Better Writing: Strategic Procrastination

Apr 4, 2016 | Better Writing

Procrastination is bad, right?

Maybe. But, to mimic a former President, “It depends on what you mean by procrastination.” Here’s the simple definition of “procrastination” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

“to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.”

Procrastination is bad if you put off something you should do

If you’re checking out those cat videos on the net when you should be drafting a blog post, that’s not good. When you decide to put your sock drawer in order instead of sorting out the muddles in your manuscript, that’s not good either.

If you should be doing it now, but you do something else instead, that’s the bad kind of procrastination. It’s not good. Quit procrastinating and do what you’re supposed to do.

But procrastination can also be strategic

Procrastination is strategic when you give your ideas and concepts time to mature before sharing them with the world. Procrastination is strategic when you delay working on something until the time is right.

Know thy process

The key is knowing your process. Some things have to be done early in the process so that you can let your mind deal with them while you do other things.

When I get an idea for a blog post, I usually write a zero draft quickly. That gives me an idea of what I need to do to turn that raw idea into a finished blog post. The result is that there are several zero drafts for possible posts in my files at any given time.

Some of those posts will never see print. They become the compost of my writing process. Some may not get a full workup for a long time. Some get developed within days. The development process includes some strategic procrastination.

Leaving the brain to do its magic

If you need research, do it. Then let the post rest. Let the post rest between drafts, too. That gives your brain time to do its magic.

While you’re letting the post rest, your brain works in the background. You’ll probably get ideas about how to craft the post. Capture them. Then you’ll have them at the ready when you return to writing.

When you return to the post you will see things you didn’t see before. You’ll have those ideas you captured, too. Create another draft. Let it rest.

The Bottom Line

Putting off something you should do to do something that’s not important will make you an unproductive, deadline-missing outcast. It’s bad procrastination. Don’t do it. But use strategic procrastination to make your writing better.

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