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.
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.
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.