The Power of Procrastination

"Something is wrong. How can procrastination be effective?"

"That's impossible. I can't believe it. You're just kidding."

"No, I'm not. I really believe that procrastination can be positive at times. And I mean it," I argued with a friend who just read "How to Overcome Procrastination in 21 Days or Less." He believes that procrastination has to be conquered sooner rather than later.

In fact, he questioned whether I was just making this technique up for some media mileage.

But can procrastination ever be positive? Can procrastination help you succeed in life? Is procrastination the missing ingredient in achieving that elusive promotion?

Contrary to people's beliefs, procrastination if used properly can be an effective tool for success — build rapport, attain goals, and achieve long-lasting relationships.

But how can it be effective when it connotes negativism and surrender, when it means delaying what needs to be done?

Let me give you some examples on how procrastination helps.

In my practice, I've seen individuals who worry excessively the whole day, almost paralyzed to do anything. They’re anxious about things that they should not worry about - clothes to wear, family safety, food to eat, bad weather, etc. They even worry that they're worrying too much!

Excessive worry drains their energies and interests away from pursuing more important things in life. Such preoccupation is not only counterproductive but is destructive because they can’t do anything except to worry.

As part of treatment, I teach them to procrastinate, on how to delay their worries. I encourage them to schedule their worries at a later time, for example from 5 to 7 PM, after finishing their chores or after accomplishing more essential activities during the day.

By postponing their worries, they're able to channel their energies - from unnecessary preoccupation to more productive endeavors.

My friend's predicament also illustrates the power of procrastination. Harry, a close friend since college, faces a huge problem in his new job. His boss, known for being "harsh and insensitive," can castigate anyone in front of others, even for minor issues. One day, his boss insulted him for coming unprepared, for failing to present an accurate quarter sales. He yelled at him and threatened him with a pink slip.

Instead of lashing out, Harry absorbed hurtful accusations like a meek lamb, postponed his response, and patiently listened to his boss' tirade.

A day after, he met his boss and politely confronted his inappropriate behavior. This whole time, Harry was composed and in control of his emotions. Without showing signs of wrath or agitation, Harry had expressed his concerns and displeasure. By delaying his reaction, Harry succeeded in modifying his relationship with a difficult boss.

Both above examples have shown how procrastination can be powerful, how delaying certain emotions and behavior can be positive.

When people, situations, or other stresses are pushing you to the limit, don't hesitate to procrastinate. Wait for the right time to respond. Delay your impulses until you're in control of your emotions. Postpone your responses when you can think clearer. Delay your decisions until you get enough information to make that critical move.

When you feel anxious or angry, try to procrastinate. Schedule your emotions at a time that's convenient for you. Tell yourself, "I'll worry about this later after work, and I'll devote two full hours today just for worrying." Also, delay your anger by promising yourself that you'll devote one hour this evening chastising your unfaithful partner.

Don't get me wrong. It's not easy to be always in control and it's difficult to delay brewing emotions. But at times, you have to do what's necessary even to procrastinate just to be sane in this complex world of ours.

Copyright © 2007. Dr. Michael G. Rayel





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Dr. Michael G. Rayel

author (A 31-Day Series and First Aid to Mental Illness) psychiatrist, and inventor of emotional intelligence games -- The Oikos Game Series and The CEO. Since 2005, he has published Oikos' Insights! www.oikosglobal.com as an online resource for personal development. For more information, visit www.oikosglobal.com.

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