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Procrastination Can Be a Good Skill to Have

4 empowering benefits of procrastinating that I've observed as a therapist.

Key points

  • Procrastination can complement efficiency, limit the time spent in distress related to the task, and force motivation.
  • If you procrastinate, try appreciating the resourceful aspects of it.
  • If you don't procrastinate, you might benefit by learning how to do so.
Denise Robertson, image used with permission
Source: Denise Robertson, image used with permission

Procrastinating can be a positive thing to do. Yes, you read that correctly. People who do it and judge themselves poorly will benefit by looking at how procrastinating helps them. That said, those who don't know how to do it might want to learn how, too.

Background: Vice vs. Virtue

Procrastination is typically viewed as a negative behavior. Research indicates that procrastination corresponds with time management issues, poor self-efficacy beliefs, low self-esteem, avoidance of task discomfort, fear of failure, and more. Yet, procrastination also serves many people and their quality of life.

Let's Get on the Same Page

I typed “procrastination meaning” into my Google search bar, and it gave me “the action of delaying or postponing something.” Yet, nuanced definitions differ in scientific articles. So let's agree that, in this article, it means “putting something off and then doing it last minute.”

  • If you procrastinate, why do you think you do it? Please don’t go with any rote or self-disparaging answers, such as “I’m lazy,” etc. Look for how it assists you.
  • If you don't procrastinate, why do you think that is?

Here's a first-time public reveal for me: I have often wished I could put off starting papers and projects. However, I get too worried I'll miss a deadline or create something that feels embarrassing. Back in school, I admired the people who started major assignments the night prior and still did well.

At this point in my life and with well over a decade as a therapist, I've heard about countless experiences with procrastination. I believe that we all do things that serve us—even those behaviors that are customarily judged as harmful. We get something we want out of those "bad" behaviors, or we wouldn’t do them. Here are some of the benefits I've repeatedly seen from procrastination.

Empowering Positives of Procrastination

1. Procrastinating can come from self-awareness and support efficiency.

People often put off tasks (e.g., school or job assignments) to the last minute for the following reasons:

  • The process doesn't mean enough to them to give it more than a limited effort to get by.
  • The project or task’s standards can be easily met. So, their last-minute efforts genuinely suffice, producing something that meets or exceeds expectations.

In those cases, delaying the work means minimum time spent on it. Life's busy, and as long as the work is getting done well or well enough, the procrastination seems both self-aware and practical, not problematic.

2. Beginning close to the deadline can limit the time people spend scrutinizing and questioning their work.

Sometimes people know that if they finish early, they’ll keep second-guessing themselves and revising until the cut-off point—often without making significant improvements. Whereas beginning closer to the deadline limits their time spent rethinking and redoing. Here, procrastination seems wise and sparing.

3. Putting something off until the last minute can minimize the time spent experiencing discomfort.

People can put something off until near the deadline because the process of completing it is hard or uncomfortable for them. For example, let’s say a task triggers overwhelm or boredom. Procrastination then helps minimize time spent being overwhelmed or bored. If we remove judgment here, minimizing time spent in uneasiness seems effective and self-protective, right?

4. A fast-approaching due date can serve as motivation when inspiration’s otherwise lacking.

Sometimes it's difficult to begin something. A person may genuinely not know where or how to start. Whether the person's stalling (or seemingly frozen state) is due to anxiety, confusion, executive functioning issues, or whatever the reason, the clock ticking can eventually propel the person into action. Furthermore, if a task seems unexciting, that last-minute rush to meet a deadline can create a faux sense of excitement. In these examples, I think procrastination’s a resourceful method to overcome the struggle to start.

Let’s Be Real

I'm not saying procrastination is fantastic and something to strive for in all cases. However, when raised to think something is inherently bad, we often don't unpack it, put it on the table, and look at it to see the negatives and positives. Instead, we tend to judge and criticize ourselves automatically. Yet, shaming oneself rarely inspires real change. And, frankly, when something is working well enough, is there a need to change it?

No. Or maybe, not yet.

While procrastination is working fairly reliably for a person, that’s an ideal time to sample, test, and practice other ways. As a result, you'll likely acquire additional useful tools and life skills. And possessing more trusted methods for meeting deadlines in the future—including your tried-and-true procrastination–will genuinely benefit you.

My Personal Trek With Procrastination

I’m age 50, and not procrastinating has worked out pretty well for me throughout the years. However, nowadays, I'm practicing putting things off, too. Why? In hindsight, I can see that not every project or paper needed the amount of attention I believed I had to give it. For example, I remember a classmate back in graduate school asking me if my paper’s final version was a lot better than an earlier revision. “Yes,” I defensively said. But really? It was probably not. Back then, I lacked the self-knowledge and self-confidence to know what was good enough.

In Conclusion

I hope this blog post helped you feel a little different about procrastination—whether you do it or don’t. And yes, of course, stalling comes with undeniable risks. However, we hear about those negatives and dangers often. So, they didn’t need another spotlight here.

Finally, maybe this article left you thinking, “I have no idea why I do what I do, but it’s not working for me.” I understand that. If you’re struggling to figure out what behaviors are serving you, harming you, or both, a good therapist can help you work that out. And just in case you were wondering: Yes, I procrastinated finishing this article.

If you would like to comment on this post, please visit my socials or click the feedback button on my Psychology Today bio and let me know! Also, this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for therapy or professional advice.


Hajloo N. (2014). Relationships between self-efficacy, self-esteem and procrastination in undergraduate psychology students. Iranian journal of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 8(3), 42–49.

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