The art of useful procrastination

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from 5 years at university it’s how to procrastinate. Why get on and complete a task when you could drag it out for twice as long and then stress about your impending doom deadlines?

We all know that most of the time procrastination doesn’t help us in the long run but we still browse facebook or watch another episode on Netflix anyway. Even while I’m writing this article I have other things that I really ought to be doing – like prepare for my supervisory meeting tomorrow!  And, if I’m honest, it’s taken me a longer than it should to finish writing this!

Sometimes it can seem almost impossible to start a task or not to be distracted from it. That’s why this article isn’t titled ‘how not to procrastinate’. Instead I want to tell you how procrastination could help you.

Useful procrastination might sound like an oxymoron, but hear me out. Avoiding doing a task by engaging in another can help you in two ways.

1. Sometimes we need a mental release. Have you ever read countless papers but felt like nothing was going in, but took a break and everything seemed to ‘click’?

2. Think about all those times you’ve tidied your room rather than study. Or (albeit much rarer) studied rather than tidy your room. Okay, so you didn’t do what was at the top of your list, but you actually achieved something helpful. That’s what useful procrastination is all about.

My point is, procrastinate by all means, but try and make it something that will benefit you in the end.

5 ways to usefully procrastinate.

  • Watch a Ted Talk
    Ted talks are packed with info and you might pick up some handy tips or ideas to help your research or personal life. You don’t need to devote your whole attention to it but it’s got to be better than mindlessly watching another reality tv show.
    Here are the 20 most popular talks of all time. 
  • Go food shopping & procrasti-bake
    I don’t know about you but when I’m facing a tight deadline I can find 20 minutes to complain to my friends about how stressed I am, but I don’t have time to buy, let alone cook, food. In which case I end up living off cereal and black coffee. 

    In this situation would be a good idea to buy some real, wholefood ingredients and make a big portion of curry or roast veggies. Cooking meals in bulk means it will see you through the week and the fresh ingredients provide you with the nutrients you need to keep on top form.

  • Get moving
    Aerobic exercise improves blood flow to the brain and can actually improve your memory, attention and creativity. This means that when you get back on task you’ll be more productive. If you’re short on time try a 10 minute home workout or a walk round the block. If you’re a really committed procrastination-er, an hour-long exercise class would be perfect.
  • Create or update your LinkedIn profile
    Employers are increasingly looking to social media and sites such as LinkedIn when they choose who to interview for roles. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and consider joining relevant interest groups and connecting with influencers.
  • Take a nap
    You probably didn’t expect to see this on here. But a 20 minute nap is optimal for improving mood and alertness. Note I said 20 MINUTES! Not 20 minutes, press snooze and spend the rest of the day in bed. Taking a long nap might make it harder to sleep at night. Also, it’s probably not appropriate to do this in the lab, so save it for when you’re working at home!


Happy Procrastinating.

3 thoughts on “The art of useful procrastination

  1. This is great! I always procrastinate because I get more done when I’m focused and in a pinch. But I should definitely start procrastinating with useful things instead of binge watching netflix lol



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