14 Ways To Procrastinate Productively

For too long I’ve sat idly by while the good name of procrastination is dragged through the muck. For the sake of getting things done we’re advised to banish, kill, and avoid procrastination without any acknowledgment of the good it’s done.

We owe procrastination. Big time. It’s responsible for our best ideas and busiest hours. Used effectively, procrastination is a powerful motivator and source of inspiration.

Structured Procrastination

Productive procrastination falls into two categories, structured and unstructured. With structured procrastination (via pmarca, via via 43F) you use the desire to avoid an important task as motivation to crank out dozens others. Anything to postpone what you really need to do, right?

Whenever I need to avoid something important, I turn to a few tasks that rarely get the attention they deserve.

  • Get Organized – There’s no better way to feel productive while avoiding the inevitable than organizing your home or work space. Without procrastination my desk would be perpetually cluttered and the dishes would never get done.
  • Network – Have a bunch of contacts you should really touch base with but don’t have the time? Procrastination is a great opportunity to politely reply to nonessential email. Taking the time to stay in touch with people pays dividends in the long-run.
  • Plan Ahead – The only thing better than actually doing something is thinking/talking about doing something. Take the time to identify, record, and schedule all your tasks, obviously leaving the most important for last.
  • Odds and Ends – Procrastination is the best time to find closure for everything that’s on your mind. Use it as an excuse to investigate and resolve issues that have been nagging you.
  • Meetings – If you’re not going to be productive, you might as well take other people down with you.
  • Errands – Need to schedule a dentist appointment? How about that oil change? Procrastination is capable of making the most tedious and trivial errands appealing.
  • Get Up To Date – Have a bunch of dull reports and memos you should probably read? They’re starting to look a lot more interesting.
  • Assist Others – If you’re not going to do your own work, you can at least deliver on the help you promised your colleague last week.

Unstructured Procrastination

Structured procrastination is a great way to keep busy, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it. When you’d rather not do anything work related, unstructured procrastination is the way to go. It might seem like laziness, but what’s wrong with that?

Unstructured procrastination is essential for recharging creative energy and allowing the unconscious mind to work on difficult problems. These are 6 productive ways to avoid work completely.

  • Go to Lunch – You need to eat, might as well do it now so you can’t use it as an excuse later.
  • Exercise – Same as lunch, with the added benefit of increased alertness.
  • Take a Walk – A casual walk is a great way to unburden your mind and allow great ideas to come to you.
  • Relax – If you feel a strong desire to procrastinate, there’s probably a reason behind it. Relax ation is important for a healthy productive lifestyle, why not do it now when you can’t get anything else done?
  • Come Up With a Great Idea – This one can’t exactly be completed on demand, but studies have shown that entrepreneurs and other creative people tend to get their best ideas during down time.
  • Read a Good Book – If you’d rather not think for yourself, you might as well absorb the great ideas someone else took the trouble to record.
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  • Stevo

    Haha, good stuff. I mean to start procrastinating more, I just never get around to it. :)

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  • http://redstarcoven.blogspot.com/2008/06/original-slack.html Walton

    Thanks, you’ve just proved a point – browsing the web avoiding work, I’ve hit upon some useful information.

    • http://www.breathezy.com/ Breathezy

      Then it really hasn’t been a waste of your time. :)

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  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Walton,

    Thanks, glad you found it useful. I should have flattered myself and put reading this website under unstructured procrastination.

  • http://chessthinking.com Chess Thinker

    I procrastinate, but not productively enough. Now I know how to do it. The things I do when I am procrastinating are making a to-do-list, going through (snail)mail, and cooking. Not enough. Thanks for the extra suggestions. I just wrote a piece about “How to do things that suck!” – but it never occured to me that you can be productive while procrastinating. Awesome idea!

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Haha, yes, procrastination can be (somewhat) productive, but we all have to eventually bear down and “do things that suck” like you said.

  • http://www.best-of-time-management.com/procrastination.htm Pamela

    Great post. This should be a good reminder for everyone that procrastination doesn’t always have to be negative. As long as we do it for a better result and benefits our routine, it’s great for everyone.

  • http://gcmouli.wordpress.com GCM

    John:

    Excellent post. I know you like feedback, and hence I am writing this comment. The new location of the google ad-words seems to be a in the way of reading the article – a potential putoff to new readers. Just thought I would let you know.

    GCM

  • http://dweezeljazzart.com/blog/ DweezelJazz

    Great ideas. May as well use the time for something constructive while the delaying lasts. :)

    For tips on how to get on with the required task without further delay, I wrote a post recently: “Tackling a Difficult Task” which you can see on my blog in the Achieving Goals category, or just go to http://dweezeljazzart.com/blog/2007/05/tackling-difficult-task.html

    Cheers

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    GCM,

    Thanks for the feedback. I know those ads are a bit intrusive, but they’re the only place people click them. You have a good point though, I plan on leaving them off the newer posts for a few days so they don’t annoy the regular readers.

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  • http://www.ibmeye.com Greg

    I procrastinate by leaving comments on interesting blogs. It’s kind of like making a friend in a karmic sort of way. I can’t say that it’s productive really, but I’m sure there’s some intangible benefit I can’t think of right now.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I think you’re right, Greg. That could be included in the indirectly productive forms of procrastination. Exchanging ideas with other readers can stimulate creativity and also build an online reputation.

  • http://www.MyTimemanagementTips.com Alan

    Nice post. These are great ways to be productive. I also procrastinate but seldom in a productive way. It would be great to make use of these benefits from procrastination.

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  • http://www.TheVoipProviders.com Fran

    Great post. I like your ideas regarding structured and unstructured procrastination and how we can be productive. Some are common things we do but most of us probably don’t know that we are productive with those activities.

  • TheSupplyChick

    Wow, what a perfect example of “thinking outside the box” by giving us a new perspective on what most consider to be a negative trait. For the first time in a long time, I actually feel accomplished and don’t have those lingering feelings of being such a LAHOOSER! BTW, I have also picked up great info from those who leave comments, so thanks to all!

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  • http://www.thephilosophyofchange.com Chris614

    I enjoyed this post – I thought it was very original. I also like your About Page. It’s refreshing to read stuff that is different. Regarding this post: What about procrastinating with no end in mind – procrastinating with no intent to gain something that helps you succeed or improve in some way? Is that just pure laziness? If so, then call me Lazy.

    It seems like the thesis of this article is: “Can procrastination help your productivity and improvement in some way?” My question is: “Can procrastination (or, doing nothing of importance) be a cool, fun, enjoyable way to spend some of the moments of my life?” I think they are both worthy questions and I think the answer to both questions is Yes.

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  • Devil

    Hehe, Brilliant, Bang on target :D

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  • cassie

    I procrastinate all the time at home an dat school. I dont do any of my work in fact im procrastinating right now

  • Shaz

    Ha! im procrastinating right now ! i have a deadline to be met today at exactly 2 pm .. have i started it .. NO!!
    i wish i had Bernards watch =[

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  • http://www.2knowmyself.com farouk

    simple and to the point, i really like it

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  • Gerry in London

    This is a fantastic article!

    I always feel terrible for not getting started on a task but you have reminded me of all the useful things I get done in the meantime!

    Incredibly useful and motivational website – thank you so much.

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    I always fell guilty about procastinating. No more! Now I can procastinate and be productive too.

  • Riley

    Wow. Great article…. however it just disproved one of my favorite quotations:

    “Procrastination is like masturbation. It’s awesome until you realize you just f*cked yourself.”

    Ah yes. hahahaha. At least I now feel better about reading this site instead of writing my paper that is due tomorrow. Blah. Thanks for the new point of view!

  • http://Julesarose.blogspot.com Jules

    I just made fabulous chocolate cherry bread pudding while not writing an article that was due yesterday. But then I wrote the whole article in the time the pudding was in the oven (70) minutes! After stalling for a month…

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  • http://listwiz.blogspot.com/ Brent Trotter

    I like all of those suggestions except two.

    “The only thing better than actually doing something is thinking/talking about doing something” — I’m going to have to disagree. Planning is nice, but doing is better.

    And meetings should be productive and not a waste of others time. If you don’t need to meet, then don’t meet.

    Otherwise, great list. I’ll share it. =)

  • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

    Ah, my procrastinating-self loves you for this. Shame all of those things seem too much like ‘doing something useful’ for me to get on with them. Except for eating and relaxing, of course.

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    The main reason we procrastinate is because, we don’t want to do something. If you find your self procrastinating, Sit down and think about it first:
    Is it worth doing it now?
    Am i going to feel better when i’m done…
    If you still procrastinate, then ur just lazy, go find an online college and work from home.

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  • http://www.romanticintimategifts.com Timothy

    Agreed! Ha! I love this article and am definitely on board with the idea of procrastination being an effective motivator as well as a source of many a great idea. Some of my best decisions have been made after I waited and, not only slept on the decision but, had something to eat, a coffee, and slept again! There is no need to rush into the wrong decision. Let it come to you.

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  • athena

    15. Read more lists about procrastination techniques. :)

    http://www.best5everything.com/best5ListPages/procrastinationtechniques21723.php

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    Well, I love procrastinating that’s for sure. I think it makes for more decisive action when action is taken. Why do things mor ethan once to get them right? Think about what you are doing and put it off until it’s certain what is to be done! Great article!

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    Procrastination time is the only time I get round to doing any housework during the week

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    lol!this article really kept me laughing all the way through because this is exactly how i am! my coworkers keep yelling at me for not being focused and systematic, but they just shut up when i tell them that at least i’m not idle for even a minute.why? because i do exactly everything you said in this article! this one’s for me! if you’re lazy but can’t stop working out of fear of getting fired, then look busy by doing other mundane work-related stuff like filing, making/answering office calls, and fixing stuff! EXTREMELY GOOD ARTICLE! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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    I always liked this one “the next time you get the urge to procrastinate, just put it off until later.

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    I deal with procrastination by doing the tips you mentioned on Unstructured Procrastination. When I’m tired or not in the mood to work, I do my chores and tend to my necessities. I think it’s a great way to balance your time and be truly productive.

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    Greg, I’m the same. I think leaving comments on good blogs is great, but sometimes I wonder how productive it actually is.  Oh well.

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    I always thought procrastination is Bad…new way of exploring it….and I am always criticised for that …now I have an answer…good stuff:-)

  • deaaath

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  • Osanda W

    Great article, Thanks 

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  • Lisarobins

    I am so guilty. I don’t want to procrastinate but I can’t identify what the most important thing I need to do is. Also I have to procrastinate some things to do other things. I can’t get anything done unless I focus and if I focus I lose balance. Dose anyone know an article or book I can read to figure this out? I want to procrastinate my favorite way by reading a book

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  • shawn

    Accidentally came upon this website a few weeks ago and its rapidly becoming a favorite. SO helpful! Thank You

  • Leah Hinckley

    I’ve always heard of this referred to as ‘productive procrastination’ and I’m really, really good at it.  What I’d like to know; is it teachable, what methods would you use to teach it to someone else?

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  • Bry

    Right now I am procrastinating. And this is unstructured procrastination.

  • Bry

    Right now I am procrastinating. And this is unstructured procrastination.

  • Oleight

    This unstructured procrastination is a phrase I haven’t heard. The motivations for different kinds of procrastination are endless but this kind of scheduled procrastination may be one of the best ways to get around procrastinating the important things. I found for myself and most people my age procrastination is caused from a lack of motivation or a lack of interest in work, these little “getaways” are worth experimenting with to curb student syndrome. 

  • Coolmw

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  • Saerz

    lol, i just went to a quiz on what sort of procrastinator i am i was only doing it 2 procrastinate but then when i read the quiz, LOL i didn’t end up doing it lOL

  • Irabor Mark

    Procrastination is the weapon the devil has used for ages to prevent people from making progress. Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.
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    I am so excited I found your website… I’m eating up every article :)  thank you.

  • Manetteburrell1on1

    Extremely helpful article.  However, I do get my best ideas when I am active in the gym or outdoors.

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  • simfan012000

    I love this because I always try to scour the net while I’m putting something off while searching for places to put positive comment karma. I think to myself, “Ok, I’m not feeling so hot right now because I’m loafing so how can I make someone else’s day better?”

  • Caroline Kirk

    Brilliant, love it! Its so important not to beat yourself up about procrastination, or anything for that matter, so love this self loving take on it, told with humour. Need to print this out as a reminder, i’m a Queen Procrastinator at times :)

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  • Angeline

    Awesome Article ! Sometimes procrastination is good…

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  • Navneet

    Never around to it , will start procrastinating , Thanks for awesome article & tips :)

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