Search for procrastination on google and you’ll find a massive number of articles on how to stop procrastinating and get stuff done.
They will tell you that there is only one reliable way to get stuff done:
- Check todo-list for next item
- Complete item no matter what it is
- Go to step 1
They’ll tell you that if only you had enough willpower, backbone, self-control and discipline this is how you would work too.
Well guess what: Most people don’t work that way. Sometimes you’re in the mood for task X and doing X is ridiculously easy and a lot of fun. Sometimes doing X feels worse than walking barefoot over burning-hot, acid-covered, broken glass and forcing yourself to do it anyway is a frustrating exercise in futility.
Sometimes procrastinating is exactly the right thing to do at a particular moment. This is largely ignored by the procrastination-is-a-sign-of-weakness, the-devil-finds-work-for-idle-hands crowd.
An example: Sometimes I have a great idea for a blogpost, but I can’t get it written. I try writing it one way, I try another but I just can’t get it finished. Invariably, I procrastinate. Suddenly while I’m procrastinating, the idea I was missing comes to me and the whole blog post is suddenly clear in my mind. When I next sit down to write it, it takes no time and writing it is a pure pleasure.
I could’ve forced myself to write the blogpost the first time around – if I’d had enough discipline! But it would have been a struggle all the way and the result wouldn’t have been half as good. I can just hear people crying “Well, your blogposts still aren’t half as good” :o) That’s another discussion!
For me, procrastination is just another tool I use. A way to recharge and get ideas. The important thing is to procrastinate effectively.
Here’s how you do it:
1: Procrastinate without guilt
Do not beat yourself up for procrastinating. Everybody does it once in a while. It doesn’t make you a lazy bastard or a bad person.
If you leave a task for later, but spend all your time obsessing about the task you’re not doing, it does nothing good for you. So procrastinate without guilt.
2: Procrastinate 100%
Do you know those people who procrastinate from some important task – and all they can talk or think about is the task they’re not doing. Often to the point of obsession!
Don’t. Throw yourself 100% into whatever it is you are doing, whether you’re vacuuming, watching TV, reading, surfing the web or out drinking with your friends. Do it and enjoy it to the max.
3: Choose to procrastinate
Don’t let procrastination sneak up on you, so that you suddenly find that you’re doing something other than you should be. Instead, choose consciously to not work on your current task. Instead of fighting it, say to yourself “I will now procrastinate”.
This way procrastination isn’t something that happens to you, something that you’re powerless to control. As if it ever could be :o) This way you’re in charge and procrastination is a tool you use.
4: Ask yourself why you procrastinate
There can be many good reasons to procrastinate:
- Some crucial ideas, notions, thoughts may come to you only when you’re not working on your project.
- Effective procrastination recharges your batteries and gives you new energy.
- Maybe there’s something else you could be doing instead and procrastinating means you get it done.
- Maybe whatever it is you’re supposed to do, turns out to be irrelevant or even a bad idea. Maybe the reason you procrastinated was, that your subconscious knew this before your conscious mind.
Working non-stop means missing out on all of this. When you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself why. Don’t just accept the traditional answer: “There’s something wrong with me, I’m a bad, lazy person”.
5: Take responsibility for procrastinating
When you choose to procrastinate, make sure to update your deadlines and commitments. Let people know, that your project will not be finished on time and give them a new deadline.
Procrastinate now. I dare you!
Procrastination is not bad in itself. Do it right, and it’s a way to be more efficient and have more fun with what you’re working on.
In fact, I challenge you to procrastinate this very moment. Pick a task that you should be working on right now, but where your heart isn’t really in it. Then, rather than work half-heartedly on this task, procrastinate fully and consciously as described above.
Notice how it changes how you think about your task and what it does for you when you procrastinate 100% and without feelings of guilt.
Then write a comment and tell us how it went.
Considering how common an activity procrastination is (most people do it some of the time), you’d think there’d be more pro-procrastination resources out there,
If you’re not yet convinced, here are some other pro-procastination articles:
- I set aside feeling guilty about putting things off by Barbara J. McKee.
- Why don’t we do the thing we want most to do? by AmbivaBlog.
- Good and bad procrastination by Paul Graham.
If you liked this post, I’m pretty sure you’ll also enjoy these:
62 thoughts on “How to procrastinate effectively”
Please write a book about it!!!
I would love to read it. I can provide you with tons of empirical data :-)
Happy too see that I am not the only one having mastered the art of procrastination.
I really like your take on procrastination. I think it makes more room for the creative spirit. Your example about writing the blog article is dead-on for me. And when I find I make room and go with it, doing it later or seeing if something else buklds on the original idea, invariably something much better emerges than if I willed myself to grind it out a task. Talk about killing off the joys of life!
This is good – I want to work some more with this. Thanks!
Because “procrastination” is such a negative word (and because I have some deep psychological issues with procrastination), I prefer to call what you describe — consciously setting something aside so that I can do a better job on it later — as something different. “Mulling it over.” “Giving it some space.” Generally, I consider that to be simply good time management.
As I sit here and read this article, I realise I’m procrastinating …. I’ve finished my report which is due at a 10am meeting and I need to review it for any final thoughts. There’s no point reading it any more until my brain clears, so I pop over into the internet and wander through some of my favourite pages to see what others are up to. I feel much more relaxed and definitely less guilty reading about other people’s procrastination activities. I call it “mind space” but acknowledge that it is procrastination …… hmmmm time for a cuppa now. Enjoy your day and your guilt free mind space :-)
I can’t believe someone, supposedly intelligent, writes this shit!
I’m glad you did. I’ve always thought that procrastination is a useful way of helping you to work out what is going to be the most productive use of your time right now.
I’ve never really had the guts to be 100% committed though.
“I challenge you to procrastinate this very moment.”
I accept your challenge, in fact I read this article and am even taking time to respond to it when I “should” be writing my book.
Guilty? Hell no. I got a couple pages written tonight after work, I could have pounded out another, but I felt the desire to write slipping away so I decided to surf a bit… but wait a minute, I’m writing now… that’s funny… I guess I might actually be an author… Ironically I don’t even like reading books and now I’m writing my second.
But I digress. Great post Alexander!
Hi Alex, I agree with you that sometimes postponing certain things will be good for you and others provided you take control of that situation. When in any case you are depending on others (I mean like subordinating others), it will never work. Just because it is a negative word people always think that you should not it. But good writeup. Very interesting and somewhat different :) You could sense it from the comments I feel. Have a good day
Alex, have you read Slack by Tom Demarco. Great book on why we actually kill our companies futures by always trying to be busy. To innovate, invent, whatever the brain needs space. It can’t dream/think when crowded with day to day tasks – that is why we need sleep/rest you name it. How often have you solved a problem while walking/showering even when you weren’t actively thinking about the problem? Time and again corporations and productivity people forget this key essense about balance.
Well, I certainly followed your advice about procastinate and did it 100%
I’ve always had a problem with this as I’m a bit of a thinker by nature, and have had to impose external structures (read deadlines) to move past it. But as self-employed I often work around the clock, and feel bad about not working in all my waking hours, so this post offered good food for thought…
thanks for the advice – i never actually considered you could “procrastinate effectively”. because i work from home i get caught up in either feeling like a) i work all the time or b) i’m a slacker. this bit on not letting procrastination “sneak up on you” could be the key for me to be more realistic about the way i work.
I appreciate many things in the post above, and I am a procrastinator myself. I especially like the part about throwing your self 100% into procrastinating. I was playing ping-pong with my friend during finals week and I destroyed him so bad because all he could think about was his tests and papers. I was choosing to play instead of writing my papers and was satisfied with my decision. Yet, I feel compelled to say that I feel as a slightly failing person because I let these short pleasures come ahead of the things that really matter in my life and will influence my future. All though I procrastinate effectively I feel a slightly worse person because of it.
Karen: OK, I’ll write that book. Later :o)
dubqnp: Absolutely – there are many of us.
Dave: Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. It is exactly about putting more joy into work.
uneasy: That’s part of the problem, that procrastination has become “wrong by default”. We need to take back that word and make it just another productivity tool, as opposed to just another tool we use t beat ourselves up with.
DebP: You’ve got it :)
Grady: Give it a shot – see what happens!
Jon: Thanks. And who wants to be “pounding out pages” anyway, when you can be writing creatively and having fun, right?
Viji: I agree, and that’s why you need to take responsibility for procrastinating when others depend on you.
Simon: Slack went right into the shopping basket. Thanks for the tip!
Kristine: I’m glad you liked it and found it useful. Us self-employed people need to be especially good at it, or we end up working always.
walking barefoot: Excellent – please let me know how it works out for you.
Ninjabunny: Unfortunately, that’s how most people procrastinate – while feeling bad. You’re not a bad person for procrastinating – just use it as a tool. Do that, and you will be more productive than a person who’s always working.
My passion is developing new business…I’m a complete success!
Following through? Whenever!
But, the required last minute crunch provides a lump sum cash flow one may have otherwise squandered if received over the procrastination period. Squanered, of course, to perpetuate the enjoment of the topic at hand.
Result: the Self-Employment Retiremnt Plan…for now anyway.
I Just posted something at my own blog about this same subject. I’ve got a list of things you can do while procrastinate but still be effective. It definetely works for me.
I am writting a speech right now. It is 10:55pm, I started a half hour ago, and the speech is due in the morning. I decided to try and persuade my listeners to procrastinate. Exactly what you did. This is awesome!! And you know what, I put it off till now, and I am having the time of my life writting it.
Okay I am procrastinating right now and it is NOT a good thing! I do it every day because I don’t EVER feel like writing my essays for school. Even though I love sociology and find the work interesting. I just hate writing essays so I procrastinate until they are due the next morning…then I cry, go to sleep, wake up and 2 am, drink coffee and write the whole thing. And I don’t get a great mark even though I know I could.
And I can’t follow my usual pattern tonight because I want to go see a show and drink. When will I write the essay? Now…if I wasn’t procrastinating.
Also check out http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/ (Puts it into a rl eg)
wow margaret, you took the words out of my mouth! i’m doing medicine, and last term I had 2 major assignments due AND had 4 major performances (talent show, university musical performance, a duet for a dinner & a choir performance) worse was 2 of the performances were the night before the deadline! i stayed up & managed to submit it on time, but sent the other one an hour late. i felt really depressed.. i’ve always been so hard on myself because like margaret i know i could do better (managed to ace a previous assignment)
but now, maybe i’ll consider ‘procrastinating effectively’ instead of feeling like s**t. thanks for the great article!
thank you for this, I will repost it and link back your site to my multiply account.
This article looks interesting…. I’ll read it later though
I am supposed to be working on something right now, but instead I am procrastinating. Sometimes when I procrastinate with something I really enjoy doing, it makes me feel more energized to do what I should be doing next.
I’ll take your challenge and procrastinate, but I don’t really feel like it right now. I’ll do it tomorrow!
I’ve never felt so encouraged and in a sense, relieved on subject of procrastinating!
Now I don’t feel like a worthless human being who never get things done, and often frown upon my own failures.
aah, I love that “Do it and enjoy it to the max.”
Without a guilt, 100%.
“Effective procrastination recharges your batteries and gives you new energy.”
I love hearing that I’m not a bad person for procrastinating. I just feel that sometimes I procrastinate too much and run out of time.
…iM PR0CRASTiNATiNG AT THE MOMEN, SHOULD BE WRiTiNG AN ESSAY! HMM… TAKiN iT EASY SEEMS MORE MY STYlE. i lOVE TO JUST RElAX AND lET MY iDEAS COME TO ME. i AM MORE FOCUSED, RATHER THAN F0ll0WiNG A TiMEliNE THAT MAKES ME FEEl RESTRiCTED.PROCRASTiNATiON iS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!!!
SMOKiN, BOUT TO STEAM ONE
Love the article. Now we just need to get all the teachers and bosses in the whole wide world to read it.
Procrastinating is only bad if it is all you do.
This is a wonderfully interesting article! My husband says “I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for fixing the garbage disposal (for example).” You just have to love a guy that procrastinates with inner peace!
I beleive what you say 100%
and i think that this wonderous plan of action should be spread across the worlds populous in a greater attempt to tell the world to slow down and smell the flowers and to actually think about what the world doing and not to half-ass it.
I beleive in you!
Right this second I am procrastinating, but not guilt free and for this there is a simple explanation. Whether I do it now or later, I will still dread my work. It’s not simple, it’s not easily digestible, and involves a lot of math. I’m sure many of you can sympathize with this situation. Right now I should be working through some 80 or so quantum mechanics problems half of which are far beyond me and all are due, with full understanding of the topics, at the end of this weekend. How do you justify procrastinating on this? Situations like this arise often and though I am also a supporter of procrastination I do urge people to be weary of developing an unhealthy habit of avoiding work too long as I am currently doing.
I just failed my exam. And am now getting kicked out of university….apparently daring me to procrastinate does not
work….thanks a lot
I’m procrastinating by reading this :D
I am only reading this because I am procrastinating.
im in skool and procrastinating now :P and so wat better than reading about other procrastinators haha
eh, i’ll read it later
I am procrastinating reading this ;).
That awkward comment when you command me to procrastinate and I’m in college. As you wish.
I think a lot of people simply need to procrastinate more. You’re still getting things done, just not maybe the things you set out to do.
Am I the only one who is supposed to be doing something but is procrastinating?… Just me? Okay…
Its a good artical and such
but taht moment when its 12 AM and you have an essay due the next day and you havent started…..
That happens so much to me and I just have to grit my teeth and write.