21 Oct Is Your Procrastination Making You More Productive?
Procrastination, everyone is a victim of it. In fact, I’ve been procrastinating about writing an article about it! But is the ‘do-it-later’ mentality all that bad?
Procrastinators seem to be often looked at in a negative light. They’re frequently labelled undisciplined or worse yet, lazy. In reality though, these people may actually be getting more done than you think and using procrastination to their advantage.
Procrastination can help you work more efficiently
By procrastinating, you’re simply putting off what you were meant to be doing to do something else. Perhaps you’re scrolling through Facebook rather than putting together your client pitch. Maybe you’re watching TV rather than doing the housework, or going to the gym.
Obviously by regularly going about your days like this, you’re not going to achieve all that much. But if you’re motivated enough to direct your ‘do-it-later’ attitude you can make this tendency work for you.
It’s called structured procrastinating; a strategy developed by Stanford University professor and author of “The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing,” John Perry. Structured procrastinating simply means although you may be putting off one task, you’re doing something else instead. And that something is productive!
You may not be working on that client pitch due Monday, but you will be doing a task that does need to get done. Come Sunday night, you’re likely to working more efficiently to get your presentation up to scratch in time for your morning meeting.
Organising your priorities is the key
According to Perry, organising your priorities is key to working efficiently. “When you get a task, you have to think about how important it is, and how good of a job you really want to do,” says Perry.
“You should limit how much time you put into tasks that aren’t all that important in the long run.”
Structured procrastinating is all about performing a task triage. Decide what tasks are important and require a lot of time and separate them from those tasks that don’t have an immediate deadline. For those who can become overwhelmed by their workload and end up procrastinating as a result, this can be incredibly helpful.
To get started and transform your procrastinating into a productive habit, Perry advises on making two to-do lists. The first list should be filled with all the tasks you want to accomplish over the course of the week or month. The other list should be a daily to-do list of tasks you can cross off throughout the day as you get them done.
The concept of breaking down these smaller tasks is centred around incorporating little wins in your day. They can be as small as having a glass of water when you wake up, doing 5 minutes of meditation and making a healthy breakfast. That way, by the time you’re ready to walk out the door, you’ve crossed out a few things on the to-do list making you feel great from the get-go.
On the larger list, procrastinators should put a task a little less crucial and not all that important on top, like learning a language or re-decorating your office. That might go against the grain of list making, but it means when you a procrastinating about completing the first task immediately, you’ll be motivated to do some of the other ones further down on the list first.
Perry explains by doing this “you’re embracing your love of procrastination, but remaining productive”. If they don’t have things on their list, procrastinators are more likely to waste time avoiding the work and more time figuring out what they can do instead, like browsing aimlessly online.
This way, you’ll probably end up accomplishing many productive things on your list which in reality, may have a greater importance.
The biggest mistake procrastinators make
It’s not uncommon for procrastinators to put themselves down and consider this mentality to be a negative trait they need to change. This often translates in them reducing their commitments so that they don’t continually put things off.
Perry believes this is one of the biggest mistakes procrastinators can make. “It destroys their most important source of motivation. If you only have one thing to do, you won’t get anything else done — you’ll probably just lie on the couch to avoid it.”
Structured procrastination transforms the negative ‘do-it-later’ trait into the more positive habit – ‘do’. Procrastinators who implement these to-do list strategies will soon have a reputation of getting a lot done!