Why Procrastination Can Make You More Productive and Less Stressed

Dacy Knight

Procrastination is something we all try to resist. While we've tried every trick to kick the habit once and for all, it remains a continuous struggle (and finally putting an end to procrastination remains a mainstay of New Year's resolutions). However, habitual procrastinators will take comfort in hearing that sometimes leaving things until the last minute can be the best strategy.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, recently detailed exactly what kind of tasks should be left to the last minute, and which shouldn't. Inc. highlights the example of packing your suitcase for a trip in the first category. "If I gave myself more time to pack, I would take it, packing," says Allen. "Actually, not packing—deciding what to pack." Meaning, the more time you allow yourself to execute a routine task, the more time you're likely to waste, as Allen describes how you'll end up ruminating over packing possibilities ad nauseam.

To sum up the strategy, two conditions must be met for procrastination to be effective. First, you must know precisely how long the task is going to take (for packing you can be assured that if you only have 20 minutes, because you waited until right before you need to leave, you can get your clothes into your suitcase and out the door). Second, you must consciously decide to put off the task, otherwise you'll be wasting more time stressing over not doing it and spoiling the time you've freed up. Thus, procrastination is not a wise strategy when you don't know how long something might take—for example, a creative project that demands an "a-ha!" moment—or when you won't feel less stressed by deciding to do it later.

Head to the comments to share when procrastination has worked in your favour and weigh in on the findings here.

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