The Art Of Productive Procrastination

The Art Of Productive Procrastination


Procrastination. To most people, that is laziness in its purest form, essentially putting off important things to do. In fact, many people feel guilty for procrastinating, yet they still continuously do it.

If you’re an avid procrastinator and feel absolutely terrible all the time, here’s a bit of good news. Contrary to popular belief, it can be incredibly beneficial to your productivity! Of course, too much procrastination is never good, however, with the proper procrastinating techniques, you are not only able to finish your task on time, but exceed all expectations in terms of delivery and quality!

Not convinced? Here’s exactly how to do it!

1. Roughly plan what you have to do

The best way to start off your day as a professional procrastinator is to have a rough idea of what you have to do today. Before you start complaining about the extra effort needed to put in, hear us out. Most of us dislike doing our to-do lists let alone focus on time management ESPECIALLY when there’s a big assignment ahead of us.

With the deadline coming ever so close, we tend to do other stuff before doing that exact assignment. For example, chores seem to be really enticing all of a sudden.

When you do other stuff that’s NOT the huge assignment coming up, one of the things you might end up doing is a to-do list for said assignment. This will actually make the assignment much more manageable if done right.

The point is, sometimes goofing off and doing something else is fine, especially if it has to do with making the big tasks easier for you in the long run. You can consider this exercise a form of productive procrastination where it directly contributes to your end goals.

2. Do other stuff first

Apart from planning out your big assignments, another thing you can do is virtually ANYTHING at all. As long as it is productive in some other way. For example, you could do chores, or read a book. Doing chores gives you a clean environment and a better workspace to tackle the large assignment at hand. Meanwhile, reading a book or browsing the Internet might give you some inspiration and a fresh way of approaching that big dreadful task.

It’s great to start with the small tasks that do not need much brain power eg. sweeping the floor, paying your bills etc. While you’re doing that, you can also do the slightly bigger tasks like reviewing something new that you’ve learnt so far.

Even if you didn’t start on the big assignment, overall by doing the small things, you’d be much more productive than if you started at the screen for hours just... not doing anything.

In fact, a professor at Stanford University has published studies on this form of procrastination. He states that by doing the small tasks to avoid the big task, he inadvertently becomes more productive overall. He calls this ‘structured procrastination’.

Related: How To Go From ‘Busy’ to ‘Productive’ – A Quick Guide

3. Break up big learning assignments

Sometimes, assignments can be huge. The more you think about the work required as a whole, the more you’re likely to just throw in the towel from the sheer amount of effort needed.

Instead of putting yourself through so much unnecessary stress, you can try breaking up the big learning assignments into smaller ones. Like the famous quote, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your work won’t be done in a day. If you keep telling yourself you have to build the whole of Rome alone and it’s a lot of work, you’d burn yourself out before you even start.

Instead, a better way to go about it is to break up the assignment into smaller manageable tasks. Don’t think of it as building Rome as a whole but think of it as placing one brick at a time. For example, instead of thinking that you need to master a new skill, start by understanding the basics and build it up from there.

You can productively procrastinate by NOT doing the work but instead splitting the work up into small pieces for different days.

4. Don’t be a perfectionist

According to psychologist Neil Fiore, procrastination is a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth. In his book, The Now Habit, he states that people who grew up striving for perfection are more prone to becoming chronic procrastinators in the future.

He claims that most procrastinators are by no means lazy, but instead subconsciously fearful of failure, and in turn, put tasks off. In layman’s terms, you can’t fail something that you haven’t done.

Contrary to popular belief, procrastinators are one of the most innovative people around. How many of us know someone who goofs off most of the time but ends up delivering work beyond expectations? We might even be those people.

So, one of the biggest enemies we procrastinators face is not laziness or lack of motivation, it’s perfectionism. In order for you to fight against those procrastinating urges of yours, you must first acknowledge the fact that there will be errors and imperfections. Neil Fiore states that the simplest method is to be realistic and humble about expectations set upon yourself.

It is better to do everything and embrace imperfections than not doing anything at all for the fear of it. So, if you’re learning a new skill for example, just because you aren’t getting it right doesn’t mean you have to give up or even worse, not do it at all. Take it one step at a time and embrace each mistake as a learning opportunity instead!

Related: Top 10 Tips for Home Learning Success

5. Have time for yourself

If you’re really out of it and in no mood to touch the assignment, the best option for you, surprisingly, is to take some time for yourself.

If you’re tired, have a nap. If you want to do something, try going for something that is good for you. For example, watching YouTube to gain new inspiration and insight. Revisit your previous assignments to reflect on your growth. Read and research a topic you have no idea about.

The possibilities for procrastinating productively are endless. A little bit of time for yourself can go a long way for both your productivity level and your sanity.

Go and justify your procrastination!

Now that you’re aware of productive procrastination, it all boils down to practice. With enough exposure, you’ll join the ranks of the master productive procrastinator;

Students that utilize their procrastination to boost productivity are rare, but they will deliver amazing work above the rest.

If you’re looking to learn a few new life skills yourself don’t forget to check out the range of courses and diploma programmes from Pitman Training!

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