How to procrastinate more productively

by | Jun 6, 2013 | Focus

Takeaway: If you have a habit of procrastinating, make a list of high-leverage activities to do the next time you procrastinate.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 30s.

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Procrastination can make you less productive, but it doesn’t have to.

According to Psych Central, there are two types of procrastinators: constructive ones, and destructive ones.

  • Constructive procrastinators often procrastinate, but when they do, they perform high-leverage activities like “rushing off to an aerobics class before starting a new assignment at work”, doing the laundry, or reorganizing their kitchen shelves.
  • Destructive procrastinators procrastinate by doing unproductive stuff like playing long games of Temple Run, or looking at pretty ladies on Facebook for hours on end (though I don’t speak from experience).

If you procrastinate, instead of trying (and failing) to completely rewire the way you think, try using procrastinating to your advantage. In his great essay, Structured Procrastination, John Perry muses (yes, I just used the word ‘muses’):

Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation.

(Emphasis mine.)

The trick to becoming more productive when you procrastinate is to become a ‘constructive procrastinator’, and that’s easier than you think. Simply make a list of what high-leverage activities you can do the next time you procrastinate (I call mine my “procrastination list”), and then when you find yourself procrastinating, do an item from the list instead of a low-leverage activity. It’s a good idea to put a wide variety of high-leverage stuff on the list so you can find something you’ll actually do.

This also works into my idea of self-honesty, where being honest with yourself is a key to becoming more productive. When you’re honest with yourself about your weaknesses, it’s much easier to turn your weaknesses around to become more productive.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 27 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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