This article is inspired by my journey to deliver multiple project deadlines last month in the face of procrastination that led to me burning the midnight oil. Is procrastination bad and what can I do about it? Finally, after a 2 days break with sleep duly repaid, I finally finished the article – enjoy!

A little background: In April, we secured a few big corporate immersion programmes to be implemented in June. We’ve been running these programmes successfully so we knew what was needed.  You can find out more here.

Timelines for the programmes were tight, so my teammate and I had planned our time and resources carefully – splitting our resources, roles, and responsibilities. In my defense,  I did start working on the programmes immediately.  But then, I hit a mental roadblock and the devil on my shoulder popped out saying “It’s okay, we still have lots of time. Now, let’s find some inspiration. How about looking through Kim and Kanye’s divorce?” What I forgot was that the project was not my only deliverable. Other tasks – e.g. manage client meetings, run a venture – cropped up, and it was easy to forget about the more challenging outstanding tasks.

Those cycles continued until the day Trello sent me over a dozen deadlines reminders and I started to panic. The good news is that when you are under time pressure, the ‘stuck in the moment’ part somehow disappears. I was able to complete my tasks, and surprisingly the boss said ‘good job’ (which is rarely heard) for the quality of work. But what nobody (except my comrades in arms) knew was that we were pulling all-nighters to meet the timelines! 

As a curious person, I started to do my research on why this always happens to most of us. In Indonesia, we even have a word for it called Sistem Kebut Semalam –  (it’s even titled as a system, cool). Growing up, we’ve been told and drilled that procrastination is a bad thing and yet you should feel bad doing it. But is it?


The case for Procrastination

I found out that people tend to have better decision-making by procrastinating.  Because by procrastinating, our brain is triggered by the short amount of time available to complete a task, and therefore we’ll focus more and naturally prioritize important tasks. Unnecessary tasks/thoughts/concerns magically disappear.

And it gets better. In a book by Adam Grant, “Originals”, he said  “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in non-linear ways and to make unexpected leaps. It is a vice when it comes to productivity, but a virtue for creativity.” 

I’d like to take it a step further. Procrastinating plays a very important part in terms of protecting our mental health and being human – especially in today’s Covid environment where we haven’t had the chance to take a proper leave to relax our mind and body.

Of course, we will need to take everything in moderation. A chronic procrastinator can cause a domino effect problem where all your deadlines are delayed, you can’t deliver things right on time which will affect your performance in the end. So risking your performance over procrastination theory? I don’t think so.

The key is how you can procrastinate well and effectively. Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

What to do about it?

Here are 8 tips, tried and tested by myself and my teammates to procrastinate well when we juggle multiple projects that require extensive creativity:

  1. Set out the context, and make clear the goals – Super important to help you see the big picture and choose solutions when you get stuck. We swear by Netflix’s No Rules Rules
  2. Have proper planning  with the working team (our team uses Trello for Project Management – shout out to Nelson Zhu for sharing his valuable insights) so that we know our boundaries for procrastination

  3. Set out roles and responsibilities for everyone in the team and make sure that everyone understands the mission and be creative in reaching the goal

  4. Agile touch base meetings so that everyone will be “motivated” to solve their problems and move the project forward

  5. Break up big tasks into smaller tasks – so that you can minimise mental mind blocks and capture quick wins. (Again, Trello is a saviour)

  6. Take a break when you’re stuck and don’t know what to do. Procrastination helps to clear your mind.

  7. Don’t be afraid to start again from scratch to remove mental mind blocks. Redoing a task helps the mind replay the options, and sometimes – come up with new paths to reach the goals

  8. Have a supporting team and most importantly a crazy boss that will chase after you like Chucky when you are slipping into chronic procrastination mode.
    As we have quite a number of immersion programmes lined up in the next few months, I’ll be practicing how to procrastinate well. Hopefully, this will turn into more creative ideas that I can share with all of you soon.  But I definitely do not want to be burning the midnight oil again soon!

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].