Positive Procrastination: How To Procrastinate Like A Pro

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

In a world obsessed with productivity and efficiency, procrastination gets universal hate.

However, procrastination can be a powerful tool when it is used to achieve remarkable results, evading laziness, bad stress, and poor time management.

Some people know this method, called active or positive procrastination. It may sound contradictory, but it means using procrastination in a benefic and strategic way.

It allows you to postpone tasks and yet achieve as much success as those who don’t procrastinate.

I have already explored how positive procrastinators thrive in high-pressure situations.

In this article, let’s explore some tips to master the art of positive procrastination, transforming a vice into a virtue.

These tips will help you transform procrastination from a hindrance into a strategic advantage:

1. Organize To-Do Lists

Effective organization of to-do lists is a critical aspect of positive procrastination.

Positive procrastinators do not begin with an intention to sort things as each task goes, but with a written, organized task list.

  • Categorize your tasks based on their urgency/importance and time/people available, so you get a clear visual of your workload.
  • Mark out the ‘maybe’ parts of your task you can minimize, and those that you can strategically delay.
  • Use colored ink (or different symbol prefixes) to make your to-do list come alive.

An organized list also prevents decision fatigue (the phenomenon of making wrong decisions because you have made many decisions, because of ego depletion).

It also ensures that you do not waste your best energy times on the least impactful tasks.

How To Use Positive Procrastinate Like A Pro

2. Set Realistic Deadlines

Setting realistic deadlines is the cornerstone of positive procrastination.

Instead of viewing a large project as a monolithic task, break it down into smaller, manageable parts. Then assign each mini-task its own deadline, creating a series of achievable goals.

This approach makes the project less daunting and provides regular checkpoints to monitor progress, ensuring that you stay on track without feeling overwhelmed.

3. Understand Your Work Patterns

To effectively procrastinate, you need to understand your work patterns.

Identify the times of day when you are most alert and productive. Are you a morning person, or do you find your stride in the evening?

When you align your work schedule with your natural productivity peaks, you can make the most of your time, even when delaying the main task in favor of other smaller tasks.

4. Prioritize Tasks

Positive procrastinators are masters of task prioritization. They effectively use the Eisenhower Matrix, also called the Urgent-Important Matrix, to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance.

Eisenhower Matrix of Prioritization
  1. Urgent and Important (Do First): These tasks require immediate attention and action due to their time-sensitive and critical nature. Examples include crises, deadlines, and problems that need quick resolution.
  2. Not Urgent but Important (Schedule for later): Tasks that are long-term goals that do not need immediate action. These should be scheduled for later, and include annual success plan, relationship-building, and personal growth activities.
  3. Urgent but Not Important (Delegate): These are tasks that require prompt attention, but may not necessarily contribute to one’s own goals. They can often be delegated to others or deferred, such as interruptions or some emails and calls.
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important (Don’t Do): Activities in this quadrant are neither important nor urgent and you can often eliminate them. These include time-wasters, trivial tasks, and other activities that do not contribute to personal or professional objectives.

Positive procrastinators mark and tackle the tasks first that are urgent and important. They use the time gained by delaying the important but not urgent tasks to plan and prepare more thoroughly.

5. Gather Information

Use the period of delay to gather additional information and insights. This strategy is particularly useful for complex decisions or tasks.

The extra time spent procrastinating can lead to better-informed decisions and, ultimately, higher-quality outcomes.

It also allows considering other perspectives, evaluations, and options.

6. Embrace Short-Burst Productivity

Short-burst productivity is about staying very focused for short periods. Positive procrastinators thrive on these short, intense bursts of productivity.

Here’s how you can steal this productivity hack:

  • Start by writing down the things you need to do.
  • Then, use a timer (like an analog clock timer you find in a kitchen) and set it for 25 minutes. The idea is to see time tick away, so you work faster because you see you only have a little time.
  • When the timer rings, take a quick break for about 3 to 5 minutes to do anything else you need to do. Then, set the timer again for another 25 minutes.
  • Do this three times, which adds up to a bit over 100 minutes in total. Thereafter, take a longer break of 20 minutes before starting again.

You might be surprised by how much you get done this way. What happens is that the pressure of an impending deadline can heighten focus and drive efficiency.

Start by using short-burst productivity for some of your tasks. Later, you may use it for bigger tasks.

7. Limit Distractions

Positive procrastinators just know how to minimize distractions.

During their periods of hyper-focus, especially under time pressure, they do everything to filter out all distractions except the emergency ones from their environment.

This might mean turning off social media notifications, working in a quiet space, or setting specific hours for uninterrupted work.

They clearly inform others that they must not be disturbed unless in certain specific situations.

8. Develop a ‘Good Enough’ Mindset

Positive procrastinators adopt a ‘good enough’ mindset. They know this is the most effective antidote for perfectionism.

This approach is about balancing the desire for perfection with the practicality of deadlines.

So, they force themselves to resist the urge to over-polish a task after it meets the necessary standards.

This helps them avoid unnecessary delays and stresses, freeing up time for necessary time-offs.

9. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be a great motivator. Reward yourself for meeting tight deadlines or for successful bursts of productivity.

Scientists have shown that enhancing “relief” after stress can help our brain prevent depression.

This could be as simple as taking a short break, indulging in a favorite treat, or enjoying some leisure time.

These rewards reinforce successful behavior patterns and make the process of working under pressure more rewarding and sustainable.

10. Reflect and Refine

Reflection is a powerful tool to know ourselves, whoever we are. Positive procrastinators do it regularly.

After completing a task, they take time to assess what strategies worked and what didn’t. They ask themselves,

  • Did I allocate enough time for the task?
  • Could my focus have been better?
  • What can I improve next time?

Reflection allows you to refine your approach. It allows you to focus on continuous improvement and tackle more complex tasks in the future that may or may not need procrastination.

11. Maintain Balance

Balance procrastination with your mental well-being.

Always make sure your procrastination strategies don’t lead to extreme amounts of stress or negatively affect your mental health.

Incorporate regular breaks, get enough sleep, and engage in activities that you enjoy. This helps a healthy work-life balance and prevents work burnout.

12. Schedule Downtime

Downtimes or leisure times are times when people take a break from work and spend time relaxing.

Positive procrastinators often schedule downtime intentionally. They never scrimp on setting aside specific times for rest, relaxation, doing nothing, and creative thinking.

Joy Beatty and William Torbert propose that work and leisure complement each other. Leisure is when one chooses to do something intrinsically rewarding. Since it helps the person learn and grow, they pass it on to their organizations.

One of my clients, a graphic designer, had a very tight deadline for a major project. I suggested she make time for a daily short walk in the park, instead of relentless work.

She started a 15-minute walk in the park after lunch, soaking in the sights and sounds of nature, leaving her work-related thoughts away, simply letting her mind wander.

One day, on her usual walk, she found a fresh, compelling design idea for her project. She used it later and found a big success with it.

Downtimes not just let your mind refresh and recharge, they also spark creative ideas because your work thoughts are no longer occupying your mind space.

Final Words

In conclusion, positive procrastination is not an oxymoron but a viable strategy for those looking to optimize their productivity. It turns a common vice into a strategic advantage, offering enhanced productivity, creativity, and mental peace.

Implement these tips and elevate procrastination to an art form, working smarter and achieving more.


√ Also Read: How Positive Procrastinators Thrive Best Under Pressure?

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