How to Procrastinate Better to Get the Important Things Done


Lesson Overview

In this lesson, you will learn about what procrastination really is and why we procrastinate. Also, we’ll look at why procrastination might not be curable. Finally, you will learn how to procrastinate better to accomplish your most important tasks.

Pause and Think: “Why do we procrastinate?”

Imagine you’ve just woken up from your usual night’s rest and the first thing that comes to mind is the long list of tasks ranging from personal chores to school or work assignments that you need to get done and you jump from your bed ready to make the most of the new day. You’re barely on your feet when you remember to check your phone for notifications, or you just decide to do something a little more fun just for a little while before you get to work. We all know how the story ends. Why do we procrastinate and how can we deal with procrastination?

Why Procrastination Might Not Always Be Bad

We all have moments when we feel like we lack control over ourselves, when we find it difficult to focus on an important task until it’s done. That seems to be the ugly head of procrastination again, isn’t it? Well, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing.

Recall that in previous lessons, we’ve talked about the importance of breaks in allowing the diffuse mode of thinking set in to help us solve problems and learn better and this is one situation where one might procrastinate in a productive way.

procrastination

Photo: Hubrecruiting.com

Procrastination simply means putting off doing something and in fact, no matter what you choose to do with your time, you are also choosing not to do something else, in other words, you’re procrastinating. What this entails is that we might as well be more productive when we learn how to procrastinate well.

How to Procrastinate Better and More Productively

Learning to procrastinate better might as well be one of the most important things we learn how to do to become better and more creative life-long learners.

According to Paul Graham, there are three variants of procrastination which depend on what you choose to do instead of something else. The first variant involves “choosing to do nothing” which we have seen in previous lessons to be sometimes helpful for getting you into the diffuse mode of thinking.

The second variant which involves “choosing to do something of little importance” is the type we’re most familiar with — the type that often leaves us feeling guilty and feeling like we lack self-discipline and self-control.

The third and probably the best variant of procrastination involves “choosing to do something of great importance”. When we put off less important tasks and activities for the really important ones that might be not so easy or much fun to do, we can be said to be effective procrastinators.

good-procrastination

Why the Type-B Procrastination is Quite Dangerous

The reason why choosing to do tasks and activities of little significance is quite dangerous is because it usually doesn’t feel like procrastination since you’re actually “getting things done” and getting a short-term feeling of accomplishment.

Most psychologists see this type of procrastination as a type of avoidance behaviour, a coping mechanism that has gone quite out of place in which people “give in to feel good” even when this feeling is most often short-lived.

procrastination

Photo by: The Washington Post

When we fear, dread or have anxiety about the important task that awaits us, we often engage in this type of procrastination to get rid of these negative feelings. We might open up a video game or do whatever it is that makes us feel better temporarily. Unfortunately, when the reality of a deadline sets in, we begin to feel more guilt.

The situation is actually much worse for those important to-dos that have no set deadline but stand a very good chance at making our lives better and somewhat more significant in the long-term.

How the Pomodoro Technique Might Help You Deal With Type-B Procrastination

The trouble with getting important things done is that they promise no immediate reward and can often seem like a waste of time. Also, because there’s an almost physical pain in facing really important tasks, they are often terrifying. It often feels like climbing a never-ending staircase to get to a height you wish you could just use an elevator which isn’t available to ascend to.

procrastination-fear-of-work

Photo by: The Context of Things

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and “Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato. This technique works by getting you to structure your work or tasks in 25-minute sessions. Each session is separated by a short break. Cirillo coined the name from a tomato-shaped kitchen timer which he used to manage his time as a university student.

This technique is quite simple. Each 25-minute session can be called a “pomodoro”. When you complete one, you take a 5-minute break before embarking on the next. After 4 “pomodoro” sessions, you can take a longer perhaps 30-minute break to rest and recharge.

pomodoro-timer

Photo by: The Pomodoro Technique®

Here are the five basic steps:

Choose a task to be accomplished.

  1. Set the Pomodoro timer or whatever timer you’re using to 25 minutes. (Actual research shows that we can focus for 1 to 2 hours before needing a rest. So, you may wish to experiment with different durations.)
  2. Work on the task until the end of the pomodoro session.
  3. Take a short break of, say, 5 minutes or so depending on how long your session lasted.
  4. Take a longer break to recharge after you’ve completed 4 or so pomodoro sessions. (This depends on how long each of your sessions last.)

Lesson Summary

Procrastination is not necessarily some kind of disease that we should be seeking a cure for. It is simply the act of putting off something, perhaps for a later time. We might want to actually get better at putting off less important tasks for the most important ones.

In order to face important tasks, you seem to have to trick yourself into doing it. This is why methods like the Pomodoro technique could prove helpful. Moreover, it’s not a sign of weakness to depend on tricks like this to get yourself to work.

Happy Learning!

Lesson Discussion

What do you think about the ideas shared in this lesson about procrastination? How do you deal with procrastination to get your important work done? Share your thoughts here!

Confused about anything that was mentioned in the lesson? Ask a question!


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