Use Your Procrastination As A New Super Power

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Productive Procrastination

by Stephen J. Lalla
I’m going to assume that you’re healthy. Healthy in the sense that on occasion or perhaps even more frequently, you procrastinate. Stepping back for a moment, if you’re a super performing high achiever who never procrastinates, this article isn’t for you. However, you may wish to read it to get a sense of what ordinary people live through and recommend it to that friend or spouse who is so not like you.

…use your procrastination as a new Super Power.

Since I’m not a psychologist, nor do I intend to do a deep dive into all of the reasons we procrastinate as that would make this article way too long, and frankly, quite dull, you’re going to have to figure out the WHY on your own. Plus, there are entirely way too many reasons as to why someone procrastinates, with all of them typically being fear-based. But my goal isn’t to get you to stop procrastinating; it is to help you use your procrastination as a new Super Power. As a master procrastinator myself who has tried all sorts of ways to stop procrastinating, I know it’s going against my nature, so I gave up and now embrace who I am. Embracing my life as it is and accepting myself for who I am, I’m going to guide you to turn your Procrastination into a productive attribute or Super Power as I like to think of it, in so far as it can be.

Now, suppose you’re all over the place in terms of disorganized and are always losing your keys, misplacing your glasses, missing appointments, or having a friend call your phone as you know it has to be someplace. In that case, that’s not a procrastination issue but an entirely different challenge. Your problem is that you don’t have a reliable system for your life. Unfortunately, this article isn’t going to correct that, but don’t fret as I can help you with that in a future article about How To Systematize Your Life.

We all have way too much stuff to get done, that’s a given. I’ve never met anyone who has wrapped up the day saying, “today, I did everything.” Regardless of how organized you are, it’s just not going to happen unless you only plan to do the very minimum each day. Here, I’m not going to delve into prioritizing your task list by rating or ranking or urgent or important as there are entire books on that subject. Frankly, I’ve read a lot of the books and have tried most of the recommendations and find it way too tedious and boring and will typically end up procrastinating. Hold on as I know the suspense is building, and you want to see the answer to Productive Procrastination.

Here is my magical solution.

Productive Procrastination is the art and science of harnessing David Allen’s Getting Things Done but with a twist. In this version of getting things done, you are getting “other” things done, which moves the needle in a positive direction, albeit more slowly and not the most efficiently, but again, accomplishments are what we are after. What you do is this? Anytime you feel yourself procrastinating on a task or project, that in your psyche, you know you should be doing, stop stressing over it. Let it go, but here’s the productive twist. Do something else on your list. It doesn’t have to be the next “most important high priority” task. Just do anything that will knock one more thing off of your list.

A lifetime ago, I worked in a meatpacking plant as a butcher. The lead butcher would bark at you anytime you weren’t constantly working, “Do something, anything, even if it’s wrong, just do something.” Now I’m not precisely recommending that philosophy but extract from it the positive, do something. Doing something is always much better than doing nothing. By now, the high performers and super achievers are screaming and squirming in their seats. “That’s not right, that’s not allowed, you can’t do the less important over, the more important.” Well, I say yes, yes you can. Hey, I’ve already said this isn’t a perfect system, but the goal isn’t perfection; it’s productivity. The goal is to get things done and to maximize your accomplishments. Feel free to send the hate mail, but for those of us who deal with Procrastination daily, you’ll find comfort in the fact that you’re still getting things done and making forward progress. And you’ll find over days and weeks you’ll be achieving more using this technique than not.

There is an essential caveat. One pass is all you are allowed on that task or project that is urgent or most important and enables you to do something else. Still, you’re not allowed to dodge that project/task indefinitely as that would kill the whole productive aspect of Productive Procrastination. Skip over the big thing, do the smaller and hopefully more fun and mind distracting something, then back to the big stuff and jump into it. If it’s a longer multi-task project, feel free about every hour or so to depart and tackle a smaller, less important task. Think, is this Productive Procrastination, and then return to the more important task. Use whatever system works for you to help you with focus. I have used the Pomodoro Technique in the past, and while it was helpful, I struggled with the structure, so I do my own thing. My limit is about 30 minutes before I have to stop office work and move to do something else, usually physical. Since I work from home, a household chore is my go-to Productive Procrastination task. What has worked for me as I struggle with focus is Pzizz. It’s an app on my iPhone and iPad that I use for Sleep, Nap/Meditation, and Focus. I won’t go into it at length here, but it’s worked for me.

Here’s the psychology that I see in using the Productive Procrastination technique. The typical procrastinator feels tremendous guilt as they know they procrastinate, and it’s simply not a very positive feeling. Rather than beating yourself up over this, adding to the guilt, you can allow yourself a sense of accomplishment in getting “other” things done while still doing those things that you should be doing. The reason I came up with this technique is that I’ve heard from way too many procrastinators that when they procrastinate on doing a task or project, they head to Facebook or some other non-productive diversion. And the goal and purpose of Productive Procrastination is the “productive” part. You get the gratifying aspect of procrastinating without any of the guilt. So you get your procrastination fix in a sense and, at the same time, are knocking out a small bit of productivity moving the needle in your day.

If you successfully adopt this into your daily routine, you’ll still be a perpetual procrastinator, but it will be your new superpower. Nevertheless, you will genuinely be surprised at how much better you will feel about your situation, and you’ll find yourself accomplishing a whole lot more.

Remember this as it is very critical if you’re planning on giving Productive Procrastination a try. There has to be a Time Limit of between 5–15 minutes for that Productive Procrastination task. Any longer, and you’re losing out on the Productive aspect and have completely fallen into the procrastination black hole, and you’ve already been there before, so you know it’s not where you want to be.

Putting Productive Procrastination Into Practice If You Work From Home

Do a quick load of wash and next PP break, put it in the dryer, load/unload the dishwasher, walk the dog, brush your teeth (or floss if you haven’t done that in a while) call your mom, email/text a friend, clear some phone notifications, scan some documents, post expense receipts, and organize your desk and desk drawer. Do something beneficial for yourself in terms of productivity and yet primes you to start on the more important task as I have found quick physical breaks relax my mind and I can achieve better focus.

Putting Productive Procrastination Into Practice If You Work At An Office

Refill your stapler, reply to one or two straightforward emails, throw away anything on your desk that isn’t necessary, decide where you want to go to lunch or learn a new keyboard shortcut. More options are to empty your desktop trash, wipe down your keyboard, refill the paper in your printer, or pick up all the stuff under your desk that has rolled there over the last weeks. Your goal is to do anything less important than the project or task you are procrastinating on, yet still has beneficial value.

Look, this isn’t going to move you into the high performer super achiever category necessarily; however, it is a step in the right direction. Still, if you change your behavior even slightly, you’ll feel better and accomplish more, which is the whole point of Productive Procrastination. There’s the entire improving 1% better each day philosophy that super achievers and high performers focus on, and that’s great. But for us procrastinators, that’s way too much, so if we can go with a 0.5% improvement, it’s still progress, and I’ll take it.

The Optimal Life, It’s Not Perfect, Just Better!

Written by Stephen Lalla, owner of Dynamic Image Marketing