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The Hidden Beauty of Procrastination | Jasmine Elasaad

From the time we were first able to pick up our pencils, our teachers have made it abundantly clear to us the harmful effects of procrastination. But over the years, these warnings have done little to stop both me and an enormous subset of high schoolers and college students alike from procrastinating to our heart’s content. In fact, we have embraced procrastination as a form of challenge — a high-stakes game to pursue an “A” grade before the clock runs out.

Those feelings of panic and dread that come with the knowledge of a looming deadline, followed by that sweet release you get upon finishing just in the nick of time, are all too familiar among procrastinators. For many, it has become a competition of sorts, for bragging rights about who is functioning on the least amount of sleep. But poor time management skills don’t seem to be quite as impressive to our teachers and parents, often drawing their ire. So this begs the question, is procrastination a part of ourselves that we should strive to change?

Many of my fellow procrastinators have felt pressured to overcome what society has labeled as a notoriously bad habit associated with laziness. But believe it or not, various studies have actually shown that there are benefits to procrastination. Take Jihae Shin for example, a professor at Wisconsin University. She designed an experiment to test the creativity of self-proclaimed procrastinators vs non-procrastinators. In the study, subjects were required to come up with a novel business idea under a time constraint. The non-procrastinators were instructed to immediately begin brainstorming, while the procrastinators were able to play a game prior to sharing their proposals. After the time limit, each individual was given the chance to share their idea and was rated on originality. The results of the study revealed that the procrastinators’ creativity scores were 28% higher than their non-procrastinating counterparts.

Putting off tasks allows for natural creativity to flow and adds unstructured time for us to come up with more ideas. It’s better to engage in divergent thinking and generate a multitude of ideas rather than just a few, as our earliest proposals tend to lack novelty. This allows us to come up with more innovative ideas rather than piggybacking off of old ones. It’s also important to keep in mind that postponing an assignment for a while doesn’t mean that you will completely stop thinking about it; the semi-conscious thought-stream that you will likely experience will result in the jotting down of ideas here and there as the deadline approaches, more often than not leading to improved designs.

We need to stop fighting procrastination. Rather than treating it as a thing to be ashamed of, we should instead view it as a way to foster insightfulness in individuals with the potential to make a real change in society. I suspect that many of our top innovators have practiced the underrated art of putting things off. Procrastinators have value. So the next time you find that you are having trouble coming up with a new thesis statement or business proposal, why not give your brain a few days to stew in its creative juices? Just put it off for a while.

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