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The secret to using procrastination to your advantage


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Regardless of how many pressing tasks we may have on our to-do list, we can (and do) always find time to lurk on social media (or whatever breed of distraction you prefer)—even if we have a zillion more important things we should be doing.

The good news? Procrastination can actually be good for you. According to an article in The Atlantic, there’s such a thing as productive procrastinating (get excited).

The story points out that Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, classifies procrastination as a habit rather than a moral failing (which, if you’re like me, is what you call it as you freak out over a last-minute assignment you have to do yet find yourself scrolling through Instagram).

Duhigg says procrastination involves a cue, a routine, and a reward. It goes something like this: An overflowing inbox (the cue) might lead you to think about checking social media (the routine)—and the idea of a refreshing cognitive break by checking your news feed seems like a reward. But the “cognitive break” often isn’t all that refreshing—instead, it just wastes a lot of time. (So true.)

The key to taking control of your procrastination is to notice “the routine”—whatever automatic habit is your go-to—and observe it while it’s happening. If you start to notice when you whip out your phone or start typing facebook.com into your browser, you have a better chance of deciding to do something useful instead.

Since that’s easier said than done, you can procrastinate better by setting what Duhigg calls an “implementation intention,” where you write a list of other things you need to do that have nothing to do with the task at hand—for example, Marie Kondo-ing your apartment or calling your cable company. When you start getting the take-a-break itch, do things on that list. (And step away from the Snapchat…)

If you get used to this, you could become a “structured procrastinator”: someone who procrastinates by doing actual work rather than Googling your crush, browsing Facebook, or keeping up with the Kardashians. Talk about #goals.

Another productivity hack to consider? Bullet journaling (which actually makes your brain feel better). Or perhaps you should try the “one-hour workday” approach to take your career to the next level.

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