It sounds almost too good to be true right? I’m telling all you procrastinators that your pathological bad habit can be a secret to success. Well, yes it can. But it’s not any old procrastination I’m talking about here. You need to be strategic about it.
Strategic procrastination #1: Just because you can do something quickly doesn’t mean you should
I’m Quick Draw McGraw when it comes to email. It used to be that anything that dropped into my inbox which could be dealt with quickly (via a reply or action), I’d do it straight away. I loved it because my inbox was my to-do list and this kept it ‘nice and clean’. Clients loved it because they got instant action on requests.
I think we can all see that this is actually a bit of a problem.
One, because I would spend my entire days in my inbox ‘keeping it clean’. Two, because the more you train people to expect a quick response, the more they will email you the second they run into trouble with something.
A little while ago I experimented with the productivity activity of only checking my email three times a day. I hated it (which is a story for another day), but it did highlight something very interesting for me. When I’d open up my inbox after 2-3 hours, it was staggering how often there’d be an email in there from someone saying “Help!”… and then another email from them 20 minutes later saying, “It’s ok, figured it out.”
What this showed me was, just because I could respond to an email instantly, that didn’t mean I should. If I strategically procrastinated in answering certain types of emails, often the issue would become a non-issue without my participation.
This rule applies to most ‘urgencies’ out there. If left alone for a little while, many urgencies swiftly become non-urgent, or non-existent.
Strategic procrastination #2: There is such a thing as productive procrastination
Say you’re writing a blog post or a report and you get stuck, what do you do? Well if you’re me, you generally go to Facebook to ‘give your mind a rest’. I think we all know what happens next: you fall down a Facebook rabbit hole, watch a few videos, laugh at a few memes and then come back to what you’re writing to discover that … you’re still stuck!
This is where I’ve found a short walk can be a highly productive way to procrastinate. Why does this work? Well, for one, they say if you can see far and wide, you can think far and wide. Getting away from your desk and heading outside opens up your mind to new possibilities.
The beauty of going for a walk as a productive procrastination strategy is that it doesn’t even need to be a long walk. Just around the block, or even up and down a stairwell will clear your mind and the roadblock that led you to leave your desk in the first place!
Strategic procrastination #3: Give important things time to marinate
If you have an important decision to make, or an important pitch to prepare, do a brain dump about that thing, and then walk away from it for 24 hours. (This form of strategic procrastination is very strategic because you actually have to plan for it!)
Over the next 24 hours your subconscious will work on those thoughts in the background and you will be staggered how effective this ‘marination’ process is for bringing real clarity to that particular thing. The end effect is always a cracking resolution or outcome – one that wouldn’t have been achieved if you’d forced yourself to get it done in one go.