A Guide to Productive Procrastination

Woman with headphones at desk

We all start with the best of intentions. Get stuff done early. Well, on time. Okay, within a reasonable 24-hour timeframe after it’s supposed to be done. But then, life happens and we get tired (or annoyed) and put it off. Here are some tips for surviving your own ridiculous and totally normal procrastination habits. You can even label it “productive procrastination” to make it sound fancy.

Woman holding wall clock

Pick a start time

Now, this is different than actually starting the project, so remain calm. Nothing has happened yet. It’s just about your plans to start the project. Pick a date to actually start (not when you should start, because that’s already over, but rather when you really will start). Make a plan for what will happen on said date and in the days that follow. So, let’s say you have a project at work due Friday. Sure, you could be an overachiever and start Monday like Karen in the next cubicle, but we all know how we feel about Karen. Creating a timeline for the project will allow you to procrastinate when necessary but will also leave you feeling prepared for Friday. You can even build your own procrastination preferences into the timeline, as long as you are realistic about how long the work will take.

Get physical

If you aren’t going to do what you’re supposed to do, your body or your house can benefit. Channel your listless energy into your kitchen or laundry pile, and you will have finished a procrastination session with sparkling counters. At least you will have clean underwear when you get fired for missing a deadline, right? Sometimes doing something physical, whether it’s going on a walk or hitting the gym, can inspire a mental brainstorm that gets you back on track for your project. You may be procrastinating because you really aren’t ready to start mentally, and haven’t finished the preliminary work in your head before tackling the problem. Plus, isn’t exercise supposed to stimulate genius?

Tackle tedious tasks

Your inbox isn’t going to clean itself! Use your procrastination to complete tedious tasks that you would otherwise find annoying. Clean out your desk drawer, files, computer desktop, contact list, or just start defriending all those people on social media you’ve been muting for so long (like Karen, who won’t stop posting about finishing her work ahead of deadline). Once you have no more archived emails to waste your time on, you know it’s your moment to shine. Marie Kondo would be proud.

Diagnose your hesitation

Humans are smart creatures, in the end, and we avoid things for a reason. Spend your procrastination time deep in self-reflection about what you are really avoiding. Do you hate your boss and can’t stand to hear whatever criticism will come from the project? Are you avoiding a huge cleaning job around the house because you feel like you will never be able to keep up with the Joneses (or your mother in law’s) insane expectations? Maybe there’s a part of the project that you are avoiding because you feel like you’re not good enough or hate doing that particular task. Is it something you can outsource, delegate, or avoid in the future? You may be one procrastinated task away from a personal breakthrough if you give yourself enough time doing nothing.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating, set a start time, move your body, or clean something, Maybe find the bottom of that inbox. Then look deep inside for the answer to why you’d rather sit on the couch eating bonbons than living your best life.

Written by: Alexandra Frost