Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, a person is procrastinating if they have a week to finish an assignment, but they delay getting started until right before its deadline for no good reason.
There are three concepts that can be considered the opposite of procrastination (i.e., its antonym):
- Precrastination (doing things too early).
- Purposeful delay (delaying things intentionally for good reasons, in a way that’s expected to lead to positive outcomes).
- Promptness (doing things without delay or at the appropriate time).
Understanding what’s the opposite of procrastination can be useful for understanding procrastination itself, as well as how to overcome it. As such, in the following article you will learn more about procrastination, understand the behaviors that could be considered its opposite, and see what this means for you in practice.
The characteristics of procrastination
People procrastinate on many different things, such as school projects, workplace tasks, and even going to sleep. Furthermore, there are various types of procrastination, which are characterized by different causes, patterns of behavior, and outcomes.
For example, some people procrastinate because they feel anxious when they think about a task, so they avoid that task to protect their emotions in the short term, even though this makes them feel worse in the long term, since they keep worrying about the task and eventually have to deal with it anyway. Alternatively, some people procrastinate because they get distracted by digital temptations in their environment (e.g., social media and video games), until they remember what they should be doing right before its deadline, at which point they rush to do it under intense time pressure.
Nevertheless, the following key traits generally characterize procrastination:
- It involves unnecessary delay.
- The delay generally leads to negative outcomes, in terms of factors such as the procrastinator’s performance or emotional wellbeing, and these negative outcomes can generally be expected in advance. As such, procrastination is considered to be a maladaptive behavior, rather than an adaptive
- The delay is often—but not always—unintentional, meaning that it occurs despite the procrastinator’s intent to do things on time.
In addition, common signs of procrastination include waiting until the last minute before deadlines to get started, finding yourself performing tasks that you intended to do days before, and continually saying “I’ll do it later”.
The opposite of procrastination
There are three behaviors that can be considered the opposite of procrastination:
- Precrastination, which involves rushing to work on or complete tasks too early, even when doing so is expected to lead to issues such as reduced efficiency and worse outcomes. As such, precrastination can be considered the opposite of procrastination, since while both behaviors are maladaptive (i.e., generally lead to negative outcomes), procrastination involves doing things too late, whereas precrastination involves doing things too early, so they involve opposite behavioral patterns.
- Purposeful delay, which involves strategically postponing things (e.g., decisions or actions), in a way that is expected to lead to positive outcomes. As such, purposeful delay can be considered the opposite of procrastination, since while both involve a delay, procrastination is maladaptive (i.e., generally leads to negative outcomes) and often unintentional, whereas purposeful delay is adaptive (i.e., generally leads to positive outcomes) and always intentional, so they involve opposite causes and lead to opposite outcomes.
- Promptness, whichinvolves doing things without delay or at the appropriate time. As such, promptness can be considered to be the opposite of procrastination, since while procrastination involves a delay, promptness generally doesn’t, so they involve opposite behavioral patterns, and these behaviors generally also lead to opposite outcomes, with procrastination generally leading to negative outcomes, and promptness generally leading to positive ones.
These three terms (precrastination, purposeful delay, and promptness) can be considered antonyms of procrastination, since they refer to opposite meanings from it.
In addition, other terms are sometimes used to describe these and similar concepts.
This includes terms that have been informally derived from the term “procrastination”, and most notably antecrastination, which is sometimes used in place of “precrastination”, and anticrastination/concrastination, which are sometimes used in place of “promptness”, though these terms are all rarely used.
This also includes other terms that are sometimes used to refer to the concepts that are considered the opposite of procrastination, or to similar concepts. For example, in the case of “purposeful delay”, this includes terms such as strategic delay, wise delay, and functional delay, while in the case of “promptness”, this includes terms such as timeliness and punctuality.
Furthermore, the distinctions between these terms are sometimes unclear. Most notably, when promptness involves an intentional delay that’s expected to lead to positive outcomes, it can be considered the same as purposeful delay, though both are considered the opposite of procrastination regardless.
Finally, other terms can sometimes be used to describe the opposite of specific types of procrastination. For example, if someone procrastinates by constantly delaying making decisions (i.e., by being indecisive), then decisiveness could be considered the opposite of that. Similarly, if someone procrastinates by being passive or slow to respond to issues, then traits such as proactiveness, readiness, and alacrity could be considered the opposite of that.
From a practical perspective, procrastination can cause various issues, such as worse academic performance, worse employment and financial status, worse emotional wellbeing, worse mental health, worse physical health, and delay in getting treatment for one’s issues.
Accordingly, if you suffer from procrastination yourself, then you should learn about its causes, so you can identify those causes in your particular situation. Then, you should learn how to stop procrastinating, by creating a proper plan of action, and then using anti-procrastination techniques that are well-suited to solving your particular procrastination problem.