Secret of Adulthood: Working Is One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Procrastination.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


Agree, disagree? I know some people practice “constructive procrastination,” but in my experience, it’s usually not very constructive.

I write a bit more about this Secret of Adulthood, here, and I discuss it at some length in Better Than Before, my forthcoming book about how we make and break habits. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

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  • statmam

    Agree. Paradoxically, when I’m tired it often seems easier to keep working than to stop working (because stopping requires a change in momentum). Obviously I have to stop eventually, so postponing it isn’t logical at all. Most of the time logic reigns in my kingdom, but exhaustion saps the mind as well as the body. All the more reason to pay attention to the foundation four, right?

  • PolarSamovar

    I can only wish I procrastinated by working.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    This is one of my worst sins. I am very hard-working, even as a retired person. But I would always rather work on the things I WANT to do than on the things I really HAVE to do. Bureaucratic tasks that require appointments, time on the phone, waiting, conquering new bureaucratic structures, the jobs all weigh a thousand pounds in my mind. When I pick them up and do them, they are by no means so difficult.

  • Stefan Denk

    I believe there is a difference by the type of work: if what you are working for/at brings you inner happiness, it is no procrastination at all. You have joy doing what you do and that’s all you ever need to feel good.

    If however you do busy-ness which has about the same results as wiping a dirty window with a dirty piece of cloth… then hell yes, ‘working’ is just a way of hiding lazy-ness to do what you really wanted to do in the first place.

    Possible check point: at the end of the day, go back and see if you feel whole. Did you achieve something today? If the answer is no, chances are you procrastinated and killed time.

    Links perfectly well to Gretchen’s related post:

    • Penelope Schmitt

      Yes, I agree with the ‘feel whole’ or in my mind ‘feel INTEGRITY’ — I can achieve things that I am proud of, yet know that nagging, necessary tasks are still on my desk. I often put the creative and delightful work ahead of the boring, frustrating, but very necessary for my integrity work. That is something I have changed to the extent of paying routine bills on time, for example. But non-routine tasks are an Everest for me to climb. I’m always messing about in base camp about something. . . like making a very complex and difficult quilt instead of getting a needed car repair done. I can sometimes work really hard at avoiding the unappealing tasks. The price can be high.

      • Stefan Denk

        Sounds like you just figured out that ‘I have to work on this quilt now’ is nothing but a bad excuse. Well done!

        As you say, your subconscience already knows that and it will remind you again, and again, and again.

        So the moment you do realize that this quilt really is only an excuse not to do X… do X and be done with it.

        Don’t wait for enthusiasm to be there before you start. Just start and soon enough, it will join you.

        • Penelope Schmitt

          Oh, not that I ‘just’ figured it out . . . have known this for years and have not conquered this bad habit yet. The pile of ‘things left undone,’ it seems, is not susceptible of being cleared–at least I have never cleared it. But yes, if I did one or two things that were nagging me a day, that would build a greater sense of integrity and empowerment.

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  • artdyke

    I actually find I have the opposite problem of many of you. I put off
    exciting new projects because they aren’t what I’m “supposed” to be
    doing. But I don’t really do what I’m “supposed” to be doing a lot of
    the time either, so nothing much gets done. To make matters worse, when I finally do turn to that thing that had me so excited before, I often find my enthusiasm has waned. But if I pick up either sort of task as soon as I’m feeling passionate or energized about it, I get a TON accomplished. So lately I’ve been trying to just let myself go when I feel a strong pull to work on something I find fulfilling, even if it isn’t the highest priority. Really throwing myself into something that I think I should be putting off until later means I at least get something done well, and it means that I’ll have more energy for the more pressing tasks I “should” be doing when I finally do turn to them. Of course, I have to be careful that I do eventually turn to them!

    Perhaps things are a little different for me because I am an artist, and I see feeding my creativity as an incredibly important “work” goal. It makes things counter-intuitive sometimes!

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