How to Procrastinate Better

I’ll be the first to admit that I procrastinate a lot. If I could major in putting things off, I definitely would. And while I know it’s rarely a good idea, I choose to procrastinate over and over again. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. It’s so much easier to binge watch Netflix than it is to buckle down and see to responsibilities! I’ve read a lot of advice articles and even a few psych studies about how to stop procrastinating, but it’s pretty useless. I know I’m not going to stop any time soon, so instead, I like to focus on procrastinating better, so that when I actually do get to work, I’m more prepared than I was before.

How to Procrastinate Better - Living Between the Lines. Let's face it - we're probably never going to stop procrastinating altogether, but at least we can procrastinate in a way that makes us more productive later on.

What do you mean, “procrastinate better”?

How do you procrastinate? Netflix? Social media? I tend to eat a lot of snacks and needlessly redo my makeup. We all have a few favorite procrastinating activities, but the uniting factor is usually that they’re fun, easy, and largely unproductive. But activities like that put us into bad habits, and make it even harder to get back into whatever it is we should be working on. Lately, I’ve discovered a few alternatives that satisfy my need to procrastinate without hurting my productivity later.

Bake. 

Delicious desserts are always a good thing, especially when they’re homemade. When I have access to a kitchen, trying a new recipe or making a family favorite is often my go-to procrastination technique. It’s gotten to the point where my family accuses me of “procrasti-baking” anytime I’m in the kitchen… And they’re usually right. The upshot of baking is that when you inevitably panic and start working, you have delicious, fresh-baked snacks for stress-eating.

Earn money. 

And I don’t just mean putting in extra hours at work. There are tons of apps and websites out there that let you earn points towards Amazon giftcards – which are basically cash. Earning points generally isn’t difficult, and just takes a little time, so next time you’re putting something off, try downloading a few apps for FeaturePoints or taking a survey through Swagbucks. You might just procrastinate your way to a new pair of shoes.

Be charitable.

If you can earn money for yourself, you can earn money for others, as well. In addition to Tab for a Cause (which I wrote all about here), my favorite charity-helping website is Freerice. Freerice is a website that provides simple games, mostly quizzes. Each right answer makes an ad display unobtrusively on the screen beside the next question, and earns you ten grains of rice towards feeding the hungry. Freerice even keeps track of how much rice you’ve accumulated and how many people you’ve fed.

Clear out.

This is sort of a catchall category, but I didn’t know what else to call it. You know all those little annoying things that are easy to do but never get done, like clearing out your junk mail or changing the smoke detector’s batteries? Now’s a good time to get a few out of the way. Maybe you can put some out-of-season clothes in boxes, or drop that thank you note in the mail. Take your vitamins. Water the plants. Point is, take a few little things off your plate in preparation for tackling something bigger.

Get active.

It’s sometimes always hard to find the motivation to work out, but if the alternative is something really unappealing, you might just be able to convince yourself to go for a jog or do some yoga. There are lots of benefits to working out before you start on another project, too. While your body is busy, you might come up with some great ideas towards what you need to work on later. Plus, that post-workout endorphin high can do wonders for your productivity.

Procrastinate better by cleaning up you workspace.

Clean up.

This is the holy grail of procrastination – cleaning. I clean my room under two conditions:

  1. My mom is coming to visit, or
  2. I don’t want to write an essay

I think my roommate really looks forward to these occasions. Still, my best piece of advice for this one is – don’t try to clean your whole room. Focus on something smaller, like clearing off your desk, or under your bed, or unearthing the floor of your closet. If you try to deep clean everything, you’re more likely to get frustrated and move on to something easier – like Netflix.

Why do these work?

Because these alternatives are targeted based on why we procrastinate. For me, it seems like there are only two real reasons.

The first is instant gratification. Sure, finishing a homework assignment feels good, but you can get that same sense of satisfaction from finishing an episode (or season, or series) on Netflix, with none of the work. Accomplishing little tasks – like baking a batch of cookies or earning points towards a giftcard – satisfies your need for gratification in a productive way, and makes harder tasks more appealing.

The second is feeling overwhelmed. If you have a lot to take care of, knowing where to start can be super stressful. So instead of starting, sometimes it’s easier to just do nothing – at least then you can’t make mistakes. Tackling something little, like cleaning up an area of your room or taking care of long-forgotten tasks, forces you to get started, and makes it easier to keep going.

If you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, stopping isn’t always an option, but you can learn to procrastinate better!

How do you procrastinate? Does it help you get work done later? Sound off in the comments.