Procrastination helps me gets stuff done

Categories: Hacking Life, The Juggle


I noticed recently that when there’s something on my to-do list that I really want to avoid, I start searching for something else — anything else — to do instead. Sometimes that means I end up baking banana bread at 2 in the morning. Sometimes I discover an awesome new blog. Sometimes I end up surfing my favorite time-wasters on the web. But most of the time, that search for a distraction brings me right back to my to-do list, and I end up knocking tons of little line items off and being productive in spite of myself.

Case in point: I needed to re-read a book that I’m reviewing, because I loved it but I read it so long ago that can’t figure out how to describe it in 500 words without completely giving away the plot. So what I did I do instead? Wrote a month’s worth of product reviews, cleaned out my work bag — twice – and sorted coupons. (Yes, Kathy Spencer inspired me, too!)

Another example: this very blog post. I should have written it last night, but I’ve been soloparenting while my husband is away and after I got home from work I hung out with my kids and fed them dinner and put them to bed and stumbled downstairs and looked at my computer and thought, “Um. Anything I type is not going to be coherent. It might not even contain actual words. Don’t I have a book to reread for that review?” 

Which meant that today, I was running out of items with which to procrastinate. If you’ve been procrastinating for a while, eventually you come to the big thing on your to-do list, the one you were trying to avoid to begin with. And there’s nothing left to do but tackle that item head-on.

This post is not that item. The thing I’m really trying to avoid is cleaning my house in advance of my youngest child’s 3rd birthday party, which is taking place this weekend. Which means that I’ve suddenly discovered a few other things I can get done before I can’t procrastinate about the cleaning any longer.


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6 comments so far...

  • So , one has to ask why is procrastination so productive .. or is it.. ? For some procrastination is a sign of avoidance,(which we should ask ourselves why?) some call it oac, and yet others look at it as being lazy. But Procrastination is really a form of relaxation.. .distressing the body, as well as the mind. It may appear like chaos but .. is it ?.. not really the only thing that is negative about it is that you’ve just added to the “to do list ” because in reality you still have all of the issues to attend to. I like procrastination when I don’t have a lot to do already.. the small things can wait (they aren’t going anywhere) I look at it as total relaxation.. clean and simple ..!

    Cindy  |  October 30th, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  • I don’t agree with your post at all. procrastination is either avoidance or plain laziness. If you want to get anything done you have to roll up your sleeve and get to work, anything significant that is.

    Baby Moses  |  October 31st, 2009 at 6:07 am

  • So you do agree! ” anything significant that is”.. I agree if things need to be done get her done..! I still say the small things .. they aren’t going anywhere. .. you see it as a negative concept.. depending on where the lines are drawn.. I for myself .. take the opportunity to relax.. choosong to do what I feel like doing.. not because I have to…

    Cindy  |  October 31st, 2009 at 12:49 pm

  • I’m right there with you, Lylah. For me, though, I think part of it is that I work best under pressure so I end up still coming on time or earlier and under budget, so to speak.

    Baby Moses, I’m curious to know why you think that procrastination is a sign of pure laziness, especially if the work is done when or before it’s due - and it’s a quality job/product? In my opinion, laziness is doing the task at hand half-assed and late because you just didn’t feel like doing it at all.

    Phe  |  November 1st, 2009 at 2:35 pm

  • I’m the same way. Not sure I’d tout it as a virtue, but I’ll say that a clean work space may be a sign of an unpleasant, laborious, or boring “to-do.” If it weren’t for avoiding those tasks, I would be perpetually behind on everything, instead of just the biggest moster tasks . . . .

    I have had many years to contemplate why I do this. I think it’s because it’s hard for me to “finish” stuff, as in, stop trying to make it better. I always feel like there’s room for improvement. It’s not the whole project I’m procrastinating on, just that final closing step. If it weren’t for deadlines, I’d probably never finish anything important.

    SKL  |  November 1st, 2009 at 10:34 pm

  • I’ve never thought of it that way Cindy, but yes, you’re right, it is a form of relaxation. After spending 15 minutes on Twitter, I can say to myself, “now, where was I?” and get back into the swing of work.
    If it is just work, work, work, task to task, then I can quickly become overwhelmed and nothing gets done.
    I think some of it comes back to personality type too. My mother is like Baby Moses, “roll up your sleeves and get it done”. She’s retired, coming up close on 70 and her days are nearly as full as they were when she was working.
    We come to odds when she visits because as soon as my daughter’s down to sleep she’ll hit me with the things that should be done, people to be called, etc. And I need 15-30 minutes to wind down and switch modes.
    The work gets done by both, but we approach it differently. I think it is only a problem if procrastination means nothing else gets done.

    Mich  |  November 2nd, 2009 at 3:15 pm