How to be the best procrastinator

Are you a “Last Minute Larry”? Done the right way, procrastination can work in your favour!

It’s happened to the best of us. You’ve had weeks to prepare but you leave everything to the very last minute. As you down your 5th cup of coffee, you start to wish you had just had the motivation to finish everything earlier! The strange thing is, with that panic of a looming deadline, you get things done quickly. So, despite all the negative press that procrastination gets, is it really as bad as its made out to be?

Are you comfortable with fear?

Whether you are aware of it or not, fear is exactly what happens to you when you procrastinate. Ok, it’s not quite as drastic as meeting up with a wild animal in the dark, but your body has a similar response. When you start to worry that you won’t get something done on time, your body goes into the “fight or flight” mode (or in this case the “write or fail” mode!) As a result, your body gives you a boost of the hormone adrenaline, a natural pain killer. Feeling less pain makes doing difficult or less pleasant tasks much easier.

A boost in energy is just one of the benefits of procrastination. Other benefits include:

  • Focus: with less time to do a task, you are forced into being less distracted
  • Efficiency: you need to work smart to get a task done in a limited time
  • Getting things done: a big task that you’re avoiding makes other smaller tasks look easy. You’ll cross these off your to-do list in no time!

Used effectively, procrastination is a powerful motivator and source of inspiration.

When good procrastination goes bad

There are clearly different types of procrastination. Active procrastination means you realize that you are delaying writing your report, but you are doing something that is more valuable instead, like studying for an exam. Passive procrastination is just sitting around on the couch not doing anything. It’s not that difficult to understand that the latter is a problem! The other downside to procrastination is that it puts you under extra pressure. When pressure goes up, quality goes down. So when quality really matters, procrastination wouldn’t be your smartest choice.

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Using procrastination to your advantage is not a bad strategy for getting the energy you need for routine tasks or tasks that you need the extra motivation to do. Passive procrastination, however, is not doing your energy levels or anything else any favours!

How to procrastinate like a pro

  1. If you do your best work under pressure, acknowledge and embrace the fact that you are an active procrastinator. Knowing how you operate can cut down the guilt associated with procrastination
  2. Take a breath and prioritise. Write a to-do list in order of when tasks need to be completed by. If a task does not need to be done today, don’t do it! This frees up your time to focus onsomething more important (and more time pressing). However, because that other task is still on your list, you will unconsciously be thinking about it, and so when the time comes, you’ll work more efficiently.
  3. Play projects off against each other: procrastinate on one while working on the other.
  4. Avoid passive procrastination at all costs: sitting on the couch will make your brain foggy, regardless of how interesting the programme is on TV!

When all else fails… Tips for the chronic procrastinators amongst us!

If you find you’re falling back into bad passive procrastination habits, try these ways to improve your productivity:

  • Set out a work schedule: work for 40 minutes and have a rest for 20
  • Plan your breaks: make a list of what you want to do during your break. This way you will use them wisely!
  • Create mini-tasks: break down a big task into bite-size ones, this makes everything seem more manageable.
  • Take it outside! Working on your bed or couch will lure you into a napping trap!
  • Prepare for your morning. Before going to bed, get everything ready to get going bright and early. Plan your work snacks at the same time (a trip to the kitchen is a one-way ticket to procrastination!)
  • Do a 10 minute workout as you wake up. Happy hormones that you get from exercise will give you a much needed productivity boost.

Sources: Smithsonian.com, Fastcompany.com, Workawesome.com