How to Successfully Procrastinate
Productive procrastination. It’s a thing.
Too many people associate procrastination with being “lazy,” but little do they know that a state of procrastination can be the catalyst for someone to accomplish more than they would on a regular basis.
Anyone who has met me knows that one of my biggest struggles is procrastination (in fact, I’m doing it right now while writing this post!).
Although I’d like to say that over the years I have learned the detrimental effects of procrastination (which I have) and have rid of this “destructive” habit, it simply isn’t true. In fact, my procrastination has definitely increased over the years, but only because I’ve learned the secret of how to successfully procrastinate.
While procrastination is no doubt a curse, because of these secret tips I’ve learned with time, I have taught it to also be a blessing.
Because of procrastination, I have learned time management.
So, what is productive procrastination?
Productive procrastination is putting off one task, while completing many other tasks that needed to be taken care of. By refusing to do one thing, you’re ultimately accomplishing more than you would have normally accomplished if you were not avoiding another task.
How it works:
Step one: Prioritize. Get out the pen and paper, and make a list. If you’re anything like me, there’s going to be several tasks you’re avoiding confronting. Start by writing out a list with deadlines of when every task NEEDS to be completed by, along with a goal date for when you HOPE to accomplish it. This way, you’re giving yourself “pillow dates” in case it was not completed by the goal date. Put each task in order, and don’t allow yourself to start working on a task until the one before it is done.
Step two: Put yourself in the mindset that the goal date of your task is the actual date it is due. Essentially, you need to lie to yourself. If you consistently tell yourself that the goal date is the actual date it is due, you’ll eventually start to believe it. (Trust me! You need to forget about the true due date). This is the way you trick your brain into finishing things early (a rarity for avid procrastinators).
Step three: choose one (and only one)task you will procrastinate most. For me, this is usually the biggest, most daunting task. This typically ends up being a final essay or project for university. Make sure this task has a non-negotiable deadline (which you well set ahead a few days), and major consequences if it is not completed.
Step four: Start procrastinating. Give yourself a prep talk and remind yourself “if I’m going to procrastinate this project, I’m going to fully procrastinate this until I have no choice but to tackle it”. That means (trigger warning!) you can not allow yourself to touch the project until all other things on your list have been crossed off. “Why?” You ask? This just sounds like unnecessary anxiety? Well, it basically is. Anxiety can be horrible, but it can also be healthy in small amounts. By having the thought of “I’m going to be in so much trouble if I don’t get to this major project soon!!!” you unconsciously convince yourself to accomplish all the tasks on your list so that you can work on the most important task, while simultaneously having the satisfaction of not working on it for as long as possible.
Step five: Watch this technique blossom into a lifestyle. I’m not encouraging procrastination, but if it has to happen, this is by far the best way. Personally, I attribute a lot of my completed projects to being completed while procrastinating something larger. This technique is best for people who prefer not to do work, and need that extra boost of motivation to get things done, as well as people who work good (and sometimes even better) under pressure. This strategy has taught me the value of time management and prioritization, as well as how to put things off while not being lazy.
What happens if while I’m procrastinating and doing the other tasks, I have urge to work on the major task?
Congratulations! If this happens, you’re successfully battling your procrastination and you don’t need this post! Go work on that assignment and get it dooooonnne! Just be aware of the scenario where you’re feeling the urge to work on it because you’re procrastinating a smaller task on your list before it. Keep in mind your pre-set deadlines and you’ll be fine!
What happens if I’m procrastinating my smaller tasks too?
Listen up right here. You are only allowed to procrastinate one task at a time. Got it? If you’re going to be slack enough to allow yourself to do some procrastination, you need to be stern enough to not take advantage of it. Turn your phone off, and put on some music. Tell yourself, “I’m going to work on this smaller task for (x) amount of songs, and after that many songs plays, I’m going to switch tasks.” Allow yourself only 10 minutes on social media/ your phone per hour as a reward, and don’t go over.
What happens if this just makes me way too anxious to do any work at all?
Anxiety happens, and with procrastination you’re not going to escape it. This is why we have our lists and goal deadlines. Use these deadlines to make a schedule of exactly when you’re going to work, and break it down hour by hour, minute by minute (be sure to account for time that includes snacks and relaxation). Schedule breaks into your work time, and abide by your new schedule. Deviation is what causes stress, but if you really focus on being productive in your allotted time slots, you’ll have an awareness that ultimately everything will be okay. And if you don’t finish in time or something runs longer? Chill out! It’s all good! Remember why we set “goal due dates”? Now is the time to extend them into the “pillow area” so they can still be completed. Just remember that this extra space is only in case of an emergency, and should only be used if absolutely needed.
So now what? Stop procrastinating your procrastinating and start procrastinating! You got this!