We’ve heard it many times in our schools, at the office and at home but we still don’t listen. Don’t procrastinate, they say. It’s bad for you, they say. What if I were to tell you that procrastination is not all that bad? Let me explain. Many people say that they work better when under pressure, others seem to manage getting things done at the very last minute despite spending the days leading up to a deadline either relaxing or partying. Have you ever wondered what the secret is? What is it that these people know and do that the rest don’t get? How do they procrastinate and still do so well? Are you here because you want to learn the ins and outs of successful procrastinators? Don’t worry, I’m one myself so I’ll give you the scoop.
To set the stage, let’s start off with the definition of procrastination:
Delay or postpone action; put off doing something.
Based on the definition, there is no negative implication of procrastinating. It simply refers to the act of putting things off. Interestingly, psychologists believe that once something is introduced to you, your subconscious will continue to process the information even if you are not aware of it. That is, after all, the basis of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Translating this into our daily actions, I will attempt to convince you that procrastination in the true sense of the word, is not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually help you become more productive.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist nor do I have a medical degree. The views I will share are based on my own experience and of those around me.
Plan for the delay
I’ve always been one to leave things for the last minute but for some strange reason things just seemed to fall together. Some of you might call it an alignment of the stars, I call it strategy. After years of getting by this way, I realised that a lot of the ‘successful procrastination’ was coupled with pre-planning. Let’s use a research paper as an example. One of the main things you would need to know before you actively procrastinate is the topic. You also need to get a rough or bullet points in place and estimate how long it will take to conclude the report. Once all of this pre-work is out of the way, go and get all of the fun out of your system, knowing full well that when you sit down to work, everything is already in place.
I know this may sound counterintuitive, after all why not just get it done if you’re going to put that much work into it? The answer is simple. You can only procrastinate successfully if you are organised and planning just happens to be a key point! You might also notice that some apparently disorganised people get by quite easily too, but the truth is that they plan too – mentally.
Do the things you enjoy immediately… but put a time limit on it.
I have found that if I do the mundane tasks first, it goes in one of two ways. I am either very motivated to finish what I’m doing so that I can do what I am looking forward to, or I am so distracted that I don’t focus. For things like cleaning and such, I doubt anyone would want to be focused. In such cases, being distracted would actually be a great tactic to get you through the chore. However, for exams, work projects and anything that requires you to use more than just a fraction of your brain, get the distraction out of the way first. What does this look like for me? Well, I always make sure to get through that episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I exercise to release some endorphins, eat to fuel my brain and then sit down to study/work, etc.
Do a little bit every so often
Doing bits of work here and there would actually assist when it comes to the final push. When I say a little every day, I’m not talking about splitting your research paper into 10 equal parts – that’s not procrastination. What I mean is literally a little. I’ll use my final university project as an example. Back then, we were put in teams of four and had to come up with a new or existing product to sell in an assigned country. Basically, we needed to put together a full business plan including pricing strategy, timelines, potential investors, etc. Would you believe me if I said we got an A after writing the whole thing two nights before the paper was due?
This was because during the weeks leading up to it, we factored in little gaps where we would do about 5-10 minutes of research then go about our days. We partied, we went to our part-time jobs and we slept in on weekends. By the time we had to write the paper, we knew the costings, the general outline of what the project would look like, who would be covering what, etc. So where does the procrastination come in you may ask? Well, knowing where to find the information you need and collating it are two different things. Trust me, I would know!
The same concept can be applied to simple things like housework, packing, etc. My husband has a terrible habit of packing on the day of a move. Funny enough, he is always able to get things done in the nick of time! While I am not quite on his level yet, I can assume it is because he has some sort of system he follows when getting things done. The very same je ne sais quois allows him to sit and play PlayStation for hours on end despite having an urgent legal agreement he needs to draft.
Identify your most productive time and use it for your task
This may be one of the most important things when it comes to using your time efficiently. In the previous point we discussed the need to do a little bit every time, but something to consider is the time of day that you choose to allocate to your main task.
Personally, I find myself to be most productive in the early hours of the morning, after I’ve exercised and eaten. With that in mind, I would allocate a few minutes during my productive period to a few minutes of research or planning, then will continue with life as normal. What that does is it allows my subconscious to absorb the important information with as much clarity as possible. Thereafter, it is up to my brain to do the work. Occasionally what this leads to are brilliant ideas over the course of my day that assist in my end goal. With blogging, I use the same approach and it hasn’t failed me yet.
When all of the above steps are put into action together, you will be able to procrastinate like a pro. Spending just a few minutes each day during your productive hours will definitely save you in that last minute. Also, life is too short not to enjoy it, so don’t give up what you love. Just make sure you aren’t doing what you love during your productive hours.
Are you a natural procrastinator, or if you prefer to get the important tasks out of the way first?