Procrastinating is a sign of intelligence. You don’t want to stop procrastinating, you just need to use it strategically.
One of the greatest business minds of our generation used procrastination as a tool to achieve success.
Steve jobs would procrastinate on certain tasks right in front of him. He would use this time as an opportunity to explore creative areas that were perhaps less conventional, but would prove extremely valuable to himself and the business.
Jobs carefully considered where his time was spent during each moment of his life. Diverting energy and time from one task allowed him to focus on unique and larger ideas.
If you are naturally intelligent, you may tend to procrastinate on dull and profane tasks.
There’s a great essay worth reading on “structured procrastination” which talks about this in depth. I’ll link it here – https://structuredprocrastination.com/
By procrastinating, you are subconsciously searching for meaning. You are looking to exert your energy towards something more important.
Procrastination makes you feel like it is hard to get things done.
But the opposite is true. When you procrastinate on one task, you are normally incredibly efficient at another, less urgent (but still relevant) task.
I commonly hear that as people halt the efforts toward an urgent task, they exert energy towards something like cleaning. And the surprising thing is that they normally report cleaning their entire house/apartment, despite having something else seemingly important waiting off-hand.
Our goal is to move from wasteful procrastination towards productive procrastination.
- Wasteful procrastination is when you aren’t making progress towards any of your goals.
- Productive procrastination is when you postpone one task, while taking care of another important task.
To allow ourselves to exert productive procrastination effort, we need to outline our goals, then create tasks that map to those goals.
By having an outline of these, we will be able to selectively choose where we exert our procrastination efforts.
Here are a potential list of goals that you may have.
- Pass professional certification exam for your 9–5 job.
- Deliver exceptional work to clients at your job.
- Grow your blog on the side.
- Grow a following on Quora.
- Learn to make and edit YouTube videos.
Let’s think about how we can leverage procrastination to exert creative effort towards achieving all of our goals.
Here’s a story:
Perhaps you have been studying for your exam for a few hours. Eventually, your focus drifts off and you open up YouTube and go down the rabbit hole of videos.
One of the goals on your list had something to do with YouTube. You want to learn how to make and edit YouTube videos. As you “procrastinate” by browsing YouTube, you’re not just mindlessly watching videos. You are watching with intention, observing and learning what makes an appealing and interesting YouTube video. What types of headlines are successful creators using? How do the thumbnails of the best videos look? Does the content appear scripted? How long are the top videos?
As you exert this type of distracted yet productive energy while “procrastinating”, you’ll eventually begin to get some ideas for your current YouTube projects. You’ll also start to understand what makes a good YouTube video. This will help refine your vision.
Perhaps you start to procrastinate some more. You take a break from YouTube and go for a walk. On your walk, you shoot a few video clips of cool stuff you see in your neighborhood – nothing fancy, just on your iPhone. Street art, interesting buildings, uniquely shaped trees, you and your friend, whatever. The beginnings of your YouTube creation project.
The day is coming to a close, and you decide to meet a few friends for drinks. As you the conversation progresses, you share a bit about the projects you’re working on in your current job. Since you work in similar industries, your friends give you some ideas about those projects, and you give them a few ideas as well.
The next morning is Saturday, and you feel guilty for sleeping in late. Surprisingly, you have no hangover.
You begin to remember a few ideas for your clients. Although it is Saturday, you don’t want to forget these ideas, so you go ahead and write them down on a document. Before you know it, an hour or two have passed and you’ve actually made a lot of progress on the client project. You realize that this will make your life much easier in the upcoming week.
Your attention begins to divert as you looked something up on Google that brought you to Quora, and now you’re going down another rabbit hole of Quora content.
One of your goals is involving growing a following on Quora. Just like how you used dedicated intention and focus towards learning about YouTube, you can do the same here. As you read a few click-bait answers, you realize you could write just as good, if not better answer than some you’re seeing. You go ahead and answer a few questions that spark your interest. Little do you know, these answers you write will start getting a few views! Perhaps you can use this content to drive traffic to your blog as well?
So, to review:
How did we leverage productive procrastination in the story above?
- By procrastinating on studying for the exam, we were able to watch YouTube videos and learn more about what makes a good video.
- When we went on the walk, something seemingly relaxing turned into a chance for us to gather some raw footage to use in our YouTube project.
- As we grabbed drinks with friends, we not only were able to socialize and blow off some steam, but we were able to get ideas and input from others about a few of our projects, and leverage this to help us move forward the following day.
- Although oversleeping on Saturday may have consumed a few hours of our morning, the extra sleep surely helped us avoid having a hangover and we were thus able to be quite productive out of nowhere.
- Although spending a few hours on a Saturday doing work, it was surprisingly enjoyable as we were able to relax and think freely without the common week day interruptions like emails, meetings, etc.
- While we got distracted from the work we were doing on Saturday, we were able to divert this attention towards a few of our other goals – building a following on Quora and growing a blog.
Never forget that the time you spend “procrastinating” are minutes, hours, and days of your life. What you do makes you who you are.
Don’t worry so much about procrastinating.
Focus on what excites you.
In addition to your responsibilities, leverage that excitement to exert productive effort towards your goals.