7 Ways You Can Benefit From Procrastinating
Putting something off, if done the right way, can lead to major accomplishments.
Posted June 19, 2014
Recently I wrote about 10 things super productive people do that help them succeed. One of the things I mentioned was how productive people tend to procrastinate in ways that actually increase their overall productivity overall.
I'd like to expand on that here and give you a rundown on ways to procrastinate that can help you rather than hurt you. (I'm defining procrastination as anything you do while putting off doing the task that, objectively, should be your highest priority.)
1. Complete small jobs you've been putting off.
Sometimes when you're putting off a looming large task, all those small jobs you've been putting off suddenly seem more appealing—and achievable. But taking care of some of those small avoided tasks can help clear your mental space for a major job. What's more, getting small jobs ticked off your list can give you an energy boost—perhaps just what you need to tackle the larger task. Getting small jobs done will likely also boost your sense of being competent, giving you the confidence you need to take on your larger, more daunting task.
2. Take a blue or green micro-break.
Try a short "blue" (by the water) or "green" (among the trees) micro-break in nature to relax anxieties and clear your head—5 to 10 minutes can really do the trick.
3. Make a deposit into your relationship bank account.
I'm not taking about money. I'm talking about investing some emotional energy into your relationship. This could mean kissing your spouse, or touching base with an influential colleague. Choose a non-time consuming behavior that will strengthen your relationship with someone who is important in your life. For example, inquiring about a colleague's project could lead to a conversation about his or her ideas that could spark your own thinking. And depositing into these relationship bank accounts allows you to make withdrawals later.
4. Give yourself a dose of positive emotions.
Short—and that's the key word—video clips that are funny, uplifting, or inspiring can boost your positive emotions and refill your tank. Figure out a good length for a short break. A TED talk might be very inspiring but, at 20 minutes, might be too long for a midday break. I like to outsource finding funny and inspiring content to my Facebook friends. If I spend just five minutes looking at my feed, chances are someone will have posted something short that fills the bill.
5. Try off-topic reading or listening.
Since I blog, reading other blogs helps spark my ideas. But the other blogs that give me the greatest creativity boost generally aren't psychology-related; they're unrelated, popular blogs that help give me a sense of the types of content, writing style, and even post titles that other people are interested in. What type of reading sparks your thinking? Focus on reading that can directly translate into ideas you can act on.
6. Batch-process a repetitive task.
Factories tend to run most efficiently when people do highly specialized actions over and over again. This is boring but very efficient. If you don't have much mental energy at a given moment, try batch-processing something that isn't mentally taxing. For example, sometimes I will source and upload photos into a bunch of blog posts in advance of writing them. Doing this then reduces the barriers to writing posts in the future since what I find to be the most boring, repetitive part of the task is already done. If you batch-process something when you're procrastinating on a higher priority task, this often provides the type of cognitive boost you get from feeling that you've gotten a lot done.
Not everyone likes to nap, or can, for that matter. But it's worth a try, since napping resets your emotional resources—you may find that when you wake up, you feel more ready to take on a task that felt too daunting just before you put your head down.
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You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.