Today we’re going to talk about what I like to call “Procrasti-ductivity”, which is basically putting off important projects to do, well, other seemingly productive things that have nothing to do with said project.
It’s an odd concept. I know I mean either you’r e either productive or your not, right?
...or so it seems.
Stick with me though.
Procrastination is not just black or white, though. There are some grey areas to cover and today we’re going to dive into one of those grey areas.
Sometimes we end up doing things that don’t really need to be done immediately in order to procrastinate what does.
I remember during my college finals I had ten page paper to write. Well you bet your butt that I kept putting it off and I found rather ridiculous ways to do so. I mean of course I went through the normal rhetoric of browsing Reddit, watching YouTube videos, playing PS4, ya know...the usual.
But eventually (like super later last minute, hours before it’s due, eventually) I was like “alright, let’s uhh...do this thing.”
But then, my laziness kicked into double time.
I said to myself...
“Well I shouldn’t really work with a messy desk. I should clean up my desk a bit so I can focus better."
So I went ahead and cleaned up my desk, which took about an hour because we’ll just say I’m not known for keeping my desk too tidy and there was a lot to put away and/or throw out.
Yeah, I know what the fuck, right? That’s not something I normally do. Clean up? The fuck?I don’t normally “tidy up” except when I’m procrastinating apparently.
Well lo and behold my desk was clear, wiped and shiny I was for all intents and purposes “Ready” to begin writing my paper.
BUT OH WAIT!
“What if I have to get up and use the bathroom?” My laziness interrupted. “Certainly I can’t be bothered with all the mess on the floor. I mean that would just stress me out. I got to clean it up”
And so I went ahead and put away my clothes (that were on the floor), scrubbed out some stains of god knows what, and threw out candy wrappers and other wrappers before sitting back down on my desk. Wow, how productive!
“Okay. NOW we’re ready…” or so I thought,
“Nope, not quite,” replied my laziness. You see, after picking up all that trash on the floor, now my tiny little shopping bag trash can was full. I shouldn't sit there with a full can of trash. I should take it out.
And so, for the third time, I decided to... yet again, do something quote on quote “productive”in order to put off doing my paper, which of course was the most important thing I had to get done but at least I was doing other productive things...kinda?
Nonetheless, I took out the trash to the garbage closet in my dorm, headed back to my room, and proceeded to start my paper. And by start my paper I mean open up Microsoft Word.
After all the cleaning up and given the fact I was just in the trash room, I worked up quite a sweat and a bit of a stench.
“ I should go shower” I thought to myself in a voice of laziness, not reason.
Laziness, uncontrolled, has this tricky thing it does where it will logically convince you that procrastinating your most important task at hand in order to do more minuscule, unimportant things, is not only acceptable but desirable and maybe even necessary. It’s not, it’s just your mind playing tricks on you, but we’ll get to that.
Of course I followed that line of lazy logic and decided to go shower. Now of course I can’t take a quick shower. I have to relax and enjoy the warm water. I have to sing songs and enjoy the reverb.
“I’ll take a nice long one so my mind is relaxed and ready to focus on this paper [that I should have started about 2 hours ago and counting]”
It took a bit to adjust the perfect temperature, given these were dorm showers and there were basically 2 temperatures: frostbite and Mordor.
I found the Goldilocks zone eventually, showered, and then just stood in the hot water, reflecting on life, the best place to do it. #showerthoughts
After probably about 20 minutes I shut the valve off, grabbed my towel, and as I was drying myself, I looked in the mirror.
“Oh man, I need to shave.”
“When was the last time…”
And guess what I ended up doing after my shower.
(No, get your mind out the gutter!)
(No, not there either. I mean my face! Gutter. Out.)
Anyway, body sparkling, clean shaven, mind relaxed.
I can’t do this paper on an empty stomach!
And so next thing ya know, I’m taking the elevator down to the campus cafe. I’m ordering a cheesteak and fries.
And decided to eat there, instead of getting it “to go” so I could eat while I work, because I figured “Well then I’ll get crumbs all over my freshly cleaned desk.
I then went outside to get some fresh air and smoke a cigarette (ah, irony) so I could relax. Besides, I deserve a little break. I mean,I got a lot done today...even if none of it was my paper.
After finishing a stog or two, I headed back up to my room.
But now, after eating and smoking, I had to brush my teeth. I mean wouldn’t want stinky breath while trying to write that paper, amirite? C’mon now.
I brushed my teeth, clocking in the full two minutes like you’re supposed to using the stopwatch app on my phone and...
You know what?
I haven’t flossed in a while. I should probably do that while I’m here.
So I freaking go ahead and floss my teeth.
That’s something I never do and am ashamed to admit, but I’m too lazy to dig a little string in between each tiny crevice of my oral abyss. Ain’t got no time for that!
This time though. Whoo boy. This time, we were gonna floss and we were gonna floss right. No matter the fact that I started bleeding like a virgin on prom night, just like I do every time I go to the dentist.
By the way when I go to the dentist,the second they walk in the room, I’m just straight up like: “Hey, just so you know I didn’t floss since probably about the last time I’ve been here” just to avoid that awkward conversation:
Doctor: “Oh how often do you floss?”
Me: When was my last appointment?”
So I cleaned my desk, cleaned the floor, took out the trash, showered, ate some food, smoked a cigarette on a nice walk, brushed AND FLOSSSED my teeth. I was good to go, after I also scrubbed the toilet and scrubbed the sink. I kid you not, but then I was good to go.
No for real this, I *actually* started to write...and finished!
I finished that baby just in the nick of time, minutes before class.
Procrastination brings out adrenaline and I turn on BEAST MODE.
I got an A on that paper. Booya!
But it’s really kind of a similar victory to HULK smashing things wildly without having control over the big green guy inside.I felt drained and powerless. It didn’t feel good.
See, looking back, I was letting my laziness use me and not the other way around. I was being just plain lazy and not SUPER lazy. I was procrastinating, of course, but not with purpose.
I was avoiding my most important task (writing my paper) by being oddly productive on things that while did need to be done, weren’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things, especially the night before a more important project was due.
My goal was to graduate and none of those little clean up tasks contributed to that.
You may have had a similar experience where you put off a “big project”, whether it’s a paper or a phone call or video, whatever, in order to do seemingly productive things. These tasks, however, are really just distractions and diversions as much as a video game or social media page may be.
They keep us unfocused from the road of our main objective, our main goal at hand that we’re trying to accomplish.
Now the solution is not to “just do it” or “work hard. No, the solution is to EMBRACE your laziness, and use it to your advantage (as opposed to letting it take advantage of you),
Laziness is actually quite awesome. It’s an emotional response that encourages you to avoid over-exerting yourself. You procrastinate hard tasks because your primal senses are telling you that would be too much energy depletion (and likely death)
Procrastination is a hard-wired survival instinct.
Back in the hunter-gatherer days, our ancestors needed to save their energy because they didn’t know when the next meal would come. They had to “get the most” out the calories they had.
They could go after a large hunt, but they also had to save energy to fight off invaders. It would be a waste to try a hard hunt only to either fail or be too tired to provide protection for the rest of the tribe.
While taking down the “next big hunt” was important, it was also equally, if not more so, important to defend yourself and your tribe. Ya know, to kind of make sure you lived another day.
Thus, saving energy, procrastinating, was necessary for survival. You didn’t go after a big hunt because it could mean a matter of life and death.
Now, we’re not out living on the land, but we still feel those hard-wired impulses
We put off “the next big hunt”, (or “the next big project” in the 21st century lingo) in order to...survive, like our ancestors.
But look, it’s not a matter of life and death here. You may get drained mentally or maybe even physically. However, the big thing ya gotta do is in no way, shape, or form as energy intensive or dangerous as say, fighting a bear or some shit.
It can feel that way, though. Basically your brain is playing tricks on you to make you think you could literally die by doing the hardest and most important task at hand.
But we’re in control now, us procrastin8rs. We’re evolved beyond just the lizard brain. We understand what our emotions are telling us, what our laziness is telling us.
It’s telling us “Woah buddy, that’s a bit too big of an undertaking. You’re gonna burn out if you take it on.”
Your solution thus far has been to distract yourself with smaller, easier tasks. But this just puts you in a position of doing excessive work.
You are essentially working hard without being productive. Any work you do or effort you give should bring about productivity. Productivity is of course progress towards your goal.
Everything from cleaning up my desk to scrubbing the toilet had absolutely NOTHING to do with my actual goal -- to graduate -- only writing the paper did.
I ended up doing chores that were, well, kind of pointless in doing. I gave myself extra work above and beyond the call of duty. That’s not the Lazy Way.
All I had to do was write the paper.
I mean I still had to write that paper after all those chores. It’s not like it went away. I added a more to my work load that what was originally required, in the long run.
While it may have seemed productive to do all those little chores, it really wasn’t.
Again, because productivity is directly measured by results and progress towards a goal. I wasn’t making any progress on graduating by scrubbing the toilet.
Procrastinate with purpose. Put off the chores for another day.
And by the way, if you want to learn how to get chores done the lazy way, check out Lvl 36 of the ProcrastiN8r Podcast.
You want to embrace your laziness and avoid putting in any work or effort that doesn’t directly result in productivity.
Instead of distracting yourself with “easier” tasks to complete, just make the BIG task smaller and a lot easier. The whole reason you’re avoiding it in the first place is is because your hard-wired laziness is saying “don’t do this or you wil DIIIE!”
You’re not gonna die, but ya gotta kind of work with your brain.
Break it down into chunks. Convince your brain that “it’s no big deal, man. We got this. It’s just a little bit.”
Using the paper example, you could say, “Okay, I’m just going to write one sentence and that’s it.”
Do one thing -- do one push up, write one sentence, sing one note. And be done.
You’ll probably end up doing a lot more than just that one, but the hardest part is getting started.
You just gotta do “enough” for your brain to get the message:
“It’s all good, dude. We’re not gonna run out of energy or starve.”
Meanwhile, you can procrastinate most of your to do list and just do it later.
Use your laziness, but be in control of it.
Make progress towards your goals instead of flossing your teeth.
Take it easy,