How To Turn Procrastination Into Your Superpower
Hi, my name is Kathryn and I procrastinate.
Hopefully, right now, you’re thinking, No way. You deliver the O’Daily to my inbox every week on time.
But you also might be thinking, This does seem thrown together so that checks out. 😂😳
I used to hate my procrastination. I would be insanely jealous of my college friends who would be done with papers on TUESDAY for a Friday deadline. 🤯🤯🤯
I would sit down at my laptop on Tuesday night, committed to getting it done.
Four hours of Facebook later (it was still cool, okay?), I would head to bed with barely an outline.
Then I read this amazing essay by John Perry on “Structured Procrastination” that changed everything.
tl;dr — expect your procrastination. use it to your advantage.
How Structured Procrastination Works
- Make a list of tasks in priority order
- Do everything else on the list to avoid #1
- Behold your amazing productivity and empty to-do list (except for 1 item)!
But…you didn’t get #1 done?!?
- Find an item that’s MORE important than #1
- Tackle item-formerly-known-as-#1 to avoid doing new item #1
- Congratulations! Your procrastination is helping you get shit done!
3 Ways To Activate “Structured Procrastination”
1. Create deadlines.
Schedule a meeting, tell someone you will have it by a certain date, hire a coach, make an accountability pod, sign up for a pitch competition, whatever will feel “real” and create pressure on your to-do list.
2. Leverage your “Tendency.”
I am an Upholder/Obliger. So I *KNOW* that I keep my commitments to others. When something is important, I promise someone I will do it.
3. Use calendar blocks (to know you’re behind).
I use calendar blocks to help me visualize the actual time I have to complete a task or project. A Thursday deadline becomes urgent on Monday when I clearly see I’m booked with meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Procrastination and Long-Term Goals
You might be asking, but Kathryn, how could you train for Ironmans as a procrastinator???
Or maybe you’re thinking, how the hell can I build a big ass company — a 10 year endeavor — when I procrastinate??
Here’s what’s worked for me — set up systems that make it easy to do the right thing.
I didn’t think of Ironman training as “I’m going to do this really hard thing today and then repeat it every day until forever.”
I met my friends for a bike ride. I went to Masters Swim practice. I did what my coach wrote in the training plan.
A lot of it was “show up” and then let habit (and peer pressure!) carry you.
Same can be true for startups and company-building.
Here are common accountability mechanisms:
- customer meetings/deliverables
- investor updates
- board meetings
- quarterly (monthly, weekly, daily) sales targets
- weekly team meetings
- daily standups
- product roadmaps/releases
- internal meetings about high priority projects
Some of these naturally occur, some will be cultivated as you grow, and some you may want to add intentionally today!
Trust Your Procrastination
I’m such a sophisticated procrastinator that I keep a 3 item to-do list.
Let me explain.
I never put “clean the car” on my to-do list.
I know myself well enough to trust that I will suddenly, urgently need to vacuum the car 15 minutes before we leave for a road trip.
Don’t force that gnarly chore on a laid back family weekend.
Same with wiping down ceiling fans, cleaning out photos, updating old blog posts, and whatever other crappy task I *should* do but just can’t make myself at the moment.
Enjoy the Guilt
All the anti-procrastinators right now:
But Kathryn — it feels so good to get your stuff done instead of having it hang over you!
Allow me to offer a different perspective.
I like the guilt.
When you read a blog when you *should* be replying to emails, it’s so much more indulgent and enjoyable!
I’m going to treat myself. I stole this time! How luxurious to read the O’Daily.
If I’m already at Inbox Zero, I tend to meander aimlessly around Slack or LinkedIn. No productive learning or stolen moments of fun.
It reminds me of the meeting cancelation paradox:
- Have 30 minutes open on your calendar? → That’s nice.
- Someone cancels a 30 minute meeting? → OMG WHAT WILL I DO WITH ALL THIS EXTRA TIME??
Instead of guilt, embrace the joy of procrastinating!
Repeat after me:
”I work well to deadline.”
”I know I’ll get it done when it matters.”
”I love using my procrastination to be productive and have fun.”
”I don’t beat myself up for procrastinating, I revel in it!”
Procrastination: Another Way to Say No
I spend a lot of time (practicing how to get better at) saying no:
- why to say no
- 7 ways to say no
- 4 more ways to say no
- how to say no to your boss
- how to have fewer meetings
- how to prioritize (aka figure out when to say no)
Procrastination is a secret, subconscious way to say no.
You say no when you have to. Because you ran out of time to do only the most important things!
It’s also a great way to say no to perfectionism and yes to shipping!
You may want 20 hours to perfect your slide deck but if you only have 2 hours, you figure out a way.
It’s not perfect but it’s live in the world which is 100x more important than perfect, especially at startups!
My 3 Steps To Blog Every Week
So how the heck to I get my blog out every week?
STEP 1: I tell my wonderful readers that I will email them on Tues. They are counting on me!!! (My Obliger tendency believes this. Reality is irrelevant. 😂)
STEP 3: **where the magic happens** I include time in my calendar block for Inbox Zero and other random productive tasks to make the most of my structured procrastination!
What tips or strategies do you use to avoid or leverage your procrastination??