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Procrastination Can Be Productive

man sleeping on park bench with laptopProcrastination can be productive, especially for creative types.

Often when I talk with people who are down on themselves about not moving forward, it turns out there’s something that’s not yet in place — something they need before they can take the next step.

Maybe it’s a decision that needs to be made, or information that’s not yet available. Maybe there’s something inside them saying, “Stop! What are you doing? You’re going the wrong way!!!”

These things take time to process.

And then of course, sometimes it’s just a matter of biorhythms. Personal ebbs and flows. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. You know?

Once people realize they’re not just being lazy, they start to relax and trust the process. They can go with the flow of an “unproductive” day.

At this point (or perhaps long before this point), I should turn the microphone over to my talented guest blogger this week.

Delin Colón is a colleague from my non-fiction authors’ group, and I was impressed by her take on how she deals with procrastination as a writer. I asked her to share her perspective with you.

(And no, she didn’t procrastinate in getting this post to me.)

Take it away, Delin!


Procrastination’s Bum Rap

By Delin Colón

I am a huge procrastinator and proud of it.  We’ve been trained to see procrastination as a weakness, a negative, a lack of discipline.  But perspective is everything.

Let’s say, as a writer, you get to a point in your work where there’s a choice or decision to be made, and you stop, unsure of your next step. Some people call that ‘writer’s block.’

This terminology is self-sabotaging. I don’t ever think of myself has having a ‘block’, but as being at a ‘crossroads.’ A crossroads offers possibilities, choices, and opportunities; a block is a dead end and is certain to cause the writer anxiety and stress which are totally non-productive to the process.

So, you’re at a crossroads? Don’t try to force yourself one way or another. Don’t pull out your hair. Relax. Go for a walk/bike ride, do chores, work out, take photographs, engage in some non-conversational activity other than writing.

This is what some call procrastination. I call it productive procrastination because while your hands are busy accomplishing secondary tasks, the distraction of the physical activity allows your subconscious mind to work on solutions, unhampered by the preconceived notions of your conscious mind.

Getting up and walking away from the project provides a view of the entire forest rather than blocking your vision with a single tree. Walk around the damned tree, out of the forest and to the top of a hill where you can take it all in.

It’s not a matter of getting past or avoiding procrastination, but of using it to your advantage. Otherwise, you waste a lot of time and energy struggling against it and beating yourself up.

Forcing yourself to get to the object of avoidance only ever backfires. There’s a reason for the avoidance, so keep your hands busy and let your subconscious work on solutions, rather than tie yourself in knots.

Productive procrastination can provide those calm, serene moments that turn on the light bulb over your head.  So, procrastinate away; it’s even better without the guilt.

And a side benefit is that it’s really multitasking on subconscious and conscious levels, which allows you to feel a bit superior to those single-minded folks bent on task completion.

*   *   *

Delin Colón

Author of Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History

Translator, Editor & Annotator of RASPUTIN: The Memoirs of His Secretary by Aron Simanovitch (great-great uncle to Delin Colón)

Website: The Real Rasputin

 Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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0 Responses to "Procrastination Can Be Productive"

  • Cheryl Peddie
    June 29, 2013 - 9:37 am Reply

    I love this post, Tina. Thanks SO much. The idea of thinking about a ‘block’ as a crossroads instead is so empowering and helps me feel much more self- compassionate and self-respecting. And I thing ‘sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t’ will now be my personal slogan. Thanks to you and your guest blogger for making me a very contented nut today. :). Am headed off to do a painting demo at the gallery I show my artwork at today. This puts me in just the right mindset to enjoy every minute of it, rather than stressing. Take good care! cheryl.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      June 29, 2013 - 6:55 pm Reply

      I’m so glad the post spoke to you today, Cheryl. Hope you enjoyed the demo — how cool that your artwork is shown in a gallery! Thanks for your comment.

  • Miss Maura 9999 Charlotte, NC
    June 29, 2013 - 2:03 pm Reply

    As a calligrapher I frequently find that thinking and imagining my next project and letting it form in my mind while I do other things is *very* productive! This can *look* like procrastinating but in fact it’s not. When I’m ready I sit down at my drawing board and try a rough. I find crossroads all the time…what a wonderful word. I’m of the opinion that life itself (which art imitates) is all about making a choice and if it doesn’t work or I don’t like it I try something else. Putting that first mark on a piece of paper, whether the first letter of a piece or the first word of a thought, can be mighty intimidating. But I find that when I give myself permission to use several sheets of paper my stress goes way down. I think authoring must be similar and with word processing it’s much easier than the old days of either hand writing the pages or even typing them. And yes, always a PROCESS. Thank you again Tina (and your guest) for these great ways of constructive reframing.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      June 29, 2013 - 7:03 pm Reply

      Miss Maura, I love your strategy of giving yourself permission to use more than one piece of paper. It reminds me that maybe life offers more do-overs than we realize, if we allow ourselves that possibility.

      Thanks for weighing in on this interesting topic and all my best with your calligraphy. I envy the manual dexterity you must have.

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