The Joys of Procrastinating the Right Way

We’re all told that procrastination is a terrible thing. But done right, it can actually be a great way to move toward your goals and make life fun at the same time – and mastering the “immediate reward vs. long-term benefit” game.

We are all somewhat rebellious when it comes to doing things we don’t want to do. You know – just one more ice cream cone and the diet will start tomorrow… just one more day of surfing the internet and then I’ll start making those calls…

The lure of the shiny, fun, interesting things is strong, even though we’re fully aware that we are self-sabotaging! When the short-term gratification outweighs the long-term gain, we cave in and do the fun thing.

Here’s how to turn that to your advantage:

It’s called structured procrastination.

Let’s say that at the top of your list is the One Thing that you don’t want to do. You look at it, think about it, and immediately feel resistance to doing it. Anything but THAT!

There are two approaches here that will work depending on the day, the mood, the alignment of the stars and your energy.

1. Get the One Thing done. Do it first, get it done and forget it. Okay… you know yourself. You know that this approach may work sometimes, but definitely not all the time. Otherwise you would have already gotten One Thing done.

2. Take on the rest of your list. Many tasks await your attention. These are the ones to turn to when you want to procrastinate – NOT the shiny, fun things! So pick the easiest and most fun, and do it. Wow, that feels satisfying! Want more satisfaction? Yes! Take on another task on the list. Even better… you can plow through the whole list like that, joyfully putting off the One Thing… until the day you are ready (or you’re out of “but I have to do this first” excuses) and you can devote your energy to the One Thing.

The beauty of this approach is that it makes the One Thing less “IMPORTANT” than the other things on your list. It takes away its monumental stature and reduces it to “just another to-do.”

Using this approach, you are tricking yourself into thinking that the One Thing is just another task. It doesn’t matter if you’re mixing long-term and short-term satisfaction. In fact, that’s what makes this so effective! You get both the pleasure of short-term avoidance of the One Thing, and the long-term pleasure of getting it done, matter-of-factly, as if it were no big deal.

 

Inspired by a post on http://99u.com/articles/7286/the-power-of-structured-procrastination.

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