The Art of Productive Procrastination
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A Note to Readers and Myself (Skip if not interested)
Okay, I've publicly announced it. Hope I'll commit haha... Now, let's start!
We all know what procrastination is. It is that devil in your head that always says "There's still time, don't worry!" and makes you do non-urgent, non-important tasks instead of the opposite. In short, procrastination is doing unproductive things like shopping, watching Netflix, playing games, browsing social networks, etc.
But there's another type of procrastination - productive procrastination. These are the non-urgent but important tasks you can do when you need a break from being productive or just not in the mood. Although it's still procrastination, it is better than sitting on the couch watching TV.
If you are going to procrastinate, do it wisely.
So, here are some productive procrastination activities I recommend as a developer/writer.
Reading is a guilt-free way to procrastinate. Books, blogs or news provide an extensive and variety of information about the world around us. I especially prefer books because they have more depth rather than breadth.
Note: Reading social media posts or anything less than 200 words is not considered productive reading.
If you are a developer/writer, reading not only keeps you updated with the latest technologies and news, it can also give you limitless inspiration and ideas for your next article or side project!
To be honest, I can go on listing all the benefits reading reaps:
- Improve writing skills from reading how good writers write
- Update your knowledge or tech stack
- Learning from other developers, their insights and understanding on certain topics
- Provides wisdom, self-reflection, motivation and love of learning
- So much more...
2. Build a mini project
This is probably no surprise but building a side mini project is a great way for developers to wisely procrastinate. As a developer, it is easy to get burnout dealing with reading/writing complex code for long hours.
It is a good idea to sometimes take a step back and make a small project for fun! It keeps you happy and excited about developing by making a mini project based on a new technology you always wanted to learn. Or you can just to make a personal app for your daily needs! In fact, this is exactly how Google motivates their employees - by letting their engineers build side projects!
For example, I made this super simple to-do list browser extension when I was procrastinating. I've always wanted to learn how to make an extension so making this project allows me to have fun while learning something new.
Foster your curiosity and develop your creativity by making side projects. That's the best way for developers to grow!
3. Organize. Clean.
I don't know if this happens only to me but whenever I am engrossed in working, my environment gets messier and messier... And after I'm done with work, I realized that my office is a mess. I have no clue how it happened.
It's worthwhile to spend your procrastination time on organizing and cleaning anything that needs it. For me, it's usually my office and kitchen but I have seen others with very messy email inboxes or cluttered desktop screens full of unorganized files and folders.
It is a good practice to keep areas you frequently visit clean. A messy workspace (both digital and physical) has been researched to impact productivity negatively. So the next time you don't feel like working, check your workspace on-screen and the surrounding environment. Is it organized and clean?
There are a lot of ways to organize your desktop. You can have a lot of fun with it too! Here are 2 examples I found:
Exercising clears your mind, increase your metabolism and blood circulation. If you are procrastinating due to having that coder's/writer's block, exercising is a good procrastination activity to get away from the block temporarily.
If you are lazy like me, you don't have to do intense exercises. A simple walk, jog or stretch somewhere far from your screens serves as a nice break for your eyes and brain. 15-20 minutes of exercising can significantly improve memory retention, cognitive functions and boost energy levels throughout the day to increase productivity and feel good.
Still, more intense movements from time to time can be beneficial and a good self-care habit. After all, our jobs requires us to sit for long hours, which can be damaging to our backs and necks. Start with something fun, like a sport or challenge. I've recently been doing the Jump Rope Challenge on my Nintendo Switch. It helps me sweat in just 5 minutes and I feel so refreshed after this form of procrastination that I can go back to work immediately.
For more self-care tips for developers, check out this article.
5. Pick up/Develop a random skill
It is always good to teach yourself a variety of skills outside the scope of your career by exploring your interests deeper and gaining knowledge outside your comfort zone.
This does not have to contribute to your career or be a unique skill no one has ever seen. It will mainly be a stress reliever and an activity which you truly enjoy so that whenever you need to procrastinate, you can relieve some stress putting this skill into practice. How about cooking? Playing a musical instrument? Learning a new language (human not computer)?
You may be surprised to find other interests/activities you enjoy doing besides programming. In some cases, picking up a new skill can give you some creative inspiration in your career and may even lead you to find a new passion you can combine with your current interests.
For me, I pick up Photoshop in my free time and that helps me make my blogs more interesting by having custom cover art and a profile picture! I also picked up some languages (human), and that opened up my perspectives on different cultures and people. Expand yourself and your knowledge. Knowing more skills cannot harm you.
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. - Ben Franklin
The Key Takeaway
These are just a few examples of productive procrastination. I hope this gives you an idea on how to productively procrastinate! Let me emphasize again that these are activities that are non-urgent but important, which means they do not require your attention now but you should do them once in a while. Like whenever you want to shift away from your main focus for a bit, productive procrastination always beats pointless procrastination.
Of course, I'm not saying you cannot watch Netflix but instead, treat the non-urgent non-important tasks more like rewards rather than procrastination. Finished a project? Play some games. Finished an article? Go shopping or watch a movie. This way, you can be guilt-free when procrastinating productively and feel good rewarding yourself with leisure activities!
Alright, we've come to the end of the article. Thanks for reading till the end! Please share some of your productive procrastination activities in the comments below~ Have a productive day! Cheers!
This was very helpful. Thanks, Victoria. I usually do not feel okay when I procrastinate and lazy about too