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Procrastination: What Does It Mean and Can It Be Beneficial for You?

Anyone can find themselves in a situation where it's impossible to complete a task that was set out to do. Procrastination is often to be blamed. Find out why procrastination is the thief of time and if it's as bad for you as you might think.
Procrastination is a negatively connotated word. We often associate procrastination with laziness, failure, and lethargy. We spend all our energy finding ways to stop procrastinating and believe that procrastination is the thief of time. However, there's always a flip side to every coin. Procrastination has nothing to do with laziness or poor work ethic. It is instead a defense mechanism to protect our self-esteem. Moreover, it can also serve some unexpected benefits. We will discuss later in the article why procrastination is good (or bad). But first, let's dig deeper into the concept and answer the question, "What does procrastination mean?"
a girl in the middle of her procrastination sitting on the chair near the desk and looking at her ipad

What does procrastination mean?

Simply put, procrastination is delaying things until the last minute. When we procrastinate, we ignore necessary tasks and spend time on meaningless or less important activities. For instance, if you have a presentation in two days, but you choose to binge-watch "Friends" instead of preparing for the presentation. It is a downward spiral that continues to pull us toward the bottom. Procrastination can be intentional or habitual. A major reason why we procrastinate is the lack of instant gratification after finishing specific tasks. Let's say you have an assignment due in seven days. Even if you finish that assignment today, you are not going to get feedback for weeks. There will be no dopamine release without positive feedback. Therefore, reward pathways in the brain won't get reinforced by this behavior. You would rather do something that entertains you instantly, such as watching a movie or scrolling through social media, and leave the assignment until it's absolutely necessary to address (i.e., a few hours before the submission). Some alternate explanations to the same scenario can be perfectionism, fear of failure, anxiety, or OCD.

Procrastination and laziness: do they mean the same thing?

The terms procrastination and laziness are often used interchangeably. But the truth is, procrastination is not laziness. Laziness is the complete inability to do any task regardless of the urgency of the work. On the other hand, procrastination is putting off work until the last minute or doing alternate, less important but gratifying tasks. There can be several reasons one might feel lazy. Laziness can be due to a lack of motivation or reluctance to put effort into the task. It may also be due to tiredness and fatigue. It is essential to overcome the underlying causes to fight off laziness. Read through these seven proven ways to stop being sleepy and tired all the time and seven reliable tricks to stay constantly motivated to help you deal with laziness.
a man in the process of procrastination sitting at the desk with a laptop and holding a pencil near his mouth

Procrastination and OCD: are they related?

Yes, procrastination and OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) are related. OCD is characterized by obsessive repetition of compulsive behaviors to reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms. One of the common themes of OCD can be avoidance. Avoidance acts as a compulsion, and it will effectuate momentary stress relief when we put off tasks. Another reason OCD may cause procrastination is that the task is a trigger for compulsions. For example, if I have an obsession with cleaning, then the compulsion would be cleaning everything before touching it. Otherwise, it will cause me distress. I may begin to procrastinate because I won't have to clean anything if I don't do anything. Therefore, I would put off my tasks until the last minute when it's inevitable to procrastinate any further.

Pros and cons of procrastination

If procrastination is so negative, then why do people feel proud of admitting that they are a procrastinator? Why is there a hint of pretentiousness in being a procrastinator? Because unconsciously, we are aware of the fact that being a procrastinator does bring out some of our more valuable traits. Let's look at why this is.

Why procrastination is bad

Below are some of the common reasons why procrastination is bad.

Quick fix. Procrastination makes us avoid important tasks. More than a behavioral issue, it is an immediate emotional fix. It is a temporary solution to our maladaptive emotional states (anxiety, stress, perfectionism, obsessions, or compulsions).

Self-criticism. Another reason why procrastination is bad is because it makes us more self-critical. It induces lower self-esteem, which makes us doubt our abilities. It also explains the relationship between procrastination and OCD. We have a subconscious presumption that we are going to fail if we procrastinate, even when studies have concluded otherwise. A study done by Ferrari (2001) reported that chronic procrastinators are more likely to succeed in general.

Productivity lag. Researchers have described two forms of procrastination: active procrastination and passive procrastination. Passive procrastinators face productivity lag as they are unable to regulate their time or prioritize, nor do they perform well under pressure.

Induces panic. It forces us to delay the workload that needs to be done at a given time. It keeps us distracted while our workload keeps piling up. Working on short deadlines may also induce panic in some people.
a woman lying on the pillow at her desk with a cup of coffee in her hand as an illustration of procrastination

Why procrastination is good

This might make you think, "How can avoiding important work be good?" Let us explain.

Better focus. The human brain can only focus on one task for several minutes. Doing the same work over and over again can be dull at times, and we may end up feeling drained. However, procrastination can help you rejuvenate your energy and improve focus and concentration.

Better decision-making. Sometimes, procrastinating on a decision that you are not sure of is the best thing you can do. It allows you to take a break and think about it thoroughly, evaluating its pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Ability to manage delay. Procrastination helps you to address delays in particular work. It shows that you have the ability to manage work under pressure and finish it regardless of time constraints.

Energy boost. Working around the clock can be draining, and we often find it difficult to catch up with a simple task. Therefore, procrastination works as a time out for us. It can also serve as an energy conservation process. It allows you to analyze your work routine and helps you to channel your energy effectively. Time spent procrastinating lets you analyze what is taking up more of your energy and how to utilize it efficiently.

Creativity burst. Procrastinating an important task is very common. Even if we are not working actively, our minds are subconsciously working on it and coming up with better and more creative ideas. Procrastination allows us to give our mind free space to think creatively, which is why procrastination is good. Recent findings have supported the claim that procrastinators exhibit more creativity than non-procrastinators.


Now you have the answers to "What does procrastination mean?" and why procrastination is good or bad, as well as its relation to OCD and laziness. To quickly review, procrastination creates barriers in your work routine. But on the bright side, it helps you rest your mind and revive your lost spark to get back to work with better focus and creative ideas. It is essential to use the art of procrastination in the right way. Otherwise, procrastination is the thief of time. But, procrastination and laziness are not the same thing — to overcome procrastination, you need to combat your deep-rooted fears and anxieties, but to overcome laziness, you need to work on your motivation and fatigue.

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