Friday, December 7, 2007

Productive Procrastination

I'm a compulsive procrastinator. Right now I'm writing a blog post instead of writing some articles for my article marketing campaign, revising a resume I haven't used in years so I can send it to a potential client, doing some job searching, getting a head start on next week's big client project, and going to the gym.

There are many different types of procrastination. Some of us procrastinate in big ways--putting things off for days or weeks, only to scramble at the last minute to make deadline. Others procrastinate in small ways throughout the day. Everything gets done--but it gets done much more slowly than it could. It may be impossible to break the habit completely, but here are a few ideas for making procrastination productive.

Checking email. I'm an obsessive email-checker. If a project isn't coming easily, I take a break every third paragraph or so just to see if I have any email. It's sad, really--especially when it's the ninth time I've checked in the past thirty minutes and I still don't have any mail. Somebody write me something, already!

Checking email incessantly can be productive, though. I came across this tip at Freelance Switch, and it's worth sharing: focus on action when you check your mail. Most emails require you to do something--schedule a meeting, call someone, send a sample or resume, or write an email back. Instead of putting it off, do it right then. Your clients will love how responsive you are, and you'll get something useful done.

Surfing the net. The Internet is one big portal to procrastination. And it's right there at our fingertips. It's frightening how easy it is to get sucked in--and how much time you can lose there. When I do creative writing projects, I often go to a local coffee shop that doesn't have online access--just so I can't procrastinate this way. But when I'm doing client work, I usually need online access.

When I procrastinate online, I go to the job boards. Or I head over to some forums to leave some comments and put some links out there. Or I try to find an easy tutorial for a technical problem that's holding me up. Yes, this can cause me to lose a lot of time. But at least it's useful and productive in its own right.

Reading blogs. Blogs are another huge time drain. But you can waste your time at it--or you can make it a productive activity. I try to stay on industry-specific blogs so I pick up useful tips that will help my writing business. I also make a point to leave comments with links where it's appropriate. This can bring you a boost in traffic and notice from more established blogging communities.

Cleaning. I hardly ever clean to put anything else off. Cleaning is something I'll put off by doing actual work. But some people are obsessive cleaners, especially when there's something else to be done. If you clean to procrastinate, focus your efforts on your office. Clean off your desk, take care of all the paperwork you've been piling up and forgetting about, or update your calendar. You'll have to get these things done eventually--and when else will you want to do them except when you have something more important to do instead?

Put off doing something important by doing something only slightly less important. Instead of doing something completely useless to procrastinate, choose something else you've been planning to do and that you just never find the time for. A lot of things aren't immediately pressing, but they're useful--and when you want to do anything but that one important task you need to get done, they can start to look more attractive.

When I'm putting off working on my novel--NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I still don't have something I can shop around to agents--I work on article marketing. When I'm supposed to work on article marketing and just don't feel like it, I brainstorm topics for an e-book or a set of PLR articles. And when I'm supposed to be doing those things, I get to work on my novel. Procrastination really can help you get things done--you just have to trick yourself into it.


Anonymous said...

Love your perspective on transforming procrastination into productivity.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that procrastination can be a psychological disorder, a chronic mental issue or a symptom of another underlying problem (ADD, anyone?) Assuming that procrastinators are just avoiding unpleasant tasks alone isn't accurate.

Not saying you did that with this post; just pointing it out.

On the other hand, procrastination is, for many, an extremely effective method of getting things done. Procrastinators get large amounts of anything done while not doing something else.

*raises hand* Like me.

James - JCME Web Content Writer Tips

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Freerange: Thanks for stopping by!

@James: I hadn't considered serious mental disorders when I wrote this...I was thinking more about the common procrastination pretty much everyone indulges in from time to time. I don't know anyone who doesn't procrastinate at least a little; I think it's part of being human.

I'm normal, right??? I'm NORMAL!!! [runs screaming from room]