Sometimes I feel like the President of Procrasti Nation.
I’m not on task. And sometimes I’m pretty far afield. I’ve wandered off course and it seems like there just ain’t no way back.
But I’ve got to get back on track. I’ve got to overcome whatever the mental/emotional hurdle is and do some important work.
Like, for example, right now I really want to watch Nathan Fielder’s “informational video” on how the Emmy’s could be hacked.
Because I’m a big fan of his show Nathan For You. He’s clever, funny, always pushes things to an interesting edge giving viewers unexpected insights and delights. But also because I just saw the link go by a few minutes ago.
There are a bunch of techniques for procrastinating less.
You can promise yourself a reward. You can find an accountability partner. You can minimize distractions.
But I’ve discovered a new way that can help even more. Especially with the big picture.
I like to call it productive procrastination. It’s a way to be a better procrastinator. It’s a procrastination hack.
Let’s dive in.
We all have our little procrastination demons. It’s part of being a human, it seems.
So eliminating all procrastination all the time is probably too much of a stretch goal.
What if, instead, we recognized that we are prone to procrastination and we hack that system to our advantage?
Maybe accepting procrastination is better than fighting it all the time.
That’s not to say that other techniques should be abandoned. Certainly things like minimizing distractions, promising yourself rewards, or becoming accountability partners with a fellow procrastinator are all good things.
But they aren’t the only things.
Since the nature of procrastination is the desire to move away from whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing and towards something more fun. Or maybe simply anything else except what you are supposed to be doing.
So, what if that other thing was maybe something else that was productive, but just not the thing you are supposed to be working on right now.
What if you had a list of productive tasks that you wanted to do and you moved to one of those?
You would still be productive. But you would also be procrastinating.
That’s productive procrastination.
It allows you to move away from whatever you are supposed to be doing right now, but also toward something that is useful and productive.
That other task is something else you might be prone to procrastination at any other time. And at some point that will happen again.
So you can move back to your original task or toward any other task on your list.
This round robin approach can seem a little inefficient. But it is far more efficient than totally trailing off on a non-productive path.
And all of your existing productivity tips will work here too. You can promise yourself a reward for working on something, anything, on your list rather than limiting to just one thing, for example.
Keep it interesting
The key is to have a wide variety of things on your productivity list. For example, if your list contained writing staff reviews, practicing guitar, organizing your files, paying bills, finishing a report, preparing for a meeting, and making a series of phone calls, you would be able to keep yourself productively entertained.
When you procrastinate on writing, you could be making phone calls. If you tire of making phone calls, you could work on organizing your files.
In computing, we call this task-switching. You aren’t really multitasking, you’re just continually switching between all the stuff you need to do.
It’s not super efficient for humans, but it is far more productive than the alternative.
We all face a procrastination challenge in some form or other at some time. For many of us, it’s a too frequent occurrence.
Many of the popular tips on avoiding procrastination are useful. But they are also limited.
You might be able to gain even more leverage by using the momentum of procrastination against itself.
If you keep a list of productive tasks handy, you can feel like you are procrastinating by switching between tasks. But, since they are all things you need to be doing, you will also be productive.
The key is to have a lot of varied types of tasks on your list. And to move through them frequently, but not too frequently.
Cycling through things in this way helps you to keep making progress on a number of fronts while keeping your mental energy high by working on a variety of different things.