Procrastination is a lose-lose situation
We all have them, those tasks that we hate to do and when the time comes to do them we will do almost anything else to be spared the pain. Whether that is clearing the loft, organising your inbox, writing a letter to your Great Aunt or [insert your preferred procrastination tactic here].
I often feel guilty if I procrastinate. I feel bad if I'm not doing the task, but because I feel bad, I'm also not enjoying whatever else it is I am doing. So I might as well actually do my most hated task if I'm going to feel bad either way! Except, of course, I am never this logical.
I don't think the goal is never to procrastinate - that would be unrealistic. Instead, I think that we can learn how to procrastinate better, with less guilt and still achieve kick ass results. Through many years of procrastination practice, I have learnt to use Parkinson's law to get what I need to do done, while still keeping my boxset binges and my sanity.
Keep calm and use Parkinson's Law
Parkinson's law suggests that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This means that you should only give yourself the exact amount of time that you need for your project and no more. Under Parkinson's law, scheduled and intentional procrastination is actually a good thing, as long as it is within the early stages of the deadline.
For example, when I am given an essay deadline for three months' time and I start straight away, the essay takes me about three months to write. If I delay starting until the month before it's due, the essay only takes me one month to write. When I have three months to play around with I am slow, I dither, I'm busy instead of effective and I'm part writing, part Facebooking, part cleaning my house. When I have only given myself one month, however, it is
I have a laser-like focus and Paula Radcliffe stamina. Red Bull has nothing on me, Facebook, Schmacebook.
At work, I am living proof of Parkinson's law. I have recently reduced my hours from five days a week to four days a week. but I still have the same amount of projects and I've not actually accomplished any less. This is because I've cut out almost all of the pointless meetings, overly perfectionist email crafting, slightly longer lunches than is strictly allowed and the 3 pm desk wander.
I simply cannot fit them into my day anymore.
To be honest, I think that achieving eight continuous hours of productivity per day, five days a week is as mythical in status as finding a unicorn at the end of a rainbow. I cannot wait until the day when all organisations realise this!
But I digress. The point is when you don’t have the time, you use what you do have better.
Obviously, you cannot do the impossible. I have never managed to write an essay the night before it is due. Friends have done this but they didn’t sleep, needed a full bucket of caffeine and had an iron will. Similarly, it would be ridiculous of me to expect that I can accomplish four days' work in one afternoon.
If you decide to consciously employ Parkinson's law you can play around with the balance between "focused" and "OMFG!". When you have set your own internal clock, you know that until that countdown starts, you can enjoy your time doing whatever you want to do guilt-free because you are intentionally procrastinating and when the time comes to get shit done, you will get that shit done.
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed this post please share it with a friend and let me know in the comments below what is your favourite way to procrastinate, and what should you be doing instead?