Strategic Procrastination (How to Procrastinate Strategically to Boost Productivity and Creativity)

Siim Land

I use different tactics and strategies to approach almost everything in life, starting with nutrition, training, reading and ending with writing, creativity and productivity. So it is with slacking off. This article is about strategic procrastination.

The Procrastination Trap

Being a procrastinator means that you know what you want, what you need to do to get it yet still don’t do what’s necessary to make it so. You have the desire but not the guts – it’s the action part that’s lacking. But being able to put in the required effort is a lot more important than having big dreams and coming up with a genius plan. You won’t be able to manifest anything if you don’t act upon it.

Why do people procrastinate? Because they don’t have the courage or discipline to do what they need to do in order to get what they want. It’s also a mindset of self-imposed doubts and limiting beliefs. The reason why many don’t even begin putting in the work is that they think they don’t have what it takes to complete the task. They’ve conditioned themselves into believing that their dreams are meant to stay afloat on a cloud of some sorts that’s out of their reach. Procrastination is just the self-sabotaging path of least resistance.

What are the consequences of procrastination? A whole lot of misery and sorrow. If you’ve decided to accomplish something but then procrastinate on it, then you’re letting your unconscious mind know that it’s not that important. You’re literally changing the structure and wiring of your brain, creating habitual slacking off. After that you can’t even trust yourself anymore and will thus not make anything happen.

But your dreams and goals remain the same – you’ll be still thinking about them with the exception that you’ve lost all ground to take action. This causes even more anxiety – you have the desire but not the willingness nor the ability to go for yours.

The Benefits of Procrastination

Nevertheless, there is some merit to procrastination. Sometimes it’s better to not take action, although putting in effort just for its own sake is a great way to build discipline and willpower. There are situations where doing nothing can actually be useful.

  • The slight anxiety caused by knowing that you procrastinate can be a great motivator to step up your game.
  • Slacking off and not jumping in head first into random projects helps you to stay true to your own selected path without starting to chase every shiny object you see.
  • Thinking about certain topics for a long time allows your subconscious mind to work on them and come up with novel solutions.
  • Being humiliated by your procrastination and overcoming resistance will make you stay humble and true to the craft, even as a master.
  • Pushing things off can help you refine your mediocre ideas into those of a genius.
  • Wholeheartedly working on something for long periods of time enables you to create a true masterpiece.
  • Strategic procrastination increases recovery from intense bouts of productivity and helps you to maintain progress for the long-term.

Now, all of that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Before you start thinking: “Oh, I’m just procrastinating because I’m waiting for my ideas to sprout into a god-like level.” No…procrastination will only be beneficial if you keep putting in enormous amounts of effort alongside occasional periods of slacking off.

There’s the danger of thinking that you’re being productive when you’re actually simply distracting yourself from doing what you really need to do. On the flip side, you may think you’re being creative when in reality you’re just lazy and slothful. There’s a fine line but a very deep chasm between the two. You can only make the best of both worlds if you have a strategy.

Strategic Procrastination

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War. 

Strategic procrastination is deliberately not doing what you’re supposed to do for a short period of time so that your subconscious mind could generate new ground for massive action. (Click to tweet)

It’s not actually procrastinating because you’re still pondering over your ideas and thinking about how you could manifest them afterwards. You’re simply allowing yourself some down-time to recuperate your upcoming actions. Don’t presume that this will remove from you the responsibility of putting in the actual work. This strategy will only work if you couple periods of little to no activity with short bouts of extreme productivity.

You see, the two are contradictory yet mutually interdependent. Creativity is non-judgemental, limitless, boundless and spontaneous, which means that you have to rely more on your intuition. But productivity is analytical, rational, goal-oriented and time-restrictive that requires doing the right things as efficiently as possible. Strategic procrastination incorporates both of them.

Strategic Procrastination for More Productivity and Creativity
Strategic Procrastination for More Productivity and Creativity

How to Procrastinate Strategically

To actually benefit from procrastination, you have to first create the right conditions for it. This means giving your mind something to think about and setting a solid foundation for future productive work. You have to toil the soil before you sow the seeds.

Strategic procrastination involves taking massive action in both physical and mental aspects. You put in extreme labour, back off from it to recover, allowing your subconscious mind to process all of it and then enter the fray with newfound vigor.

Before you start slacking off, remember that you need to have already begun with something. There needs to be a dream or a goal which you’re already working on, otherwise you’re simply procrastinating.

Most of your time should be spent on putting in the effort. Every single day do at least something that will move you closer to your desired outcome. This moves you away from goal oriented thinking towards a more systems based approach, which changes who you are as a person. You start doing the work because that’s who you are – your mode of being.

What to do while strategically procrastinating?

What you do is as important as what you don’t. Although you’re supposed to back off from your work it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about it. In fact, you have to be thinking and pondering to create ground for new action. Whatever you spend most time focusing on grows.

  • Go for a walk and let your subconscious mind process the information. Doing this in nature is especially effective because the natural environment is both soothing and therapeutic.
  • Read, watch videos and research about the topic you’re currently working on. Don’t think of it as a chore but simply do it as part of your leisure.
  • Look at it from a totally different perspective, maybe you can find something interesting. Try to conceive it as if you were another person. What would happen if I flipped the script and approached it from an upside down angle?
  • Come up with as many potential solutions to your problems as you can think of.
  • Generate new ideas just for its own sake. Write down anything that interests you but at the same time contributes to your greater work. Start with just a few and build up the muscle every day.
  • Meditation is an amazing tool for this. In fact, it’s probably the best one because it increases the coherence between the brain’s two hemispheres. They begin working together and your subconscious mind can use all of that infinite amount of potential to give rise to novel solutions. A meditative state makes you completely calm but fully alert, which rejuvenates you, gives you more energy and poises you for massive action.
  • Active recovery: Physical exercise and movement are great cognition enhancers. They make the brain work faster and increase cognition. There are also other activities, like cold water immersion, heat saunas and anti-inflammatory compounds that hasten recovery and reinvigorate the body.
  • Just relax and remain silent. This is important to allow your body and mind recover from the intense work you’ve produced beforehand. Don’t try to do anything but just chill. Lay in your hammock, look at the sunset and don’t force anything to happen. You have to let go completely from time to time.

Activities to Strategically Procrastinate On

But becoming a hard-going go-getter has some downsides. You’ll definitely be extremely productive but because of the same reason your creativity may suffer. If you haven’t made significant progress or feel like you’re stuck somewhere without having a clue what to do next, then chances are your subconscious mind is simply fatigued. Time to strategically procrastinate.

There are some activities that work better with this:

  • Creative tasks: Writing, art and music demand a lot of creativity. You’re literally channeling miraculous substance out of the void. It causes a lot of resistance but once you hit the flow you’ll produce your greatest work. To successfully procrastinate in this domain, you have to first have entered the zone, created something amazing and then backed off from it for a while. You don’t have to even finish it completely. Start doing it, leave a bit of traces for your subconscious mind to work upon, go for a walk, meditate or just relax, and then get back in the zone either later in the day or the next.
  • Cognitive tasks: The same applies to reading, thinking, calculating, processing information or anything that makes your brain hurt. These activities put extremely high energy demands on your neural network. You’re really burning it all off with your mental powers. Too much heat though can make things catch on fire. I don’t think it’s a great idea to fry your neocortex for too long. What’s more, our willpower and psychic energy are finite, which means we need time to recharge our batteries. Back off for a while and return to the fray with newfound vigor.

Tasks to Not Procrastinate On

On the flip side, there are some activities you DO NOT want to procrastinate on. It’s best to simply get over with them right away to prevent your precious mental resources from being wasted on useless tasks. The longer you put them off, the more energy they’ll drain from you.

  • E-mail, text messages, voicemail: Whenever you get an e-mail that expects an answer, respond to it right away. This is a huge time swamp, huuuge. Think about it. If you’ve opened it, then the best thing to do would be to immediately respond. Doing it later means you have to put it off, keep thinking about it, re-open it, maybe procrastinate some more and then be finished with it. You’ve wasted precious time and resources which could’ve been spent on something more meaningful.
  • Secondary cognitive tasks: In big endeavours there are many small bits and pieces that contribute to the whole. What I’m talking about are the minutiae – the seemingly insignificant cogs in the machine that make a huge difference. They include stuff like editing, making notes, organizing your work space, researching the topic and preparing for your next flow. These activities don’t demand immense amount of cognitive or creative output but still require massive action. If you procrastinate here, then you won’t have a solid foundation to build anything upon. To create something magnificent you first have to put in the effort of having a great spark of an idea.
  • Commitments, responsibilities, ties: Don’t push off stuff you have to do for other people either. Chances are they’re super simple – you’re just avoiding the idea of having to put in the extra effort. If you said you were going to do someone a favor then get to it as soon as possible. You don’t want these tasks to clutter your cognitive headspace nor to damage your relationships.
  • Habits, plans for action, preparation: These activities involve changing some of your damaging patterns of behaving and thinking. They also include all of the intentions you have for the future. Most people procrastinate on their revelations and thus won’t ever accomplish what they want. Don’t be just a dreamer because it’s of no use – become a strategic action-thinker who aspires for greatness, puts in massive amounts of effort and is doing it. Focus on your purpose.
  • Your health: Definitely don’t procrastinate on your health. Your body is the only thing you really have and your most valuable asset. The mind is your best tool as it influences your intelligence, cognition and creativity. Exercise and nutrition are detrimental for both of them. You won’t be able to focus if you have brain fog nor can you be happy if your gut is inflamed. I have a ton of articles on these topics.

Striving for Balance

Strategic procrastination creates an easy-going balance between work and leisure, although that’s not its primary purpose. The central aim is to still maximize productivity while still promoting creativity and recovery. It’s about deliberately sustaining yourself from doing stuff so that you could get things done better afterwards.

You should indeed strive for a balance in life but it doesn’t mean you should remain still and stagnate in your development. Balance itself is an act of being in constant motion. You’re moving to some degree all the time and maintaining integrity. To make progress and expand, you have to periodically go off-balance, struggle for a while, eventually adapt to the new conditions, re-establish your ground, recover, get comfortable again and then venture forth again. Strategic procrastination is an individual component in between these steps that glues them together.

Here’s a simple quick-scheme on how to procrastinate strategically:

  • Have big dreams and aspirations.
  • Start working on them immediately – today, as soon as possible. Tomorrow is always the next day away.
  • Take massive action every single day – move yourself closer constantly.
  • Put in intense amounts of effort and work. People don’t know what it feels like to work hard. They only play hard – all talk, no show. You have to become obsessed with your thing if you want extraordinary results.
  • Reach a point of saturation – exert your mental powers and feel as if your mind has been drained like a sponge.
  • Initiate strategic procrastination – back off and focus on recovery. Walk, exercise, play around and relax. Don’t forget about your work completely but don’t manically focus on it either. Ponder over it easily but not too hard.
  • Get back into the fray. After proper recollection of resources, you have to start putting in the work again, otherwise you’re simply procrastinating. This part is essential and the one in which you produce your greatest work. You re-enter the zone with newfound vigor and creative insight so that you could achieve glory.

This article was written in a strategic procrastination fashion. I created most of the outline, let it sit for a while, returned to it and then added my finished touch. If you want to know more about similar strategies and tactics that improve the quality of your life, then check out my YouTube channel. I make videos about Body Mind Empowerment and holistic self-actualization. They will give you more insight for taking more action.