But I don’t want to be good at wasting time. I want to be good at procrastinating!
Why celebrate procrastination?
Today I found a meme informing me that a lovable kids’ cartoon character is by choice a virgin, not-asexual, and perfectly content with it. This, as it didn’t help me get any writing done, was a waste of time. Procrastinating is different. So let’s talk about it.
No, not cartoon characters being…procrastinating.
But hold on, hold on–this isn’t a how-to-stop-procrastinating-altogether thing. I’m not here to tell you you’ve been naughty and get your head on straight. No, no, no, no, no. No. Procrastinating is widely looked down upon, something that is a sign of laziness. Or outright stupidity. Procrastinating is viewed on par with being lazy–wasting your time. I know because people have told me this in my life. A lot. But some see it differently.
Procrastination as a positive?
In a Business Insider interview, Adam Grant talks about how his book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, refers his readers to the ancient Egyptian definition of procrastination: “waiting for the right time”. The article goes on to say, “…once we finish a task, we stop thinking about it — but when it’s interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds. Procrastinating strategically means stopping whatever creative tasks we’re working on before they’re complete to allow more creative ideas to bubble up.”
I agree that some minds, particularly creative ones, don’t always go where they’re instructed to. When I force myself to do something, it rarely results in my best effort. But if you indulge it–responsibly–you can keep the flame going long enough to eventually steer a full head of steam into what you need to do. For example, I lost some steam writing this, put it away partly finished for two day, then finished and edited it to sweet, sweet perfection.
Now–without further ado…
4 Steps for Productive Procrastination
Make a list of things several things you need to do
For me, I have notebooks for each type of writing I do–novel A, novel B, short stories, blogs, free-writing. I have them all on my desk in a pile.
Prioritize the list
Every day, the top of my list is getting a couple pages on the new novel, go over a couple pages of the old novel every day.
My mind isn’t always game for those two things, so I’ll add other productive tasks–one or two for each day of the week, typically. Monday is usually blog & social media day, Wednesdays I try to fix/update something on the website, etc….
If I have other stuff that needs to get done that day, I’ll put that in as well (ie. housework, appointments, life-stuff)
Don’t get mad at yourself when your brain’s like, Nah, bro, to one of the anchor tasks.
Give it another task to do, or pick up a writing pad and jot some stuff down that you might use for something later.
When your brain’s like, Nah, bro…to ALL of it, go for a walk, run, or meditate.
Let your mind drift for awhile. Or just shut it down temporarily–recharge. Eventually, you’ll come back to it. Think about it for awhile without trying to write. Just let it stew. Maybe you need an hour to think about it, maybe a weekend. But if you don’t force creativity all at once, you’ll get the juices get flowing and be ready to tackle that big task! (At least, that’s how I feel now.)
Yup, that’s it. Procrastination 101 in quick, easy steps.
Next time you need to feel good about procrastinating, listen to my podcast Creative Ops. It’s a podcast for creative people, by creative people. I talk to business owners, writers, farmers, artists, and more. Find out who they are and what they have to say about the creative process. The show is produced by Hey Guys Media, and sponsored by River Town Adventures & Baby Farm Soaps. All three of these businesses are locally-owned, with products AND people worth supporting! Please check em out.