Please, I Prefer “Non-Traditionally Productive Individual.”

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Last week saw Fight Procrastination Day come and go (September 6th, if you want to mark it on your calendar next year) so I suppose there’s a certain fitting irony to the fact that I’m just now getting around to writing about it. And (surprise, surprise!) I’m writing as an advocate.

Procrastination has always been a famously Bad Thing, but lately people seem to be willing to rethink that, which I find gratifying. For example, this article makes a case for procrastinators still being productive people. Of course there are the usual tips involving self-sabotage (checking your email too often? Unplug your computer, so you literally have to stop!) and attitude adjustment, but there’s also one really great takeaway: Having a huge to-do list can lead to productive avoidance. For me, that’s the crux of the issue.

The big myth of procrastination is that it involves doing nothing. That doesn’t have to be true. Personally, I like to organize my to-do list in terms of “big” and “little.” Every job has little, thoughtless tasks, balanced with big, critical ones. True brilliance occurs when you pit your responsibilities against each other, and either accomplish a lot of little tasks as a way to avoid the big project you’re dreading, or do the opposite and carve out a chunk of time to concentrate on a big task in order to avoid thinking about all the annoying little things you just can’t stand. The key is to not let yourself feel guilty or defeated about your natural work habits. I mean, either way it’s hard to disagree that accomplishing something is better than accomplishing nothing, right?

Obviously being a “good procrastinator” is no excuse for missing deadlines or flat-out not delivering on promises. But I think there’s some sense in being honest with yourself. Recognizing your own potentially bad habits can lead to letting yourself indulge in them just enough to make them work for you rather than against you.

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