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Everyone experiences the desire to procrastinate. For one reason or another, nothing is harder than doing the one task that needs to get done. People go to great lengths — create excuses, find other work, or even hide — to avoid a dreaded task. Usually time spent procrastinating is simply wasted, but it doesn’t have to be.

When managed effectively, the desire to avoid one job can be used to get other things done. This strategy is called structured procrastination. Rather than doing nothing at all, take care of business that normally gets forgotten. This is a great way to deal with mundane chores. Use your desire to avoid real work to force yourself to work harder at something else!

My favorite structured procrastination activities include:

  • Organizing my work area
  • Networking
  • Scheduling
  • Tying up loose ends
  • Meetings
  • Running errands
  • Clearing out my inbox
  • Helping others
  • Getting up to date

Of course, structured procrastination doesn’t always work. There will be times when you can’t stand to do anything work related. Usually this is a sign that you need to take a break and recharge.

Rather than forcing yourself to work when you aren’t up for it, embrace procrastination completely. These activities cure procrastination by rejuvenating energy and creative mojo:

  • Go to lunch
  • Exercise
  • Take a walk
  • Cat nap
  • Creative thinking
  • Read a good book

Of course, there are many other excellent alternatives for both structured and unstructured procrastination. The key is experimenting until you find what works for you. Hopefully these suggestions will help you think of new ways to get things done even when you don’t feel like it.

Written for LifeClever by John Wesley, who writes at PickTheBrain.com about self improvement, motivation, and building self confidence.

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14 Comments

  • Grant

    gravatarSep 5, 2007
    1:18 pm

    Is there step 1 through 4 or did I procrastinate and miss them?

  • reid

    gravatarSep 5, 2007
    2:05 pm

    Are you referring to “Sep 5″, as in September 5th rather than Steptember? Heh…

  • Grant

    gravatarSep 5, 2007
    4:37 pm

    Duh! One Red-faced Kiwi sitting at his desk now…

  • dan

    gravatarSep 6, 2007
    7:10 pm

    Didn’t read, too long. I was going

  • cynicmag.com

    gravatarSep 6, 2007
    8:24 pm

    Don`t know about you guys, but I’ll read it later

  • Joshua Allen

    gravatarSep 7, 2007
    7:55 pm

    Hilarious! I never had the ambition to coin a new word for it or call it a tehnique, but I’ve been doing this for ages. I find that if I want to get my house clean or my e-mail inbox emptied, I simply have to work myself into a state of anxiety about a looming project deadline. Never fails..

  • Michael Müller

    gravatarSep 11, 2007
    1:11 pm

    Excellent article. I’ve discovered that I already applied the “productive procrastination” concept in my life. I did not knew that there was a name for it, though. :)

  • paul merrill

    gravatarSep 11, 2007
    4:45 pm

    Good stuff… takes a little of the guilt out of taking a break from work.

  • JTS

    gravatarSep 11, 2007
    5:21 pm

    I was going to read the full list, but I had a few other things to do. (Just kiddin! Great read!)

  • Balfour

    gravatarSep 19, 2007
    8:15 am

    Zefrank on the subject: http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2007/02/020707.html

  • Laurel

    gravatarSep 19, 2007
    8:16 am

    Excellent advice to use the negative “avoidance” to do something productive! Let’s use that energy!

  • Andrew

    gravatarSep 19, 2007
    12:17 pm

    This is great. I actually do this quite often too, without having known it was a strategy.

    However to the contrary of what the info says… I actually find that once I get going on the smaller stuff to avoid the bigger thing, I eventually am worked up enough to start knocking off tasks on the bigger project, regardless of how unimportant or important it is. It’s the adrenaline-rush-type feeling that gets me going and helps me knock everything out (like a snowball of energy and willingness to work).

  • Replete

    gravatarSep 21, 2007
    7:14 am

    Haha, genius. I do this. I put something off and .. do something else..

  • Rox

    gravatarApr 21, 2009
    2:36 pm

    Brilliant – and so true!

    Funny thing is that I use procrastination at work when I’m writing, but it’s almost like a breathing space and what I usually do is phaff over research and open and close a whole bunch of windows for a minute or so.

    It works too – my head clears and I’m able to move on to the next article!

    When I was freelancing I used to take a coffee break, and while I waited for the kettle I would lie on my bed, flat on my tummy and my cat would walk all over me. Can’t tell you how well that worked, would get up to make coffee and feel really refreshed.

    Sigh… I miss those good old days!