The art of proscrastination

Sometimes when faced with a deadline, you lack motivation; the work lies in front of you dauntingly, and the starting point is lost somewhere amid handouts, books and scattered thoughts. The more you grasp for inspiration, the more hopeless the situation appears. With the right amount of distraction, however, the task is cast in an entirely different light. The expert procrastinator knows that the right mix of productive time and wasted time can make any task easier.

To prepare yourself and your room for procrastination, the following simple steps should be helpful. Remove your watch, if you are wearing one, and place all timepieces out of sight. Staring at a clock will only create anxiety. Place all of your work on your bed: spread papers, books, folders and other paraphernalia across the sheets. This will preclude the possibility of falling asleep and losing control over your procrastination. Finally, make sure your room is well lit. You do not want to become tired, and a bright room will keep you alert. You are now ready to procrastinate.

The first thing you’ll need to procrastinate correctly is a to-do list. Write down the tasks that you’ll need to accomplish. Do not use a “schedule” format, because you will undoubtedly stray from it, and missed time slots will stimulate early feelings of guilt.

The cardinal rule of procrastination is to keep your time unstructured, and your mind relaxed and calm.

Add some non-essential tasks to your to-do list, and work on those minor tasks first. While it may seem trivial, accomplishing small chores like organizing your desk drawer or writing a few letters will allow you to cross items off of your list, and will motivate you to do more essential work. This level of procrastination is most appropriate for small reading assignments.

If you are not yet feeling motivated, go to your computer and open the FreeCell program. If you don’t have this program, substitute any computer card game; Hearts and Solitaire are equally acceptable. Promise yourself that you will do a certain amount of work, depending on the size of your workload, after you win a game. It will often take several games before you are successful, and by then you will be looking forward to a change of pace.

At this stage in the procrastination, you must resist the temptation to leave the room: this mistake leads even the best procrastinators to doom. Once in the hallway you lose all focus, and run the risk of losing an entire afternoon to a Trivial Pursuit game or a long movie.

By remaining in the same environment, the distractions eventually get old and you will be able to focus on your task. The true reward of faithful – not careless – procrastination is higher quality work.