it in recent years.

I’m not suggesting that procrastination somehow guarantees a magical result. Indeed, procrastination can be a thoroughly wasteful act. If you procrastinate simply in order to delay a decision or to avoid something, then its highly likely no one will benefit, least of all you. This partly explains why procrastination can get such a bad press.

As so often is the case, context and motivation are crucial here. The benefits of procrastination can be positive and long lasting butcan only be achieved with careful thought and planning. These benefits can arise from making practical use of the reflective moments that procrastination offers. Procrastination can be a way of initiating a valuable pause to think things through, particularly when you need to process new information. It can be a rational, prudent way of enabling you to re-evaluate what you are doing. This applies as much in business life as our personal environment. There’s a certain machismo around the idea that every new situation we face has to be tackled head on in some kind of reactive, noisy whirlwind. Is that really the way you want to run your life, either in business or generally?

Taking some time out to reflect on things can lead to much more reasoned decision-making. Sure, you may initially feel a nagging doubt as you pause to chew things over but by allowing yourself some guilt-free latitude to consider matters at hand, you could end up feeling far less pressurised than if you simply made a rash decision. A creative pause may not be macho but it can make for quality decision making and that’s a pretty good validation in my view.

Used positively, pausing to think can reap benefits in terms of fresh ideas. Put aside the patterns of thought you have been following and think again. Develop a new approach or a different perspective by just thinking for a while. I’ve lost count of the times in my life when I’d wished I’d done just that. I’ve also lost count of the times that I have done it and then realised just how useful and invigorating such a creative pause can be.

Ultimately, I suppose this partly sounds like a plea for personal energy conservation. It is, but I am also suggesting that our decision-making processes could potentially benefit from stepping aside for a moment. Of course, sometimes it will not be possible to pause or even necessary to do so. Often we can trust our judgment and act. However, there will be times when a fresh thought or a new idea can only bloom when we have the courage to stop and think. Some may look at procrastination and denounce it. However, in the right hands and with the right motivation, it can bring substantial value.

Here’s to creative pausing.

©Steve Burniston 2016


About The Author

Jeanette Cowley

Jeanette Cowley is the CEO of Go For Growth. She is a London and Kent based mediator, team and executive coach who is often called on to moderate on-line sessions and speak about negotiation and personal presence. Jeanette has many years of commercial experience, culminating in the role of Group HR Director for a FTSE 100 business. She is a pioneer of using art in business to unleash the creative mind, accelerate success and deepen self-awareness. Jeanette’s current research into how senior executives sustain momentum, builds on work she carried out at Henley Business School. Jeanette is the creator of Voicing Possibilities Art-based Coaching Cards. These cards are used by meditators, coaches and consultants to help clients and individuals decide if, how and when to move forward. Contact: jcowley@goforgrowth.com