Idyllic photo courtesy of Onderwijsgek
Back in college, I discovered the secret to guilt-free procrastination: I call it productive procrastination.
Here's what I mean. Let's say you have a paper due on a Monday and it is currently Saturday morning. You know in your heart of hearts that you will not get started on said paper until 11 pm Sunday evening. You could spend your entire weekend futzing around your dorm, complaining about the paper you haven't started to your roommate. You could spend the time playing Civilizations on your computer. You could accept an invitation to go into town. You could call your off campus boyfriend.
But each of these procrastination measures would make you feel terrible about what you are leaving undone. It would take care of your procrastination needs, but it would allow you to feel crippling guilt over what you should be doing.
The solution: do something non-essential that still needs to be done!
My favorite productive procrastination tactic was to read a book that was required for another class during the time I really should have been writing my paper. I can't be angry at myself--I'm being productive! I'm just not doing the specific project I need to be working on.
Of course, this strategy has carried over into real life, as well. Since I have much less required reading in the real world, I have started using these chores as my productive procrastination actions:
1. Bill paying. (Since I do enjoy balancing my check book, this is generally more fun than any particular article I'm loathe to work on).
2. Writing for my personal blog. (It's still writing, even if I don't have a client paying me to do it.)
3. Cleaning the house. (I have to be really desperate for this one. If you find me voluntarily mopping, you can probably bet there's an article on the tax code behind it.)
4. Running errands. (This one is a double whammy because I'm not only productive, but I'm generally also leaving LO in J's care, so I feel like I'm on a productive shopping vacation.)
5. Folding laundry. (I do this while watching television. Oh, how I love it. It's the one way I can be a lazy bum and totally productive at the same time.)
6. Baking. (There is never a "need" for chocolate chip cookies, and yet the act of making and then cleaning up after baking makes me feel as though I've accomplished something with my day.)
7. "Research." (If all else fails, I can add more "research" to any particular article I really really don't want to write. As if finding out more about a subject I don't care about will make it easier for me to do the work.)
Sadly, my productive procrastination does not actually help in getting the dreaded work done. But I have found that if you ignore something long enough, it eventually will go away on its own. And productively procrastinating it away helps you avoid those pesky feelings of guilt.*
*Your results may vary. My guilty feelings have not actually dissipated.