Few things feel better than putting off now what needs to be done later.
You just had this important thing to do and, oops… now you don’t. Your schedule has opened up and you’re free to kick back and relax.
As we both know, this doesn’t usually work out in our favor. It sure feels good in the moment, though.
But is it possible that, if done right, procrastination can actually be good for you?
That’s what author and former corporate lawyer Frank Partnoy proposes in his book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. Partnoy has some words of wisdom when it comes to utilizing procrastination as a force for good and they just might make you completely rethink the way you do everything.
There’s nothing wrong with procrastination. Or is there? I’ll leave it to you to decide, but only if you have the time.
– Craig Brown
So, how do you turn procrastination into a force for good? Here are some tips:
Let your subconscious figure it out
Most tasks can benefit from a little extra reflective thinking, especially if it’s the subconscious kind.
Stepping away entirely from a problem is an incredibly useful technique that’s used by some of the world’s most successful people to gain clarity.
Whether it’s twiddling away at an equation, that plot point, business decision, or logistical problem, sometimes stepping away from the task at hand and putting it off is the best thing.
Many of us tend to dive so deep into a thing that our mind becomes bogged down and can no longer put ideas together clearly.
When that happens, take a few minutes, hours, or even days to leave it alone.
By actually allowing yourself to procrastinate instead of fighting it, your subconscious will continue to work through the problem as you go about your day and you’ll gain clarity when you come back to it, especially if some aspect of it has you stumped.
Put it off for a while and come back when you’ve gotten enough space and you’ll often find it makes a huge difference for your clarity of thought and, in turn, ability to problem solve.
Put off what you don’t feel like doing to do what you excites you
Jokes aside, there really is something to this. This is the second and final step and it’s all about taking the previous one further.
Sometimes, you’re engrossed in a thing you want to do but are having a hard time at it. So, it’s the difficulty that’s making you want to avoid it. As we talked about, it turns out that giving in to that urge to procrastinate can actually be good.
However, there’s another scenario where procrastination can be good: when you just don’t feel like doing something.
When we procrastinate, we’re always avoiding a particular task or set of tasks. We’re not avoiding all action and responsibility, just those things we really don’t feel like doing.
If you take a moment to look around you there’s always something you can do which excites you, or at least something you wouldn’t mind doing as much as the task you’re putting off.
This might sound like an odd way to work or go about your day but I’ve used it personally to great effectiveness.
I have a set of tasks I need to do in a given day, and while I tend to stick to a hard-line schedule, I also sometimes float between those tasks I have for the day (or the week) based on how I’m feeling at the time. Call it “educated procrastination” if you will.
Try it out for yourself: take the collection of tasks you have to do today, put off what you’re dreading and move in the direction of what excites or interests you, or at least you can stomach. You’ll often build up enough little successes that you become more motivated to do the thing you were putting off earlier later in that day or week.
This method has another interesting side effect: it can inform you about what excites you, what you have a passion for, and what you really weren’t meant to do. Listen to that feeling like using educated procrastination and it can help inform what you do with your life.