Sure, I’ll admit it: I procrastinate.
Not just a little; I’m a devoted procrastinator and I put everything off until the very last minute possible. Just ask my husband.
And I’m not necessarily looking to cure my procrastination. But yeah, it causes me problems from time to time.
The thing is that it’s something I do naturally. Without even thinking about it. And I’ve always wondered if there was a way to use my procrastination talents to my distinct advantage.
Apparently there is.
One day, I happened to run across a book: The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing by John Perry. Exactly what I was looking for!
I’m not going to tell you how long I put off buying it after I discovered it.
But eventually, I did buy it. It’s a pretty short read (so you’re not inclined to put it off for later, ha!) and the book talks about structured procrastination. What in the world…?
“When people procrastinate, it’s not that they aren’t doing anything; they simply aren’t doing something that’s more important.”
You see? I do get a lot done. Just not the “important” stuff.
John Perry (that’s the author) explains this further:
The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.
Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. (Italics added for emphasis)
So far, that doesn’t sound very flattering, but check this out:
The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
In short, if you want to get me to do something you think is important, make sure I have something else that’s MORE important that needs doing. I’ll get your important stuff done just to avoid the MORE important stuff.
So if you live with a procrastinator – or even if you procrastinate yourself – here’s what to do to make sure you get a ton of important work done… while still happily avoiding the more important work you want to put off until – oh, say, next year.
- Make a task that seems to have a clear deadline (but that really doesn’t).
- Make sure the task seems awfully important (but really isn’t).
- Add in other tasks that you’d really like to get done.
Of course, if you have another task that’s even more daunting or important than the Top Priority on your list, the big task you chose gets delegated to second most important… and gets done.
Because you’re avoiding that Top Priority Task, of course.
Sounds brilliant, actually.
What do you think? Do you have ways to use your procrastination to be productive rather than wasteful? Add your own ideas in the comments so we can all try your tips. And maybe in the future, you’ll get to read a post on how well (or not) they worked for me.