Our Favorite Procrastination Tactics

Everyone procrastinates from time to time — Olympic athletes, billionaires, Charlie Brown and even Professional Organizers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of failure and destruction brought about by procrastination, but how can something that is so natural to the human condition be all bad?

Dr. Piers Steele defines procrastination as a tendency …

“to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse-off for the delay.”

Dr. Steele’s definition is a good one, and we agree that procrastination can put a person in a bad spot. However, if everyone procrastinates from time to time, how realistic is it for us to deny it? Are we just setting ourselves up for failure and guilt by promising ourself never to procrastinate?

In the spirit of “we all do it anyway”, let’s make the best of procrastination. Here are tips to make your procrastination as useful as possible.

Tactic #1 — Do something enjoyable

Taking a break to do something you like (Spider Solitaire anyone?) is a great way to switch gears from one complex task to another. To make this brain break successful:

  • Plan for it: “When I am done with ____, I will do _____.”
  • Enjoy the heck out of it. “Woo-hoo, new high score!”
  • Limit the time spent there: “I’ve got 15 minutes, I better make it count.”

Tactic #2 — Procrastinate productively

When you have a large, multi-step task to accomplish, it can be very difficult to get started. How many times have you stared at a blank screen and just sighed? Minimize the screen and spend 15-20 minutes doing some productive procrastination. Try these techniques:

  • Name the emotional beast that is causing your procrastination: fear, perfectionism, stress, distractions. Once the beast is named, it can more easily be tamed.
  • Make a list of all the steps involved in completing the large task. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
  • Schedule appointments with yourself to complete the tasks, and keep those appointments.
  • Update your To-Do list. Free your brain from all the random tasks you are trying to remember and you may find it easier to focus on the task at hand.

Tactic #3 — Plan an Unprocrastination Day**

Step One: Go ahead and procrastinate, just keep a list of all the items you are actively and willfully procrastinating.

Step Two: Set aside an entire day to perform all the distasteful, dreaded, or just plain boring tasks on your list. Race against the clock to accomplish the tasks. Strive for completion, not perfection.

Step Three: Celebrate at day’s end with the reward of your choice.

Are you ready to procrastinate productively now? No? Maybe later then.

**Thanks to Real Simple Magazine (April, 2011) for this genius idea.


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