Productive procrastination

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Procrastination Picture by Pedro da Silva.

What is productive procrastination?

We all know procrastination. You can embrace it, you can hate it, you can try to avoid it. Avoiding it might work for some time if you really display discipline and you might even be able to slightly reduce the amount of time you procrastinate permanently, but it’s just not possible to entirely get rid of it. In general, procrastination just slows you down and drains your energy, as you don’t really enjoy it and in addition have a bad conscience all the time. Life is suffering…
But behold! Not all is lost.
You can utilize the time you spend procrastinating in a really useful way!

This is what I call productive procrastination: You set aside a bunch of smaller activities that are at least a bit interesting for the time you don’t feel like working or deserve a small break. These are your filler-activities. They often are things you’d schedule in your day anyway, like learning a new language. But if scheduled like any other task, they would just disrupt your workflow and, because they only take a few minutes a time, would produce a big overhead (think context switching in an operating system if that helps you).

This way, you’re killing two birds with one stone.
On the one hand, you’re making good use of the time you spend procrastinating. Instead of wasting time on your phone or mindlessly scrolling through a feed or watching a video, all with a bad conscience and an underlying feeling of hurry, you’re doing something positive that you can actually enjoy.
On the other hand, you’re decluttering your daily schedule, as you won’t have to make time for all those smaller habits you wanted to integrate into it. They pretty much take care of themselves now!

It might take a little bit of awareness in the beginning, but this technique offers great returns, both in productivity and wellbeing.

What makes a good filler-activity

Here are some criteria for activities to be able to be considered a filler:

  1. Positive impact: productivity

    Everything that doesn’t have a positive impact on your life is just normal procrastination and thus unproductive and will leave you in a feeling of stress and with a bad conscience.

  2. Quickly done: filler

    These aren’t just tasks you want to schedule. Quite the opposite is true, these are things you want to do or that are at least good for you, but if you planned them would create clutter in your daily schedule.

  3. Enjoyable: procrastination

    If the task at hand isn’t enjoyable to you, it’s not procrastination, but rather just switching to some other form of work.

My preferred fillers

As I often reach for my phone when procrastinating, I think it’s helpful to have quite a few fillers on my phone as well. This way it’s easier to transition into productive procrastination, as you already reach for the right device automatically. Often my fillers are just learning something new.

Got some more ideas for fillers? I’d love to hear about them!

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© Niklas B├╝hler, 2020 RSS / Contact me