Proactive Procrastination

I know, I know. The title sounds like a contradiction. How can avoiding doing something get something done? Well, if you reconsider procrastination without the negative connotation that generally follows it and look at it in a new way, you might be able to procrastinate more effectively, too.

Procrastination, in its most basic definition is “the action of delaying or postponing something.” By itself, then, procrastination isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s perfectly normal, really. The problem comes from what people do when they procrastinate. The problem isn’t choosing not to write the paper tonight; it’s choosing to watch videos of small animals for five hours. It isn’t choosing not to do the laundry; it’s choosing to binge watch a TV series that has over 200 episodes and counting. Not completing a task isn’t always a problem, but how you use this new free time can be.

Proactive procrastination requires two main steps: identifying the tasks you need to complete and doing something. Basically, there is always something that needs to be done, but as long as you are keeping deadlines, you can do them in whatever order suits you. For example, if you are the kind of person who lives and dies by the deadline, maybe you can’t start that term paper two months early. Maybe for you, it will have to be a two week endeavor if you want to be invested. Despite how most professors (and this writer) feel about that, it isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable as long as you keep filing the time with things that need to be done. Keep up with reading for another class, clean your apartment, do something. There is always something else you could be working on instead of that paper. You may as well do that while you are busy not writing.

Maybe it’s the other way for you. You seriously don’t want to clean your house before the relatives come visit. That’s a whole three days away. Why not procrastinate on the cleaning by finishing those equations or writing that post for your website? Does this all sound like a mind game? Good. It is a mind game. Convincing yourself that you are taking a break from doing something, even if it is to do something else productive, is perfectly okay. In fact, it’s sometimes better for you in the long run.

Forcing yourself to do work you are simply not in the mindset for will only lead to sloppy work and inefficiency. You aren’t always ready to write a personal statement or run errands. It happens. However, if you can be getting something else done, the time isn’t wasted. You’ll be much better off doing work when you are prepared to do it and “feel like it.” Though it isn’t a permanent solution, proactive procrastination can really help to keep things moving.

Now, at this point it may appear as though I am opposed to videos of small animals or television series. I can promise you I am not. There are definitely times for both of those things, but that time isn’t replacing things that need to be done. It’s all part of the mind game. Replace necessary tasks with necessary tasks and have specific times for the fun stuff. Trust me on this; it keeps you from dedicating excessive hours to pictures of Welsh Corgis. Things like meditation and reading matter, so keep doing them. Just not at the expense of the work people expect you to do.

Procrastination, though it has come to sound like a bad idea, can actually be quite beneficial. It keeps you on track without committing you to a schedule that makes you hate yourself. Proactive procrastination is a real thing, and if you can convince yourself of it, you will get a lot more done and be much happier for it. So go ahead, waste your time wisely. You’ll be glad you did.

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