Why Procrastination Sucks (explained in pictures)

by Vlad Dolezal on May 9, 2009

I get a lot of questions from people saying “But is procrastination really that bad?”

Yes, it is. And today, I’m going to explain why, using pictures.

What is procrastination

First let’s clear up some confusion about procrastination. Would you consider sleeping at night procrastination?

No? Then there’s no reason why you should consider having fun, or going out with friends procrastination either. They’re all natural parts of being human, and we need them to lead happy healthy lives.

As Benjamin Franklin said:

An ideal day consists of 8 hours work, 8 hours play, and 8 hours rest.

And that’s where the problem comes in. Procrastination is neither productive, nor fun, nor restful.

I mean, would you spend hours on facebook, checking your e-mails, and browsing news sites if you didn’t feel that you had to be doing something? Of course not! You might spend half an hour on them, but then you’d turn off the computer and go have some REAL fun instead!

Procrastination happens when you feel that you should be working… but you only confuse being busy with being productive. The fact is, taking a break, and having some fun with friends is often more productive than just sitting around! Sure, it doesn’t feel like work, but that’s a good thing!

Why procrastination sucks

For the purpose of this article, I decided to lump play and rest into the same category, calling it “Fun & Rest”. Here’s what an average person’s day might look like:

procrastination1_rightsized1

See the problem? Procrastination is not only unproductive. It also seriously eats away at your Fun & Rest time.

Ideally, you’d get rid of procrastination, and spend all your time either on Work, or Fun & Rest. When you’d start getting tired, you would take a break, instead of trying to push through it, and ending up spending two hours being busy without accomplishing anything.

In short, your day would look like this:

procrastination2_rightsized1

Now that’s a lot more fun, isn’t it? ;)

What to do about procrastination

So what to do? Most importantly, first recognize that you’re procrastinating. If in doubt, ask the following two questions:

  1. Am I being productive?
  2. Do I really want to be doing this?

If you’re not sure about the second question, take a short break, just 1 or 2 minutes. Often you need to break your current state to see that you’re really just stuck in mindless web-browsing mode, or similar.

If you are procrastinating, just stop, and go do something completely unrelated. Because fun and rest are much better ways of spending your time than procrastination. Every single time.

Have fun!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Positively Present May 9, 2009 at 20:47

I love being productive so I loved this post. I think the little pictures you’ve used here are GREAT!! They really are true in my opinion. I’ve read some posts lately about why procrastination is a good thing and I think, for someone like me who is go go go all the time, it’s okay to put things off every once and awhile, but, more often than not people use procrastination as an excuse and it’s not a very good one. Thanks for this post. Loved it!

Positively Present’s last blog post..blogging makes it better

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Vlad Dolezal May 9, 2009 at 21:48

@PP:
A lot of people claim that procrastination is good for one of two reasons:

1. They’re making up reasons to justify their behavior

2. They misunderstand what procrastination is

What I tried to get across here is that having fun and taking some time off is perfectly fine. That’s not procrastination. It’s natural human behavior.

The really evil thing called procrastination happens when you spend time being busy because you feel you should be working, but don’t get anything done. Doing stuff that you wouldn’t choose as a fun activity otherwise.

Oh, by the way, since you’re saying you like being productive… did you check out my free e-mail course on overcoming procrastination? If you liked this post, you will love that course.

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mongoose May 10, 2009 at 20:22

How strange, I’d just stumbled another post about procrastination that I thought was pretty cool. So I thought, let’s send it to Vlad, he’s into all this stuff. And lo and behold, you’ve just made a post about procrastination.

Scary thing is, this isn’t the first time you’ve done this to me. I’m onto you man ….

oh, and yeah, the other procrastination post that I found interesting, I think it complements this one quite well :http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/11/procrastination-hack-1025

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Vlad Dolezal May 11, 2009 at 00:19

@Mongoose:
Yes, I know you’re onto me… I can read your mind! (dum dum DUM dum!)

By the way, that’s a really cool link. I’ll implement it immediately tomorrow, and see how it goes!

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mongoose May 11, 2009 at 01:13

woohoo, I’m helping!

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ALok May 12, 2009 at 02:51

Ok Vlad….you may feel this might be totally unrelated…..but i had to ask you….so here it is…How much of your time in the day are you devoting to your blogs (and others)? Your reply would really help me broaden my perception of procrastination in a different light!!…

Reply

Vlad Dolezal May 12, 2009 at 03:35

@Alok:
Good question. On some days, just a few minutes, spent approving new comments and replying to them.

On other days, if I have a lot of great ideas running through my head, I might spend a couple of hours, and write like 3 posts all in one go. So… it depends ;)

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ALok May 12, 2009 at 03:49

@Vlad:
That was quick!!….ok great….which brings me to the more pertinent question>

Doesnt writing blogs(like for couple of hours..whew…) sap the energy outta you? I am also inclined to writing;not in blogs though….but nevertheless having the same idea in mind to convince someone on something…(usually to boss for an alternative solution in the software code i write or explaining business on why a particular functionality shd be there or not..aah..dont guess my proffession :P )….BUT the point i am driving home is that this activity, while it takes few minutes to couple of hours, it saps the energy out of me…..and yes i do rejuvinate myself with a coffee break or something…..but lately i realized its not the energy level that is bothering….it is the satisfaction that i get after doing this convincing writing; the satisfaction level is so high and i feel so happy that i feel i have done enough already!!
So in a way it is not the procrastination for things to be done yet ….but it is Procrastination alright!!! (me a wierdo??…maybe!)

Reply

Vlad Dolezal May 12, 2009 at 04:01

@Alok:
I guess you randomly posted the comment a few minutes before I decided to check my e-mails. Maybe I’m not the only mind-reader around here ;)

Do I get tired from writing blog posts? Hell yeah! :D But it’s totally worth it. Not only does it help other people, it also helps myself! For some reason, once you try explaining something to somebody else, you understand it much better yourself. Try it.

I consider the time spent blogging very well spent indeed. There’s a ton of less useful stuff I do that I still consider productive.

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Vlad Dolezal May 13, 2009 at 12:21

@Mongoose:
Okay, I gave the (10+2)*5 technique a try.

It sounds like a great idea in principle, and I can see why. It nicely leverages activation energy to make starting a task much easier. After all, if you’re only going to do 10 minutes, it’s much easier to get started than if you’re going to do a whole hour.

But it doesn’t work too well in practice. When you stop-start your tasks, it takes you several minutes to re-focus. And if you work in 10-minute bursts, you’ll end up wasting half of your time on re-focusing.

So, thanks for the tip, but I’m going to stick with my method of working for roughly one hour, and then taking a 20-minute break.

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Ze Piranha May 19, 2009 at 17:17

Wow! Your blog is very useful and truly inspiring! I WAS procrastinating, but now I’ve decided that there are so many other fun things I could be doing! Like studying for exams in two weeks’ time to make sure I get a good grade and then having a break that I really will deserve! :) And also, I chose my subjects – so studying should be fun, right?

Thanks, Vlad! :D

Reply

Vlad Dolezal May 20, 2009 at 10:58

@Piranha:

You’re welcome! Always glad to bring straying piranhas back on the right path ;)

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