Oxymoron du Jour: Productive Procrastination

If you’re putting off one thing, try doing another.

02 Dec Oxymoron du Jour: Productive Procrastination

So, you’ve been flipping through some self-help books lately. Maybe to avoid some unappealing items on your to-do list. You’ve been beaten over the head with a bunch of motivational maxims and mantras. And you’ve had it drilled into you that you must perpetually stifle procrastination. Or else!

Yeah, procrastination kills productivity. Mindless, unmonitored, daily drifting off task leads to getting less done and feeling more time-pressured and stressed out. It’s trading a little instant gratification for long-term suffering, which is a textbook definition of immaturity.

But sometimes your brain needs a brief escape.

Sometimes, a micro mind vacation helps you come back rarin’ to go. Sometimes, trying to fight through the urge to procrastinate leaves you distractedly stewing in misery, which isn’t conducive to doing your best work.

Find more beneficial ways to waste time than the typical uselessness that takes you further off course and increasingly saps your motivation. The next time procrastination is an inevitability:

Clean Your Work Area

Working in a messy space messes with your focus. Skip reading the latest gossip about that guy on that reality show you just love to hate and tidy up around you instead. But don’t just quickly stack everything in a pile from your seat. Stand up, get things sorted into their proper places, dust behind the monitor, empty the trash can, and clean that coffee stain on the floor. Even minimal movement is refreshing (so if the area’s already neat, go for a 10-minute stroll instead), and your work area will be more work friendly.

Do Something Else You Have to Do

Some responsibilities inspire more dread than others. If you’re not going to take care of the next item on your to-do list, take care of a different one that doesn’t seem so bad at the moment. Even if it’s just washing the dishes, it has to get done. Include these sort of tasks on your to-do lists. Lots of people try to keep their lists as short as possible so they don’t feel overwhelmed. But often, crossing things off is motivating, and having more jobs to choose from helps keep you generally more productive throughout the day.

Seek Out Productive Company

You probably know some of those maddening people who get more done every day than most people get done in two weeks. Set aside your jealous seething and hang around them instead of your usual lackadaisical companions. Consider them a source of inspiration, not resentment. Pay attention to what they do and talk to them about how they accomplish so much. You’re bound to pick up a few handy tricks or habits.

Add Structure and Accountability

If you dawdle away haphazardly into procrastination, you can end up in a time-suck vortex. Blink and you’ve lost an hour, especially if you’re clicking around online. Rather than slip away for a small eternity, establish that you have, say, 20 minutes for putting off your work. Note the time, set an alarm on your phone, and tell someone the plan who can make sure you snap out of it when the time comes. Also, try using scheduled procrastinations as rewards for getting a must-do item done.