How To Procrastinate

Incentivize Yourself Through Rewards. Encourage yourself to complete a project by promising yourself that you may purchase or otherwise garner for yourself a small token of success, such as a long-desired record, a fine fashion accessory, a delicious item of favorite but slightly pricy food, or, for maximum efficacy, a cocktail. This strategy is ideally applied by promising yourself the cocktail at a favorite neighborhood spot frequented by your friends. This will result in you sitting down to begin your long, elaborate task (due, most importantly, not now but in some unrelatable but proximal period of time) to develop a ‘plan of attack,’ to organize your like ‘notes’ or something or to otherwise gather information related to the task in a single locational hub and then feel that you are in need of a reward that requires you abandoning the task to obtain.

Ideally you arrive at a store and become immersed in shopping; while making more purchases than you intended to make, tell yourself you deserve it or are instituting positive reinforcement. For bonus procrastination skill, tell yourself that because you are earning money or station by completing the task, you now have extra spending latitude, i.e: I am getting paid [X] to complete this task, therefore I can afford this purchase, or I am taking on tasks such as [Y], therefore I will need a new outfit in order to ‘fit in’ to this culture of responsibility. In either case you return home tired and/or drunk from ‘rewarding yourself’, assess your progress at the task and declare ‘I have done enough  for today,’ and take a well-earned nap or go out with your friends because you cannot always be task-oriented and your work will suffer if you do not make good use of your leisure time as well. Everything is a balance.

Lay A Reliable Foundation Of Research. The reason you feel a little bit of a ‘mental wall’ about starting your momentous task, or so you must tell yourself, is that you have not yet tapped the proper founts of information. If you were only more informed, completion of the task would flow out of you like a mountain spring thundering toward a diluvian valley. Therefore you must ensconce yourself at your computer, open several webpage tabs and begin the process of information-gathering or inspiration-seeking. It is ideal if you open your Gchat and/or AIM clients because if you were to isolate yourself completely from social contact you would feel an artificial isolation that might make you feel ‘weird’ or ‘pressured’ or would be otherwise counteractive.

It is incredibly important your info-gathering process integrates naturally into your normal web-browsing habits, since if you can only enter a creative mindset under a specific set of engineered circumstances, are you not in fact defeating the nature and purpose of creativity? A natural and open mindset that integrates seamlessly with your normative life habits is the best way to engender fluid inspiration, therefore you should read several articles of interest to you even if they are not necessarily related to your project, and then when your friend who wants to talk about something IMs you, you should certainly engage them in a time consuming discussion because it feels artificial to tell them ‘I have to go, I’m busy with something’ since you haven’t actually started and you can start once the conversation is over.

You should put on iTunes and gradually feel a vague malaise set in, one which you should address with a nap, walk or meal before focusing, except after you address it you feel like you are really just not in the ‘right mindset’ today and you can try again tomorrow because after all you still have some sort of hard-to-quantify expanse of time between now and the time your task is intended to be completed.

Establish Proper Assistance. It should occur to you at some point between the assignment of the needed task and the time and date at which it becomes due that you require certain additional resources or external support for the completion of your project, elements that must be resolved before you can begin in earnest. Examples may include needing someone else to sign something first, not having ink in your printer, not having ‘heard back’ from an individual whose input is desired, and most importantly, not having a firm and final deadline by which you must finish the task.

From there, you can engender a vague sense of ‘waiting on’ someone or something, and establishing a chain of reliance on outside sources such as a delivery of a needed component from Amazon.com, an email from someone with some minor detail without which you cannot possibly even undertake steps foundational to your task, or clarity on the parameters which, failing receipt thereof, you can conclude that the task is not urgent, not under your purview, or otherwise able to be delayed.

Since there is nothing you can do on your own without this minor external input, you must understand that it is fruitless to engage in work if there is even a minor probability it will later reveal itself to have been unnecessary or in need of redoing. In fact, should you focus too intently on those external elements that need fulfillment before you can engage in your portion on the task, you are liable to become excessively anxious, focused on details rather than on motivation and ambition, and in fact enter a state of mind that is counter-productive to creation and/or completion.

Under these circumstances you should embrace that the best possible thing you can do to ensure a timely completion of your obligation is to relax and stop thinking about it. You now have permission – no, total endorsement – to put the obligation out of your head and leave town for the weekend, or engage in a ‘party bender’ with several of your most fulfilling acquaintances and/or friends. Since worry is destructive to the creative process, you can worry about it later, such as the point at which someone asks you for a ‘progress report,’ you receive a past-due bill notification, an email with (!) in the subject or any other impetus that suggests you will have to make some kind of minimum production that demonstrates that despite the fact that there are so many elements beyond your control that are ‘up in the air’ you take the task or whatever extremely seriously and you’re totally going to do it in time.

If you have fulfilled all these steps correctly, you will find yourself time-compressed, anxious and without any necessary resources for the completion of the task at hand. Congratulations: you have attained the status of stellar procrastinator, and the adrenaline rush is more likely than not to produce a better result than if you had plodded leisurely through various rote milestones you previously believed would have led you to a favorable result.

You will, against all odds, execute the task well and at the absolute last minute, thereby leading you to feel confident you need to worry even less about planning and organizing for the next important project to be handed to you by your employer/ the IRS/ your bill collectors/ your art collective/ your professors/ life. It is a holistic cycle, and you should interpret ‘holistic’ as ‘vicious,’ but, like, whatever. You’ll figure it out. TC mark

image – Dennis Mojado

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  • http://profiles.google.com/taw.woods Todd Woods

    “Read Thought Catalog” would have sufficed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      That's really good

    • Rachel Butters Scotch

      “Write articles for Thought Catalog” would probably also work, I think.

  • Theisraeli2000

    now that's a thought,ill make my mind up later

  • Tom

    …and this dude doesn't even know me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wingedthing Leigh Alexander

      dude haha

  • http://www.facebook.com/sasjam Sas Jam

    Nice article. I mean I'm sure it is- I'll let you know when I finish it.

  • http://twitter.com/yanyun92 Lim Yan Yun

    I will read this later.

  • Bigbrohoss

    AMAZING.

  • Michael H.

    Wow.  I've been reading your work for a long time, Leigh.  I didn't realize you were following me as well!  ;-)  This list is almost spooky.

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