Productive Procrastination: Why Putting Off Your Work Might Not Be So Bad

Procrastination is an old friend to many of us, particularly in our student years. But this is the old friend who pops round for a cuppa and never leaves. Five hours later you’ve learnt the ins and outs of their flatmate’s trip to the dentist and their niece’s first day at school. You’re not even sure you have a blow-up bed but should probably look for one because now they’re unpacking their pyjamas.

Procrastination starts as a break, but answering a facebook message suddenly leaves you trapped in a trance of scrolling through social media. The voice inside your head is screaming at you to start your essay. You’re not even having fun anymore, but you just don’t know how to stop. It’s getting dark outside, maybe it’s four o’clock, maybe it’s ten and the guilt of your looming deadlines stops you from binging on your favourite TV series or going out for that coffee. It feels a lot better sitting at your desk and suffering, doesn’t it?

This is where productive procrastination comes in. Although this sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, it is possible to use the time you’re not spending on your work in a productive way. Maybe you already do! Here are 7 things you should consider adding to your alternative to-do list:

1. Writing

If you’re wondering why this is number 1, it’s because I’m productively procrastinating right now and you could be too. Whether it’s working on your latest novel or cobbling together a blog post, writing something non-academic is always a great way to spend your time.

Not much of a wordsmith? That’s ok, create something that you love. From painting to needlework, giving life to something that started its existence in your mind never results in a wasted weekend.

(Image: lancaster.ac.uk)

2. Cleaning/ Housework

Nobody really likes hoovering, and let’s be honest dusting only happens before the parents come to visit you eight weeks deep into the term. We won’t even mention the oven, because the only way that’s getting a clean is on moving out day. Even then it takes three flatmates armed with marigolds and a hefty dose of cilit bang to scrub the charcoal encrusted surfaces.

But a stack of textbooks can make even the most dedicated of us pale and reach for the dishcloth, meaning you can tick off something undesirable but necessary.

You never know, the thought of housework might actually spur you on to write your essay, perhaps the lesser of two evils.

(Image: nbcnews.com)

3. Cooking

Much like the point before, cooking is one of those essential things in life. If you have the urge to procrastinate, don’t reach for the instant noodles and stare into the void all evening, cook yourself up a wholesome meal.

If vegetables aren’t doing it for you, get creative and make something tastier like a pizza or try your hand at baking some muffins for you and your friends.

(Image: ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

4. Exercise

Clear your mind and go for a jog or hit the gym, the change of scenery might be enough to get you in the mood for a relaxed study session. Deadlines are no longer an excuse for why your trainers still look brand new. Willingness and how comfortable your bed is are another matter entirely.

(Image: msecnd.net)

5. Organising

So your backpack is full of crumpled papers, your desk is scattered with every A4 sheet of notes you’ve taken all year and the ring binder folders your mum got you before going to uni are looking incredibly bare. Instead of procrastinating your revision by stress eating, take a bit of time to rip open that packet of post-its and prepare for plastic wallets galore. Colour coding and buying a label maker has never looked more appealing than when it means putting aside your seminar worksheet in favour of a glow-in-the dark-highlighter.

(Image: mirror.co.uk)

6. Job Applications

I hear you groaning at this one and perhaps you’re wondering why it’s on the list at all. Surely job applications are just as bad as academia? If your level of procrastination is desperate you never know what you’ll be willing to do. Cover letters and CVs start to become formulaic after the first seven so churning out another load will soon become second nature with a little (or a lot) of copy and pasting.

7. Hobbies

If all else fails, procrastinate by doing your hobbies. This might not seem like the most productive thing on the list, but it sure beats staring at the ceiling or drawing faces in the dust on the window sill. By having fun you might feel more refreshed and ready to work rather than wondering exactly what your life has come to in the middle of the night.

At the end of the day, although all of these things are great ways to spend your time, they are delaying the inevitable. Eventually there comes a point where you will need to sit down and face reality (24-hour caffeine fuelled essay writing extravaganza optional).