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Resting or Procrastinating? That is the Question

In my last week’s video, I talked about how I decided to reprioritise some of my tasks on my to-do list and move a few things in my schedule to another date, and took some time to rest. And I said that I will discuss further the difference between procrastination and rest.

I noticed that there is a guilt that I have observed in friends and family and in myself too, a guilt for prioritizing rest over ‘action’, a pang of guilt over what society decided to label as ‘procrastination’.

The first point I want to make is that rest is not an ‘inaction’. See the double negative there? Resting is also doing something: reading, meditating, watching a series, going for a walk, a run, doodling, cooking your favourite meal, a 20-minute nap, playing a game, having a long bath… whatever makes you feel balanced, relaxed and can stimulate calm, imagination, creativity and reenergize. What is resting for you?

And the second point, taking time to rest and procrastinating are two very different things. But, for some reason, society confuses both (and many lifestyle coaches do, according to numbers of web articles I read), and we may feel bad thinking we are procrastinating when we are actually resting.

I am not only an artist: I am also a scientist, and as any scientist, I like to do some research. I started to look at the official definitions of rest and procrastination, to support my point.

I looked at the Cambridge Dictionary: resting is “to stop doing a particular activity or stop being active for a period of time in order to relax and get back your strength”. They also define Relax as “becoming less active and more calm and happy”. I like part of this definition as it implies that we are stronger and more apt for ‘action’ after the period of rest, but I think that resting can still be an activity as well.

Now, let’s look at Procrastination. This is a word that has been given bad connotations. I never heard this word before ~8 years ago online and in English. I then looked up the translation in French. It looked like a French word. What I found is that the French word is also procrastination, but I have never ever heard anyone use this word in French before. I wonder when this word emerged in both languages, but could not find a lot of information on that. Google Trends did show an increase in search of this word in May and November 2020 in France, but minimal.

I looked for a scientific definition of Procrastination on Research Gate and I found hundreds of scientific articles on it (not many on resting). It is defined as “a voluntarily delay of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse of for the delay” (Steel 2007). The Procrastination Research report says that it can be linked to very different internal feelings: self-esteem, fear of failure, bad time management…

And that is where the big difference lies. The delay is going to make things worse. We know it and we keep postponing the action.

So why do we also feel guilty to delay actions, to take a rest when there is no bad consequence, but the opposite: calm, strength and happiness. We need to change this and take some step back to reflect on why we change our schedule or delay things, before feeling guilty about it!

When you delay an action to prioritize another one, and it doesn’t make anything worse, it’s not procrastination. It’s good time and productivity management.

When you delay an action to invest in yourself and rest, to get stronger mentally and physically. It makes things better. It’s not procrastination.

When I don’t clean my glass palette after painting, and leave it to the next day (or week... *cough cough*), knowing it will dry and make it even more difficult to take it out, this is clearly procrastination, isn’t it? I wonder why that is. I often hope I will get back to my easel the next day, and sometimes it’s not possible. But, in the big scheme of things, it’s not that important, is it? :P

The question is now: When we are postponing our rest time, even though we know we are close to mental exhaustion and we keep going anyway, is that procrastinating rest?...

What do you think? Let me know in the comments

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