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Good Procrastination Bad Procrastination

I once wrote an article on procrastination and how to overcome this enemy of productivity. Most of us would agree that the kind of procrastination I described in that article is bad. Recently, though, I’ve discovered that not all procrastination is bad. There is good procrastination as well.

We all know bad procrastination. Bad procrastination is saying, “I know I should do it, I know I should do it, I know I should do it,” and just sitting there. Good procrastination is waiting to start a task or purposefully taking a break from a task until the right moment. Sometimes we need time to think.

When to Procrastinate

Here are some times to procrastinate: when coming upon a block in creativity flow, when making decisions that will have long-term consequences, when emotions like anger or grief are out of control and demand time to sort them out before moving ahead with a project.

There are times when we have to get something done or make a decision right now. But suppose you are working on something creative, like writing a book. You may come to a point where your brain just needs a break. If you continue to try to write at that point, you’re not going to get anywhere. You have to let it go and come back. Coming back to your project is key, though. Otherwise, you’ll be in danger of bad procrastination. Good procrastination only works if you have a plan to come back and work on your project again.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Start!

Sometimes you just need to start the project you’re working on or start the decision making process. Start brainstorming for ideas. Start writing a list. Start making a plan. Once started, continuing the project and finishing it becomes easier.

In her book, The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins says that the #1 regret of nursing home residents is the waste of time while sitting around worrying about what to do instead of doing it. They would say, "Oh, I'm going do this," and just sit there piling up reasons not to do it. Then they wouldn't do it. Then they would come up with a new idea, and wouldn’t do it. They would do this over and over again.

Robbins was inspired to implement using the 5 second countdown in her own life by watching a spaceship on TV. When a spaceship takes off, the first hundred or thousand feet take more energy than the long space journey itself. Use Robbins’ 5 second rule to help you start. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF!

The 5 second rule has helped me get through my morning routine faster. This morning I was lying in bed, and I'm like, "Ah, just another 15 minutes." But I counted down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, boom, and got up. I normally drink some water and take my pre-workout before I go running. And then I sit and let the pre-workout take effect before I hit the trail. As soon as I felt it start taking effect, I thought, "Oh, I just need five more minutes." But I said, "Nope. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," boom, and went out the door.

Counting down from 5 is hard to remember at first, but it really helps to start whatever you need to get done.

Forgive Yourself

There is something else that’s very important for you to know. When you've done bad procrastination, it is paramount that you forgive yourself. Robbins says that this need to forgive yourself is not a happy-feel-good-thing - it's reality. She didn’t come up with this herself; she learned it by studying. Up to 80% of the people that forgive themselves actually go back to productivity.

Robbins recommends that you actually countdown: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. You're forgiven.” Forgive yourself for procrastinating – procrastinating in a bad way, that is - but keep up the good procrastination.

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