Productive Procrastination: Just Do SOMETHING!

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Putting off tasks that need to be done? Well, practice productive procrastination as a way to get something done when you can’t seem to tackle the to do list.

Productive Procrastination | Life as Mom

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I have always struggled with procrastination. In college, I was notorious for leaving my paper writing until the night before it was due. Finals? Yeah, I pulled all-nighters on those, too.

One habit I developed at the time was what I like to call, productive procrastination.

Sure, I may have had a paper to write, but at least my room was clean! More times than not, I found that by working on something that I felt like doing, I found my mind going to that paper or that test and thinking it through. Often I had the paper “written in my head” by the time I’d done all my laundry.

Productive Procrastination

Today is no different. I may have some big task looming over my head, but if I can’t find the energy or motivation to do it, I try to do something that’s productive, you know, like vacuuming. It makes me feel so much better than sitting on the couch watching Food Network when I should be getting ready for taxes. At least something is getting done.

Productive Procrastination | Life as Mom

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to do the items we have on our to-do lists. But sometimes, it’s just hard to get moving in that direction.

Sometimes there are distractions.

Sometimes there’s stress.

Sometimes you just can’t think straight.

Sometimes you just don’t wanna.

Years ago I remember explaining this to an older, wiser mom. I wanted to justify my inactivity. But, she provided an alternative.

Mrs. Cohen said, “When I feel like that, I just put my hands to the next task. Usually that’s dishes. There are always dishes to be done.”

Her words have stuck with me over the years. It’s true; there usually are dishes to be done. And I can feel productive even if I’m not doing all the things I “should” be doing in that moment.

At least I’m doing something.

What Can You Do Right Now

Here are some things you might do with the time you have on hand… at least until you summon up the courage or will power to do the top level tasks.

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What works for you?

Leave a comment below and let us know what works for you.

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  1. This really was something I needed to hear. After two major surgeries last year and two major surgeries for my husband this year, my motivation is shot. I have been telling myself lately that “a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest.” Sometimes having to go to the bathroom is the motivation that gets me off my chair and moving toward getting SOMETHING done. Once I get moving, I just keep going for a while and things get done. I find laundry the easiest thing to get done. It’s minimal effort and maximum results…about 10 minutes of effort between putting in, switching to dryer, and folding or hanging and putting away. Easy peasy and I feel (and look) like I accomplished something…and I have!

  2. I like to cook. I don’t mind doing the laundry since the machines do most of the work. House cleaning on the other hand is my procrastination point. I often find myself in the kitchen when I should be cleaning the toilets, vacuuming or dusting. But I do feel better knowing I’ve been productive. For me the sticking point is getting started. Once I start cleaning, I usually keep going for awhile.

  3. Yes, I learned this years ago, and it is such a helpful attitude to have. Thanks for explaining it so well!

    And, from one blogger to another, your site is taking a long time to load. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t have waited all those minutes. Just saying. Happy tweaking!

  4. I needed this. I am a professional procrastinator and tend to put things off. I like this mindset. 🙂

  5. That’s a fantastic strategy! I know on the days I just don’t wanna, doing nothing is about the worst thing…leaves me feeling worse than ever. I like your thought on another post about doing what you can when you can. I think that’s a really healthy way to look at getting things done. There are days when you can’t do everything or even a portion of what really needs to get done, but just doing something puts you in a better frame of mind.

  6. It’s easy to relate to this post. I found that when I was in college, I had to have the dorm room organized before I would start that paper. It was always last minute, too, when I seemed to be the most creative and write the best. It’s as if my brain was not able to settle and organize my thoughts creatively until late at night. I had a very busy schedule in college, so I was never “not busy”. Writing papers then was a procrastination point, but mostly because I needed to sit down and do the whole thing at the same time, which meant I had to have a block of time to do it.

    Now, I find myself just getting busy with something while I’m “planning” something else. For instance, sorting through closets to re-organize clothes that have been outgrown by my boys. For some reason, closets are just a big task, like writing that paper was in college. I’m finding new ways to sort it out and make it work because otherwise the closet becomes a lot like going Christmas shopping at the mall or WalMart on Christmas Eve.

    It’s okay to take a project in “small steps”. Don’t let the big picture overwhelm, and don’t create more work in your head while you are working. Get a few things finished with the project, then take a break and busy with something else. Just have a set time to come back to the project that isn’t quite finished yet. Organize the clothes today, work on filtering out old and outgrown toys tomorrow or another time. This sure seems to help the sanity of the parent and the children in the middle of the project.

  7. Hey, I have the same vacuum! lol I definitely understand the procrastination thing. Getting better at it though. My little four year old (as of the 14th) is actually starting to help out more picking things up. She likes it when we “clean” the house together!

  8. I am something of a frustrated perfectionist, but I’m learning that “it doesn’t have to be perfect” “anything done is better than nothing done” and even slow progress is still progress.

    It has been a real eye opener watching my kids deal with the same kinds of things. We are learning together, and usually set up a small reward for ourselves when we complete a task

  9. Love it! I’m right there with ya on the procrastination. I remember changing my mind on a 30-page paper I had due for my pro-seminar class the night before because I had thought through a different thesis. Completed in 6 hours and received an A-. Not the wisest move, but it worked. I constantly put things off until I can do them ‘just right’ which means there are piles of things undone around here since getting things done just so is very challenging with 3 kids under 5. Honestly, I’ve been seeing a Chrisitan counselor for a few weeks to help me sort it all out and to learn to let things go and focus on what I can get done. Getting something accomplished is so much better than mounting guilt and mounting tasks to attend to. Something is better than nothing. I’ll take that.

  10. I relate too much to this… I know there is laundry to be done, but unless we’re out of clothes (or my husband asks), I often let it set for days on end. And cleaning… I fail SOO badly at that! I need to set specific periods of time in my day each day to spend “picking up” or “starting a load of laundry” or “vacuuming”. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Great post! Boy, I’m procrastinating right now with what else but a sink full of dirty dishes! I agree about the working on something helping me think through the bigger/more difficult item I’m procrastinating on. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I never thought about it like this before, but yes, this is exactly what I do. Another thing I find helpful when I’m dreading a task is to tell myself I will only work on it for, say, 20 minutes, and then I can do something I want to do as a reward. Once something is started its way easier to finish, like the little saying above “once begun, half done” I love that – think I’ll post that on the fridge as a reminder.

  13. I am so like that!! Though I do love to watch food network – LOL! Unfortunately I go on binges – especially with housework. I still have to sit down and prep for taxes – that has been on my to do list for how long now!

  14. I am like that too!! Have something due? I will do it the night before!

    I use cleaning as a procrastination method too! But I enjoy cleaning so it works out, lol.

  15. Good timing as always!!! I gave up Procrastinating for Lent…..and I’ve done pretty well so far……Today I FINALLY cleaned and organized my closet…..including fixing a bunch of items that needed gluing….all glued and put away! Instead of thinking I need to hurry up and do EVERYTHING at once, I’ve been doing a little each day….I actually feel like I accomplished something today!

  16. That is such great advice– Just Do Something. Sometimes I just can’t figure out what to do first or I reaaaaaally don’t want to do all the filing that I’m behind on, so I just veg out on the computer, not really getting anything done at all. I am going to try to do this… just pick something, even it’s dishes. You’re right, there are always dishes to be done. Why is that?? lol Thanks!

  17. Wow, have you been spying on me lately? I’ve been doing a lot of productive procrastination lately. I’m a career changer, taking online college classes for teaching. And I can find so much housework to do when I don’t want to write a paper. I also get sidetracked when I have lots to do and not enough time (or so it seems) to get things done. So I’ve started setting a timer and MAKING myself do that task or assignment that I don’t want to do. I work on it for just the length of the timer then go back to cleaning or whatever. And to comment on a previous post: my kids too used to ask who was coming over when I started super cleaning (as I called it). I can find the greatest recipes to try when I don’t want to do something around the house or schoolwork! 🙂

  18. Love this post…so true. I am the same way, but mostly with phone calls…no, not the social ones, I have no problem with them…it’s the business ones that get me. For me, I am dealing with procrastination more now because my girls are getting older, so I certainly can’t expect them to git ‘er done, so to speak, when I am putting things off myself. So, they are a big motivator for me…I’m not so into the whole ‘do as I say, not as I do’ motto! Thnx for posting!

  19. Ditto to everyone here. My hubby, then fiance, would make me breakfast at 6 am in college and bring it over on the days I had papers due, knowing that I would have pulled an all-nighter. In fact, my Senior paper was due the Wednesday before we got married, and I got special permission to hand it in the Monday after. Guess what I did on our honeymoon? Sad, but true. We planned a nicer one for the semester break.

    If I have a list, it makes all the difference in the world. Small bite-sized list. And sometimes I fudge and write things I’ve already done to give me a motivational boost. Sometimes, just having someone start the project with me is enough to get me going. They can then quietly sneak away and I’m on my way.

  20. Laundry and Cooking. When there are tasks that require brain space, but I just don’t have the brain energy to do them I tend to gravitate toward laundry or cooking. There’s always something I can bake or cook. And there’s always something that needs washing, drying, folding or put away.

  21. I too am a MAJOR procratinator! I have found, however, that as good as it feels to have things done up ahead of time, I work well under pressure. May not be to fun to hang out with when I am “under pressure” to get something finished but I amaze myself at how much I can get done in a short amount of time. Always if I want to get my house really clean…I invite people over for dinner….that gets me cleaning like a mad person! 🙂

  22. I am a professional procrastinator. Only about certain things though. If it comes to my kids or BF I pretty much stay on top of things. However, I have a list of things that I need to do ie house cleaning, organizing, and “for me stuff”. I always say when I get time I will do it. But I have found that if I don’t make time it never gets done. My New Years resolution was to make attainable goals and go for them. Not doing so well so far 🙁

  23. In college, I was this way sometimes. I say sometimes because usually it was the big things I would procrastinate on, but like you I had it in my head, so I would work VERY proficiently once I started (and a I would have ALL my chores finished!) So it worked! Now though, I tend to try to make a list and just do things. With my daughter being young I find that my schedule is so unpredictable (all children’s schedules are) that I need to use the actual time I have very efficiently. I mean do not get me wrong, I still leave vacuuming and cleaning to the last minute “cause I don’t wanna do it!) So how do I deal with procrastination, well I guess for larger things I am on it, and smaller things well if I want to 🙂

  24. Hi Jessica,

    I think this means your a Kinaesthetic learner which means that you have too move around and do something physical whilst you are doing something well .. academic. I’ve written about this on my blog – – have a go at the test!

    I’m visual which means I draw nice coloured diagrams. At least when you have to do something academic your house is nice and clean.


    1. @Katie, well, I know I get a really clean house when I’m angry about something. Does that go along with it? I never would have pegged myself as kinesthetic, esp since I once I write it down, I usually remember it. Can you be more than one?

      1. @FishMama,
        Yes you can be more than one. I’ll email you the test and the advert I wrote. You can then have fun with your children workout what learning style they are.

        Apologises for the grammatical mistakes I tend to write slapdash during the day with a baby on my knee.

  25. My husband and I were already married when I started college. I used to drive him nuts because I would wait until the last minute and pull and all nighter. I was better by the time I graduated but I still “love” to procrastinate. I am a pro at finding other productive things to do instead of the task needed.
    Thanks for sharing!

  26. I was exactly the same in school/college. I never started anything until the last minute.

    I’ve changed, though, and now if I know that I have a job to do, I do it right away. It drives me crazy to have something hanging over my head.

    My favorite quote (and my kids would roll their eyes and agree) is, “Once begun is half done”. I’ve learned that just starting a dreaded task gives me the motivation to finish ASAP!