How I turned my ability to procrastinate on pretty much everything into one of my strategies to get shit done.
You might consider me an unofficial expert on this subject. Case in point: I procrastinated for hours before finally sitting down to write this article.
People always ask me how I get so much stuff done. The truth is that I procrastinate on my work – a lot. But at the same time, I am quite productive. How does this make any sense?
I've been a master procrastinator since I'm a kid. I have little patience and my attention span matches that of a squirrel. I rarely go to conferences because I nearly fall asleep if someone talks longer than 20 minutes (unless the talk involves explosions and car chases, or keeps me laughing my ass off the whole time).
Instant gratification and immediate feedback have always been a big part of everything I do. It's how most humans work, especially now with the influence of social media and convenience of the modern age. We expect results, quickly.
For years I've tried to cure my tendency to procrastinate. But then I learned that it's such a big part of me and my character, I simply can't remove it. Fighting against it made it only worse. It's like one of these bullshit articles on Medium about why a morning person is a better human being. You either are a morning person or you are not. You eventually become one when getting older or you're born as one. I feel the same about procrastination. If you're a procrastinator by nature, there's no changing it. It's better to embrace it and make it your greatest strength.
Once I stopped trying to fix my tendency to procrastinate, I found it is, in fact, the main driver behind my productivity. And knowing that, I can tweak it even further.
“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do - the day after.” ― OSCAR WILDE
It simply works like this:
I usually work on about 5-10 different projects at the same time. This naturally adds a lot of pressure on me, which is good. But what happens is that I procrastinate on a project by working on a different one. Which means: I'm not doing the work I should be doing right now, but I'm doing the work I should be doing otherwise.
This is different than procrastinating by answering emails, which are usually a drain on productivity and less urgent than our habits indicate. In that case, procrastinating shifts your focus away from the important tasks at hand. This approach only works if you make sure to work on a LOT of projects at the same time. The pressure motivates you to move faster, and the workload keeps you jumping between equally important tasks. If you only had one important project on your list, you would probably procrastinate by watching TV. And that's where procrastination gets its negative stigma.
Of course, this is easier said than done. You may still be on the edge of missing important deadlines, and you might be procrastinating on one project longer than another. But more often you will be checking off five other tasks on your to-do list while you are procrastinating on another task. This also keeps your brain sharp as you switch between different tasks, staying in the productivity flow rather than getting stuck on a single task and giving up.
At least, that's what works for me. Put simply, procrastination is my ultimate productivity hack. Instead of trying to get rid of it, I make it work to my advantage. I'd venture to guess this applies to most of our "flaws" – instead of trying to overcome them, perhaps we just need to embrace them.