How to Procrastinate with Purpose

How to Procrastinate with Purpose

I’ve never fancied myself a procrastinator.

My main problem with procrastination is the ripple effect that it has on other people. For example, if someone waits until the last minute to turn in a work assignment, it often makes other people have to change their plans, work later and put other work aside to get the project over the finish line by the dreaded deadline.

However, I’ve recently come to learn that there are times when procrastination isn’t a hindrance at all, in fact it can be incredibly helpful. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Here’s an example when procrastination helps me be more productive instead of less.

Let’s say I have several tasks competing for my time on my to-do list:

  • Project A. A big presentation that’s due tomorrow at 6:00pm. It’s an important client presentation and it needs to be fabulous. This is a must-do.
  • Project B. A smaller task that has been lingering on my to-do list—like updating the copy on our company’s website. This is a nice-to-do.

You probably have dozens of things like Project B on your own to-do list…tasks that are important but not urgent. And because they’re not urgent, they tend to hang around and get rewritten over and over again on your to-do list without ever getting crossed off.

We think there’s going to be more time tomorrow or the next day for the lingering items on our to-do list, but there never is. Therefore, things like Project B never get crossed off because they’re never a priority.

Here’s how you can use procrastination to make smaller tasks a priority. Pronto.

There are few things I love more than crossing things off my to-do list. So, here’s how I pit two tasks against each other in order to get them both done.

Rational thought would suggest that I should start my day by tackling Project A since it’s the most important and Project B can wait for another day when there’s more time.

But here’s the problem: there’s never more time.

So, when I have a big task to complete, instead of starting with that project, I procrastinate by quickly spending time on a less important task first. 

Here’s why.

I’m not going to screw up Project A, it’s too important. When the six o’clock whistle blows tomorrow, the project will be done and it will be done well. But the question isn’t whether Project A will get done. Of course it will. 

The question is, how can I knock out two projects instead of one? By shoehorning a non-urgent project in front of an urgent one, it ensures that both projects will get done.

Two birds. One stone. Who knew procrastination could be so productive.

My Project B is important. Updating the copy on our company website is an important task for the future of The Mom Complex. But because projects like these rarely have deadlines associated with them, it’s easy to push them back.

Not any more. While procrastination can make my head spin and push things to way too late in the process, there’s also a silver lining to the technique.

I guess there’s a time and a place for everything in life.

In this case, by 6:00pm tomorrow I’ll be able to cross two things off my to-do list instead of one, and happy hour will be a whole lot happier.

Katherine Wintsch