Sleepless nights, constant anxiety, and lack of motivation — the three, among many, consequences of putting off your work.
Like most others, I find myself drifting back and forth between the two extreme ends of the “productivity scale.” Some days, I obsessively finish my work way before deadlines. Some days, my motivation dwindles, and my tendency to procrastinate is off-the-hook.
But what if there’s a middle ground to this? What if procrastination is not a mortal sin but a powerful tool to be more productive? What if we can use the terms “productivity” and “procrastination” in the same sentence without drawing stark comparisons between them?
Well, the good news is that we can use the two in the same sentence. Also, we can use calculated procrastination to be more productive.
Openness to Divergent Ideas.
I associate procrastination with laziness and apathy. But on most days, I can’t help but fall into that loop of procrastination. There are days when I sit down and write a sentence, only to get distracted by something else. But surprisingly, almost every time I get down to completing what I started earlier, my mind is more replete with new ideas.
Once completed, a task is forgotten. But when left incomplete, the task sits in the back of our heads while we subconsciously ponder over all the different ways we can do it.
Steve Jobs was known for doing something similar. He would purposefully put things off to find new and unconventional ways of solving a problem. He very well knew that he could never rush the process of creativity.
Stop Feeling Guilty.
The whole idea of deliberate procrastination sounds funny because delaying things takes no effort at all. But the challenge arises when we attempt to bring structure to these intentional cycles of procrastination.
I’m always well-intentioned when I postpone essential work.
Somehow, I convince myself that I’ll get back to the given task after a few minutes of scrolling through my Instagram feed. But consequently, the feelings of inadequacy and guilt slowly spread their roots in my head. As a result, a negative response sends me down a spiral of coping mechanisms where I endlessly procrastinate and watch cat videos all day.
It’s a paradox — The more you hate yourself for procrastinating, the more you end up procrastinating.
So instead of falling for the guilt trap, embrace procrastination. See it as a period of introspection, learning, and preparation.
How To Deliberately Procrastinate?
The idea is to allow yourself to procrastinate time and again. By doing this, you avoid getting into loud bouts of forced productivity, which results in louder bouts of procrastination.
Some of the most intelligent minds out there are deliberate procrastinators.
Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and many others use a fascinating practice during conversations. Instead of filling the voids between active discussions, these leaders are known for procrastinating what they want to say. Not affected by awkward silence, they pause, think, and then react.
In a world where deadlines and instant gratification looms over us, it’s easy to divide our limited attention span into many different things. But the act of procrastinating allows us to willingly get distracted for a bit and then come up with an efficient response or solution.
Choose your vices wisely.
When I say vices, I’m referring to all the things that make you procrastinate.
For most people (including me), social media happens to be on top of all “vices.” The problem with checking Instagram during bouts of procrastination is that it only makes things worse. It throws a wave of information at you. You achieve nothing. In turn, you feel less productive and start sprawling down into your guilt.
Instead of reaching out for something that makes you feel terrible, try doing something that complements your work. For instance, reading a book or article (like this one) can set you in the right mood for writing. Or, just a few minutes of meditation can help you reflect and later be more focused.
Along with staying away from “vices,” you can also prioritize all the activities you wish to do during procrastination breaks. For instance, if you need some mental peace, a quick workout or breathing exercise could help you calm down. If you’re struggling to find your tone as a writer, read something similar to what you intend to write, and the words will just flow out of you.
The idea here is not to avoid procrastination but to judiciously control it.
A note for all the over-productive folks
Even those who slay deadlines and frantically work their way through their jobs can learn a lot from procrastination. When you’re rushing through work, you take the most conventional approach towards it.
However, just a little bit of procrastination can help you develop a more creative way of doing something. More so, you might even come up with a quicker method.
So unless you have a very stringent deadline to achieve, avoid jumping into something without giving it any thought. Instead, sit back, relax, and allow procrastination to work its magic.
Bottom Line: Productivity and procrastination go hand in hand if only one knows how to differentiate between good and bad productivity.