daily to do list

Are You a Planner or a Structured Procrastinator?

Doug Belshaw likes to plan. He’s even created his own daily planner.

But recently, Belshaw has been wondering if planning is required for productivity. Does everyone need to set out their day ahead to get ahead? Well, not necessarily.

Belshaw recently discovered structured procrastination and was amazed to find it was a real thing and not a joke. The plan is to get more done without a plan. Just work on what you feel like.

Such a simple idea sounds brilliant. But it’s never that simple, is it? Nevertheless, Belshaw found that high-profile people such as Arnold Schwarzenegger made use of structured procrastination to get things done.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (photo by Gage Skidmore) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (photo by Gage Skidmore) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Has this prompted a change of heart in Belshaw? Nope. He says, “I’ll keep my planner!”

To schedule or not to schedule? That is the question.

Or is it? I think a binary argument of schedule versus non-planning is too simplistic. A total lack of planning still requires an element of planning once the day is underway. And not everyone can dismiss timetabling completely, on a whim. Stuff happens around you. The world doesn’t pander to you, so you must respond to the needs of others. This, sometimes, requires a schedule of sorts.

One reason why I like the David Seah Emergent Task Planner is that it looks a few major tasks, extra tasks if you have time, plus emerging stuff because “Life just happens”.

The 1-3-5 Daily To-Do List is good for a basic schedule too. One big, three medium, and five small tasks on your list. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Just a basic breakdown of things to do in varying degrees of size/time/importance.

As you’d expect, there is no one-size-fits-all. Much depends on each person and their current individual circumstances. A structured plan is necessary for some activities, while it hinders others. Also, while some thrive on orchestrating every last minute to perfection (despite the realities), others don’t want to get bogged down with anything more than a basic starting point.

Structured procrastination sounds like fun. But it’s serious stuff. You have to be determined and driven to make it work effectively. Otherwise structured procrastination becomes…well, it becomes procrastination!

How do you work best? Much of the consideration boils down to the following questions:

  • Do you feel productive enough?
  • Are you satisfied with how you lead your day to day life?
  • Does this day to day activity correspond with your future plans leading to personal success?
  • Have you tried new approaches to improve your productivity, even when you feel confident that your current approach is successful?

If you have any doubt here, it might be worth taking the plunge. If you haven’t tried any other methods, can you truly be sure that your approach is best for you? You may feel efficient, but until you try alternatives, there may be a more amazing set of tactics to propel you further than you’d ever imagined.

One compromise is to only use due dates when absolutely necessary. Most of your schedule is free to do what you want, when you want. For the few matters requiring a definite time or your definite presence (either physically or emotionally!), get it booked in. Not only can you then schedule, but you can also keep the schedule to a minimum. Everything else is available to you and your whims.

What do you think? Are you a planner, a structured procrastinator, or something else entirely?