The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life. - Jessica Hische
I spotted this quote in a trending article about two anonymous students who call themselves Dangerdust. They sneak into classrooms at night and design, by hand, inspirational drawings/quotations on blackboards.
What I find so awesome about this quote is that it made me think about why I procrastinate. It also made me think about the activities I choose to do when I procrastinate, and how they relate to the kind of work I like to do.
Most of the time procrastination holds a bad reputation and most of us use it negatively, such as "quit procrastinating!" or "I shouldn't have procrastinated so much!" or "Why don't you just get your work done instead of procrastinating all the time?!"
Even if we are doing something we love or enjoy in lieu of something we don't, we place judgement on ourselves and others for not getting the 'important' stuff done first.
Thinking about why we procrastinate leads us to consider what drives and motivates us to get things done. What kinds of activities do we find more rewarding in a moment when we don't want to face a goal we've set out to accomplish? My own experience with procrastination is what some people would consider the kind of work they try to avoid: I like to clean. I remember in university sitting down to write an essay, and suddenly getting distracted by the pile of clothes on my bed, or the dirty dishes in the sink. I would jump at the chance to get things cleaned and organized. When I reflect as to why, a few things come to mind.
The last two bulleted points is where I really see the value in exploring why we procrastinate. Doing more pleasurable things that motivate us is something we can all relate to. As a career counsellor, I'm curious as to why we choose different kinds of activities when procrastinating, and what this says about the kinds of work we might enjoy doing.
Understanding Procrastination as Work
Not all kinds of procrastination can tell us about our work related interests. The ones that can are often activities that provide more than an immediate satisfaction. An example? Snacking on chocolate versus baking a cake. I snack when I want to avoid the work I have to do. Chocolate becomes my best friend in these moments. I'm not interested in baking a chocolate cake, I just want to satisfy my procrastination craving. If I was more interested in baking, scouring recipes online and choosing to spend an hour in the middle of my day trying one out, that may say something about my interests and skills.
When thinking about why you procrastinate, it's best not to view your procrastination activity as any specific job. Think for a moment about another example. If a person loves to exercise, and he/she does it to procrastinate, does this mean he/she should be a professional athlete? Maybe a personal trainer? What if these options don't appeal?
What if we understood our procrastination as the strengths within us that connect our interests and abilities, and in doing so tell us more about the activities we like pursuing, the ideas we like to think about, and the interests we like to explore?
When you think of procrastination in this way, two things may happen:
You may start to feel less like your procrastination is a burden on you, and instead, an opportunity to further explore what you like doing with your time. This can translate into what you like doing at work. Again, it's not a literal translation (ie. I like to exercise therefore I would like to become a professional athlete, personal trainer etc.) It is more about the skills and talents that are involved in the activity, and what attracts you to it.
Break it down. Exercise can equate to:
You may also begin to see your procrastination as an opportunity to develop specific skills that come naturally to you, and that you enjoy performing. We all want to work with a skill set that demonstrates, to ourselves and others, our strengths. It's great when you can identify what these skills are, and even better when you get to see them in action in the workplace. Try to keep a list of the skills you are practicing when you procrastinate. Like I said before, not all activities will provide you this kind of feedback (like taking a nap, which we have all done as a form of procrastination!). However, the activities that do demonstrate your skills may surprise you, and as your skill list grows, so too may your job options.
The next time you start to procrastinate, clue in to why you are doing it, and what you can learn about yourself from the experience. Although not all kinds of procrastination will offer insight, we tend to procrastinate in all sorts of ways. What if one of these eventually led to you pursuing your dream job?