How to Procrastinate (for greater success and happiness)

Slow as a Snail

Procrastination is a funny thing; It only brings me sorrow.
But I can change at any time; I think I will … tomorrow!

No truer words, right?

Procrastination is, after all, an insidious habit that makes life more hectic, hurried and panicked. It robs us of peace, undermines excellence and degrades the joy that excellence produces.

Mediocrity is not an ingredient to happiness. But procrastination almost guarantees mediocrity, at least in comparison to our individual potential.

But does all procrastination bring sorrow and condemn us to a life of mediocre sub-excellence?

Rethinking Procrastination

I found myself rethinking the issue recently as my plate seemed to increasingly fill to overflowing with frustrating regularity. I’ve had to look hard at some of the items demanding my attention.

Things get particularly interesting when I try packing 48 hours’ worth of time, energy and to-do lists into a single 24-hour day.

That’s especially true when others’ priorities are not mine and mine are not theirs. This forces me to look close and hard, not only at what’s directly important to me, but what is indirectly important because I deeply care about the person or people who need something from me.

Paper-work, for instance, may be low on my list of priorities but if it’s high on my boss’ list, it had better move up a notch or two on mine. Same is true with kids and spouse and friends and God.

But what if too many important things are crowding your life? What if doing one thing that needs getting done means not doing something else that also needs attention?

Targeted Procrastination

If you’re like me, you typically have somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion things to do and time for only a frustratingly small handful of them. That’s where procrastination can be a hideous foe or a welcomed friend.

A targeted kind of procrastination–or habitually delaying everything else on your list to focus on a prioritized few–can prove life-saving (or at least sanity-saving).

I suppose this is little more than glorified list-making, but with an important twist. Often, when we fail to get to the bottom of our to-do lists, we can feel overwhelmed or guilty. What targeted procrastination does is to free us of the guilt often associated with that failure, and to recast it as something altogether positive.

You are choosing to delay without necessarily choosing to end a goal or priority or task. You are giving yourself permission to be lazy on certain items while you get to work busting your butt to accomplish other tasks you identify as more important to you at this time.

Permission to Delay

Please note the condition of the procrastination I’m advocating here. It’s not that I focus on something I necessarily prefer doing and ignore the rest. It is something more important than what I may prefer.

I may not feel like washing dishes. But if the paper plates are gone, the sink is full of dishes and the EPA is looking through my kitchen window in Hazmat suits taking pictures of the new ecosystem developing there, it doesn’t much matter that I would rather wash my car or go to the gym or watch an Oprah rerun.

One of the problems I personally encountered as I watched my plate fill and fretted over the growing load, is that I tended to pick at the edges of everything and so often finished nothing.

But a targeted kind of procrastination, where I actually give myself permission to habitually put off doing some things while I work on others can be life-changing.

The added benefit is that like other more traditional forms of procrastination, the procrastinated items either eventually get done as they percolate to the top of future lists or time is saved as you realize some items never belonged on the list in the first place.

Your thoughts …

What are you experiences and thought on procrastination? We would love to hear them in the comments!

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