“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
We’ve talked before about productive procrastination. What this means is basically that we defer from making a decision or continuing a task you’re stuck on. It effectively gives us some distance and room to breathe while letting us veg out for a while.
There is however a risk of us using this as an excuse to procrastinate destructively. We’re in deep doo-doo if we let discomfort or fear dictate what we do.
We should strive to do whatever we can do now. Keeping focus on the task at hand is key but we also need to know when to step away for a while.
The word “procrastination” is made up of the latin words “pro” which means “in favor of” and “crastinus” meaning “belonging to tomorrow”. Now that we know it’s proper meaning we can evaluate whether it is in fact something beneficial or a hinderance to our cause! If it’s a hinderance we’ve got to be “pro nunc”!
Basically, if we’ve spent all of 5 minutes on a task and it’s not coming together, it does not warrant going off and spending 2 hours on “League of Legends”. Then again, if we’ve been at it for an hour with nothing to show a break might be in order.
When we’re in the mode of procrastination we need to ask ourselves why we’re putting it off. Here is a list of reasons that aren’t productive!
1. It’s overwhelming.
2. I don’t want to!
3. If I get this done then there’s just something else waiting.
4. What if they don’t like it?
5. What if they do like it?
6. What if I fail?
7. What if it’s wrong?
8. I’d much rather start on the next thing!
This being said, there is a caveat. If you’re about to do something that doesn’t need to be done and you don’t like doing. For god’s sake DON’T!
There are times when we should just let things go. Once again, the trick is knowing what they are.
Pro nunc tip! If we’ve come to the point where we’ve actually made a decision, do atleast ONE thing to get that project moving. If we defer taking a step in that direction we’re more prone to start doubting and questioning its validity.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – Parkinson’s Law
Let’s take an example of this from my own life.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that I’ve missed one of my yearly duties. Namely, getting last year’s papers in order!
I decided that since I had Thursday free that I’d dedicate the entire day to this task. This turned out to be a major lapse of judgement.
The process started by throwing out the junk. Then came the month-by-month separations. That’s when I came up with a new filing system! I organized 2014 by that standard. Then I started on 2013 realizing that I could get rid of some stuff that wasn’t really needed from there as well. Well, since I was well on my way, why not go for 2012 too?
I made it through 2012 and as I started on 2011 I glanced at the clock. It had been 5 hours and I seriously wanted to get other stuff done. Plus, the weather was nice. What the hell was I doing indoors?
I took a second glance at the papers. I actually felt guilty that I hadn’t finished the job. Luckily I came to my senses and asked myself: “Do I really need to do this?”. The answer came back a resounding: “NO!”.
Truth is that I’d completed my actual task in less than 2 hours. As I had done the previous year. There was absolutely no need to try and fix that stuff since it didn’t really require it. Sure, it felt better to have the same “standard” but was it worth it? Hell no!
So, what happened? I had started with a vaguely defined task and had decided to utilize an unspecified amount of time on it. Since there was form of “improvement” on the formula the previous year’s papers got sucked into that vortex.
Now, had I decided to exclusively focus on the papers from 2014 and dedicated a reasonable amount of time then I would have known that the task would be done without the hassle. Sure, the thought might have occurred to me but I doubt that I would have let it balloon into a task 3 times as big!
Here are some tips on beating Parkinson’s Law!
1. Set a specific task & deadline. Also, be reasonable! If you’re writing a 85.000 word book and set the deadline for tomorrow you are going to have a bad time.
2. Write a list of what needs to get done. If you’re a morning person write it first thing for the day ahead. If you’re an evening person, like me, write it for the following day.
3. Pick something to reward yourself with when you reach a milestone or finish the task at hand.
Since I still believe that we can use procrastination to our advantage I’ll leave you with some positive words about it!
“Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think more about what you are doing.” – James Altucher
“Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you.” – Hilary Mantel
“I try to procrastinate, if I can, productively, like I’ll work on something else as procrastination. Or I take a walk. Because often I find, if you get out, more things come to you.” – Noah Baumbach