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Procrastination As Friend, Not Foe

Cornerstone Editors

Job satisfaction and engagement are big — and important — topics in HR and business circles. There's a tendency, however, to deal with employees in the abstract as a large, indefinite group of people — a practice that may be contributing to dissatisfaction and low engagement.

So what about the individual? One way to increase job satisfaction is for everybody, from the CEO to the newest hire, to address the human tendency to procrastinate.

Writer Anna Della Subin tackles the problem of procrastination in an Op-Ed in The New York Times. Subin, who recently attended a conference about procrastination at Oxford University, dissects its evolution from mere human behavior to a designated mental illness. All of that talk and research got her thinking: What if the pressure to avoid all distractions and to be constantly productive actually does people more harm than good?

The mindset that procrastination = wasted productivity = bad, however, is hard to shake. Research, news articles and societal norms pressure people to constantly produce. The American Psychological Association, for example, suggests that 20 percent of American adults are "chronic procrastinators."

Or consider this: Subin cites an Economist article that calculated the number of minutes people worldwide have spent watching "Gangnam Style" on YouTube. The total is 140 million minutes for more than two billion views. If humanity were to put those hours toward nobler pursuits, people could have built more than 20 Empire State Buildings, or nearly five Stonehenges.

But Subin asks whether four minutes spent on YouTube should cause people anxiety.

"Whatever you’re doing, aren’t you by nature procrastinating from doing something else? Seen in this light, procrastination begins to look a lot like just plain existing. But then along come its foot soldiers — guilt, self-loathing, blame," she writes in the Times. "Many of us, it seems, are still trying to enforce a military-style precision on our intellectual, creative, civilian lives — and often failing."

Self-improvement and ambition are valuable human traits, but so is self-forgiveness. Perhaps it’s time to learn how to live with procrastination. There’s always tomorrow, after all.

Photo: Can stock

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