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Structured Procrastination

Carla Birnberg

Posted on July 14 2015

Structured procrastination.

I stumbled upon this term, coined by John Perry, and immediately fell in love.

Not only did I finally have a name for how I lived, amazingly enough it included the s-word.

A word I’d never dreamed would be applied to the way I conduct my life.

Structured procrastination.

At first, paralleling the way I approach my To Do list, the two words seemed an oxymoron.

How can one possess structure (which typically ensures success) and procrastinate (which intimates nothing is ever completed)?

Now I realized one glance at my daily list provided full explanation how:

Allow me to back up.

I create a work To-Do list each morning (my general life list is far longer).

It includes all of my most important tasks and has become something I do instinctively each day.

After researching Perry’s approach to procrastination, I found he recommends exactly what I’d done all along.

Create a To Do list daily.
Place an item at the top which sounds important (but really may not be) and which seems as though it has a deadline (but really doesn’t).

My list is structured precisely like that.

I start each day’s To Do’s with a bucket list item (something which is important!!! yet only to me).
I begin each days To Do’s with an item which feels deadline’y (but in reality only needs to be done before my demise).

Not only does this list (unlike Perry I’d also add LIFE) formatting work—it has made me successful.

3 ways I’ve structured procrastination so it works for me:

  1. No one knows (and you’re not telling, right?). People, clients, bosses think I kick ass and take names. I get a lot completed in a day, BUT rarely finish my ever-present, always looming first list item. No one else “on my list” knows this fact.  99.9% of the time my #1 item has nothing to do with them.
  2. I actually do complete a lot.  I can do more in a day filled with procrastination than many do in…a longer period of time. I produce. I finish. I am productive with regards to many things each day—as long as we’re not focused on my looming #1.
  3. It sparks me to say YES! I am your go-to woman on last minute tasks and clients realize this. If something needs to be done with a short deadline they KNOW to reach out to me.  They don’t know it’s because I harness the power of structured procrastination. As long as they aren’t my #1 item my work is completed in a swift and thorough fashion.

It’s not an understatement to say structured procrastination changed my life.
It’s not an understatement to say structured procrastination is how I’ve succeeded working for myself and from home.
Here workday procrastination never mean doing nothing, it just means perhaps moving doooown my task list, tackling other items, when the glaring #1 is really what I “should” be doing.

Structured procrastination actually motivates me to do things I'd not be inspired to start otherwise (laundry housecleaning, etc.).  If I didn't have the big looming scary-to-me-#1 at the top of my list, those other tasks may never get tackled.

A #1 which I’m actively avoiding.

A #1 which has tricked my brain (for real. I didn’t realize any of this till discovering the phrase!) into not procrastinating at all.

Interesting concept and approach huh?
And yet one I’m not going to spend too too much time pondering lest I disturb my precarious structured procrastination balance which works for me so well.

And you?

Had you heard of structured procrastination?

Is this something you, too, unknowingly used to motivate yourself?


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