Written by Marisol Dahl “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” So says Dr. John Perry, a Stanford philosopher and pioneer of the concept of “structured procrastination.”
Procrastination gets a bad rap. And that’s why I was thrilled by the very idea that procrastination might not be absolutely horrible. In fact, it’s kind of good for the soul.
Procrastination shows up in many ways, and we all have our own procrastination styles. And part of good procrastination comes with discerning the underlying problem going on: are your burned out and simply need to rest? Are you waiting for some sort of perfect alignment? Is the task ahead just not tapping into your creative genius?
Another way to think about it is to ask yourself: is your procrastination truly debilitating? A 2005 study in The Journal of Social Psychology found that there are two kinds of procrastinators: passive and active. Passive procrastinators are mentally paralyzed by the work ahead, and tend to fail to complete work on time. Active procrastinators better embrace it, knowing their work thrives under pressure. Interestingly, compared to passive procrastinators, active procrastinators were more similar to non-procrastinators in terms of academic performance, purposive use of time, and feelings of self-efficacy.
Procrastination for the win!
5 Ways to Positively Procrastinate
1. Brainstorm ways to make your task more enjoyable.
As Jenny Blake often says, “Let it be easy. Let it be fun.” When you’re facing a to-do that is in no way inspiring you into action, think about ways that it can become something you look forward to doing. Maybe for this particular task you sit outside in the sun. Or you listen to Beyoncé’s new song. Just don’t torture yourself!
2. Take a shower.
Our best thinking often comes in the shower, when we are left in solitude and have only our minds to intellectually engage us. There’s something about a shower that let’s us sort things out in our minds, come up with plans of action, and finally get us ready to jump to work. The next time you feel procrastination creeping up because you just don’t know how to get started on your task, hop into the shower. At the very least, you’ll be clean.
3. Get related work tasks done.
I can’t tell you how many times diving into my email inbox (as procrastination) ended up being the fuel I needed to jump into writing a new article, blog post, or other piece of content. I’d write a paragraph to a friend and realize I’ve come across the very idea I want to articulate or the perfect word to set the tone for my work writing.
When you do something remotely related to your work, like writing email, administrative tasks, or organizing Evernote notebooks, you are subtly warming up your mind, getting the gears turning without forcing it. Andthis is also one of the most productive ways to procrastinate!
4. Watch Anything But Netflix
I get it. It’s tempting to blow off work in favor of a binge round of Orange Is the New Black. But if you’re craving a little screen time, consider tuning into something that will challenge your mind a little. Documentaries and TED Talks are great. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of this year’s commencement speeches.
5. Go down the rabbit hole.
Follow your curiosity. Your fascinations, no matter how trivial or off-topic they may seem to you, are important to cultivate creativity and expand your knowledge. When you honor the things that truly interest you, whether it be the history of paper airplanes or how to grow the best garden tomatoes, you foster a love of learning and thrill for new thinking that can overflow into other, less exciting, areas of work.
Life After College: Now Available On Audible.com
We are thrilled to announce that Life After College is now available as an audio book, read by Jenny herself! Throughout the recording process, Jenny was able to add her own little notes and updates, so there’s even more to discover now.
And it’s another option for a little positive procrastination ;)
About Marisol Dahl
Marisol graduated Yale as a Sociology and Education Studies major in 2015. A longtime NewYorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter at @marisoldahl.