Introducing… Active Procrastination!

I think this is one of the first times I’ve created something new in a psychology context. Let me first outline the problem. I struggle to relax and unwind, but sometimes (even/especially during the workday) I need to do something different to get away from stuff. I guess you’d call this procrastination. Often I would go for a walk or do some exercise, and my friends were saying why don’t you just watch TV / read the internet / play flash games. But I couldn’t. If I did, I just felt guilty and certainly didn’t get pleasure or relaxation from it.

Research by Chu and Choi suggests that:

Not all procrastination behaviors either are harmful or lead to negative consequences.

I wanted to be able to procrastinate, not least because of this cool research that can be seen in this wonderful article. Basically, people who were told a problem, then played minesweeper, then attempted to answer a creative problem, came out with many more answers. As mentioned in the article, this may not be strictly speaking procrastination, but what I can do is replicate this creativity study environment at home for myself in the hope of enjoying their reported 28% increased creativity.

Cue the world debut of the Active Procrastination Board:


Each card has something different on it, a little like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Unlike oblique strategies, they are all activities designed to:

  • Take me away from what I am doing
  • Take varying lengths of time (so I can choose what I need)
  • Be things I would like to do
  • Be playful
  • Be a large range of different types of thing
  • Be mostly “wholesome” activities
  • Not be too intellectually or physically taxing

When I first used this, I started having it with dice to pick the card, one for the row-number and one for the column-number. However, I found I wanted to use the board more if I picked one I wanted to do at that time instead. For example, “heading to the library to read a random book” in the rain is annoying and takes ages, but in dry weather is fine.

Please let me know your thoughts, and if you try creating your own I’d love to hear about it!


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