Positive Procrastination

August 19, 2013

It’s summertime and my procrastination levels are as high as the humidity. Here are just a few things I did while I was supposed to be writing this blog post:

Read some of the “Funniest Reviews” on Amazon.com.

Moved individual blog post files into my “Completed Blog Post” folder.

Changed the sheets on my bed. Changed the sheets on my son’s bed (he’s sick).

Added three books from the July/August issue of More magazine to my TBR list. (Kind of Cruel, Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, and The Green Boat.)

Folded laundry.

Looked at pets up for adoption on Petfinder.com.

Washed the French doors that look out onto the lanai.

Now, it’s not that these things had no value—it’s just that they were, perhaps, not the best use of my time right then. However, I did eventually get a blog post written, and my house is a little cleaner and more orderly, so maybe procrastination can be positive after all? Yes, it can—if you use it for your benefit. John Tierney, writing in the New York Times, reported on what some researchers are calling “structured procrastination,” or “productive procrastination.” How it works, according to Tierney: Start your to-do list with a couple of “daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t).” Fill out the list with “doable tasks that really matter.” As one researcher says, “We are willing to pursue any vile task as long as it allows us to avoid something worse.” Hence my willingness to wash windows rather than sit down to write.

Positive procrastination: another tool I can use, along with the kitchen timer, baby steps, and rewards, to chip away at my resistance to writing and other meaningful projects I keep putting off.

Do you have any tricks to increase your productivity?

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  1. When I have a task that I really do dread, I often set a timer to see just how quickly I might accomplish it--then if that task comes around again sometime, I try to beat the original time. It can help make that hated task more of a game. (???) Anna.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I struggle with this a lot...Sometimes the smallest task accomplished brings me a great satisfaction...

  3. I don't have any tricks to increase productivity, but it's nice to know that some of my procrastination may be helpful in some small way. I usually think of it as wasting time!

  4. Anna--I love using my timer, too! It gets me through the activities I just do not want to do, and helps me stay on task instead of being distracted. Thanks for stopping by and commenting :).

  5. Rita--Glad you liked this. Sometimes the hardest tasks are kind of small, but we blow them up in our minds. At least, I do this.

  6. Cheryl--That was one of the interesting points in the article: procrastinators rarely are doing "nothing"--they're doing other (somewhat productive) things to avoid whatever-it-is they don't want to do! Maybe you should make a list like I did in this post of what you're doing when you're procrastinating! You might be surprised.

  7. Sometimes I start out with the easy stuff, like cleaning house, to get ready for the big stuff. It gives me time to think about how to plan my other projects.

    Sometimes, when I am way behind, I write out a list of everything and then check off the easy things to make it look like I got something done. Somehow clearing out the easy tasks makes room for the looming projects. That is where I am at right now. I have a to do list on my phone, but I think writing it out by hand actually works better.

    The other alternative is to just keep letting things go and read my book! That happens so much around here. I give myself permission for that daily.

    Kathy M.

  8. Kathy--I do those things too--all of them, including letting things go to read my book. I figure that to-do list will still be there...