Wednesday, April 11, 2007

10 Ways To Procrastinate And Still Be Productive

If you're reading this post then you may have problems with procrastination. I've developed a list of things I can do when I'm procrastinating. The trick here is that even though I'm still avoiding the work I'm supposed to be doing, I'm still engaged in doing something useful or meaningful. Here's my top 10 list. I hope you find something of use.

1. Write a personal email or letter to someone

If there is a relationship you cherish or someone who means a lot to you, write them an email or letter telling them! Take some time and strengthen your relationships.

2. Start a collection of links that you can use to procrastinate more effectively later on

If you have a list of subjects you're interested in learning more about, try starting a collection of links for each one. The next time you're busy procrastinating, pick on of those subjects and start visiting the links.

3. Choose a subject you just "don't get" and start doing research

For me, it was a programming language called Lisp. I started doing lots of research into Lisp to learn more about it. It's turned out to be great because learning it has provided me with a sense of accomplishment. I learned something new. How great is that?

4. Write a stream of conciousness journal entry about the work you're avoiding

Pull up Word, notepad, or a piece of pen and paper and just write about the work you're avoiding. If you're avoiding the work because you're stuck, chances are you'll discover some angles that you hadn't thought about. It's also a great way to think through the work you have to do without having to actually do it (yet).

5. Practice speed reading

Go to, or and start reading the articles posted there. Focus on skimming the writing as quickly as you can. Practice forming a picture of what the article or essay is about and then translate it into a concise paragraph summing up all the important points. This technique helps me stay sharp.

6. If you have ideas that would benefit the company you work for, write an email and send it

There's no time like the present. If there's something that's been bothering you or an opportunity you think would benefit the company, write your thoughts down and send them to someone who could help make it happen. Ask for their input or reaction. If anything, it'll get it off your chest. It'll also help improve how people view you.

7. Initiate a conversation with someone and REALLY listen to what they are saying

I'm a terrible listener. Practice really focusing on what someone has to say even if the subject is completely uninteresting to you. The intention here is to practice your "people skills" by listening and not talking.

8. Read over your latest "Sent Items" and try get a sense of how your writing represents your thinking

If you could rewrite an email you sent out, how would you rewrite it? Look for spelling errors, fuzziness of logic and try to see how you come across. This is a great way to get a sense of how you communicate and a great way to improve it.

9. Develop a list of your successes

Start a list of anything you succeeded at. Try developing the list chronologically. Is there a pattern? Is there something you can learn from? There usually is and developing a running list will help you see it.

10. Develop a list of your failures

Develop a list of things you failed at. Try to find the patterns. Write about why you think you failed. Write down what might have made you succeed. The point is not to beat yourself up but to simply detach yourself from your failures and gain a better understanding of where you can be better.

Bonus: Write a sincere thank you note

Is there someone who mentored you long ago? Is there someone who did something for you that you never truly thanked? Is there someone you admire that has written things or said things that have made an impact in your life? Take a few moments and write a sincere thank you. It feels good to do it and it might inspire you to actually get back to work!


duncan said...

Before I make fun of you, let me say that I really like this post. It's all very good advice and I wish I could be disciplined enough to follow your suggestions.

Also, I couldn't help but think of zefrank's "Procrastination" episode. Take that as a compliment since it was my favorite episode of The Show ever.

OK, enough with the niceties. I took a few moments to create my own top-ten list. Mine consists of ten interpretations of all the suggestions you made for super-productive procrastination. [PLEASE keep in mind that this is all meant in good fun. You're not nearly as crazy as I make you out to be!]:

1. (Write a personal email or letter to someone.) INTERPRETATION: Feel guilty about ignoring the people you should have called, and then write them an email instead. That way you don't actually have to talk to them.

2. (Start a collection of links that you can use to procrastinate more effectively later on.) INTERPRETATION: Review and categorize your collection of links to all those really, REALLY important LonelyGirl15 episodes.

3. (Choose a subject you just "don't get" and start doing research.) INTERPRETATION: Follow random search-and-click paths on Wikipedia and then try to figure out how you got from searching for data on casualties from past U.S. wars to reading about the history of "she-male" porn.

4. (Write a stream of consciousness journal entry about the work you're avoiding.) INTERPRETATION: Insert self-referential joke here.

5. (Practice speed reading.) INTERPRETATION: Don't forget to take your Adderall/Ritalin.

6. (If you have ideas that would benefit the company you work for, write an email and send it.) INTERPRETATION: Send random emails at work to make it look like you're worth whatever they're paying you.

7. (Initiate a conversation with someone and REALLY listen to what they are saying.) INTERPRETATION: Go out to lunch with Duncan (and pay for his meal).

8. (Read over your latest "Sent Items" and try get a sense of how your writing represents your thinking.) INTERPRETATION: Organize your Outlook folders and obsess over everything you've ever written. Worry whether or not everyone hates you. Remember to take your zoloft, valium, and clomipramine, OCD-boy.

9. (Develop a list of your successes.) INTERPRETATION: You're good enough, you're smart enough, and gosh-darnit... people like you!

10. (Develop a list of your failures.) INTERPRETATION: Nothing you ever do will be good enough. Go eat worms.

Bonus: (Write a sincere thank you note.) INTERPRETATION: Thank Duncan for making up lies about your inner-demons on a public website.

John said...

You son of a bitch! How dare you ruin my best post!

Heh. Your comment was exceedingly clever. I'm adding one more bonus idea; Bonus #2: Go to someone else's blog and waste an hour writing a comment that makes you look absolutely crazy.


duncan: wild-eyed lunatic, esq. said...

Good god, John. You cannot--at this point in our friendship--possibly still think that I merely "look" crazy. I am the real deal, my friend. A raving madman of the North-East...

Like I said, though, I actually think this is a great post. The concept of "productive procrastination" is almost impossibly appealing. I think your post proves that virtually anything can be re-framed as something else entirely. To provide advice on how to use your avoidance time in ways that are beneficial--and for the suggestions to actually ring true--is an amazing feat indeed.

[BTW, it hardly took me "an hour" to write that comment. That said, if I'm going to put any significant effort into posting a rambling comment on your blog, I should probably waste my time posting to my own instead!]

Professor Zero said...

LOL! at the thread ... but the list is good.

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