We’ve always been taught that the recipe for successful productivity and time-management is buckling down and ticking through the to-do list in front of us. We’ve been trained that we should get our work done today without putting it off until tomorrow. But that thinking is becoming increasingly outdated, and new approaches to efficiency are emerging as smarter options.
One of those approaches? Procrastinating on purpose.
What if it’s actually not more efficient to do things as they come? What if the commonly-held beliefs about how we should prioritizing our time aren’t actually helping us be more efficient? Rory Vaden, a Nashville-based leadership consultant, “self-discipline strategist,” and author of Take the Stairs and Procrastinate On Purpose, suggests that we should instead try out a counterintuitive approach to procrastination.
In his TEDx Talk in Douglasville, Georgia, “How To Multiply Your Time,” Vaden explains that the nontraditional — but mindful — approach can help us see our tasks from a different perspective, allowing us to rethink our to-do list, and say no to what doesn’t serve us.
This isn’t about ignoring critical deadlines, though. “Procrastinating on purpose is about consciously deciding that we will do a certain thing later,” Vaden explains to the crowd. “Not just letting it fall between the cracks.” Instead of starting every task without thinking about its urgency, Vaden says we should ask ourselves the same question before beginning any project: “Should I do this task now, or can I do it later?”
Vaden’s strategy is all about making a deliberate choice to do something at a later time. That way, you’ll eventually decide whether the task is important enough to actually do, or whether you can eliminate it from your plate entirely. “There’s a difference in waiting to do something that we know we should be doing … versus waiting to do something because we’re deciding that now is not the right time,” Vaden says.
Vaden also points out that by delaying the chore, you can prompt your brain to see the task from another angle, and ask yourself if it’s indeed you who needs to complete the task, if it needs to be done at all. Instead of mindlessly finishing it right away, the intentional stalling prompts you to consider other methods, such as automating the task, or delegating it to someone else, Vaden explains.
In addition to what purposeful procrastination can do for your workload, the strategy also alleviates a sense of guilt. “We struggle with guilt, and with wanting to say no but feeling like we have to say yes,” Vaden adds. Instead of agreeing to take on every project that comes your way, he says there’s power in saying no — or simply not right now. “Anything that we say no to today creates more time for us tomorrow,” he says. And if placing a hold on a task lets you realize it wasn’t urgent, it probably wasn’t worth stressing about to begin with.
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