Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Structured Procrastination

on December 3, 2012

A few weeks ago, I wrote about implementing GTD in my daily life. When I was writing the schedule, I sat down and tried to fit in everything that I need to get done during the week. The idea was to work out a system where no individual task is overwhelming.

One of the things I noticed is that I have a lot more free time than I had expected. My projects are time consuming, but the other items do not take as long as I had anticipated. Every area that I have been able to catch up on has meant that I am starting to make significant time savings in my daily life.

Trying to decide what to do with my spare time has presented me with an interesting problem. Many tasks do not benefit from increased hours, and I prefer to do something productive with my time. On the other hand, I do not want to start any new projects until I finish some of the old ones.

My answer came from this article about structured procrastination. I stumbled across it while reading another article about the Anti To Do List, which is a list in which you write down all of your achievements for the day, regardless of whether or not they were on your To Do list.

I love procrastinating, which is something the GTD system highlighted for me. Even knowing that lunch was the next item on my list triggered an almost irresistible urge to do something else, regardless of how hungry I was. Knowing that I had a bit of spare time in the day wasn’t helping me to control this tendency; if anything, it was making it worse.

After reading the article, I was enchanted with the idea of using procrastination to increase productivity. It sounded like the perfect system for someone like me. It relies on having an important task to do that can be avoided by doing other, worthwhile tasks. The idea of wasting time while being productive was irresistible.

I began by writing a list of all the things in my life that I need or want to accomplish, regardless of size. My first thought had been to divide the list into “critical”, “important” and “whenever”. It was impressive, to say the least, and heavily weighted towards the first category.

Once I had the rough list sorted out, I realised that nothing in my critical category could be safely postponed any longer. Even the tasks in my important category needed to be done quickly, and a lot of them were about to rise into the critical list. Nothing in my whenever list was going to give me the necessary sense of urgency.

I decided that the thing I would procrastinate with was my lovely GTD schedule.

It has worked much more effectively than I had anticipated. Breakfast is not the first item on my list. If I want to eat, I have to clear out the earlier item first. The same applies for lunch and dinner. Whenever the urge to procrastinate strikes, I just find something on my to do list that I can work on instead, then get back to the GTD schedule when it passes.

I am now making impressive progress on my to do list. Combining this with the Anti To Do list gives me a feeling of accomplishment, my GTD schedule is not too badly compromised, and my backlog is clearing quickly. The critical section is almost complete. It never would have occurred to me to use my procrastinating tendencies as a tool for productivity, so I’m glad it occurred to someone else.

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