Procrastinate Productively With This Mental Trick

As it turns out, there's an art to procrastinating your daily workload—one that, if perfected, can actually help you use slacking off to your advantage. According to Charles Duhigg, an established journalist and author of the New York Times best-selling book The Power of Habit, "productive procrastination" can transform your time spent scrolling through Instagram into time spent working toward your goals. Lets's start from the beginning.

First off, Duhigg classifies procrastination as a habit rather than a moral failing, an idea that runs counter to the narrative in our popular culture. This cycle of habit involves three stages: the cue (your overflowing inbox), the routine (scrolling through Instagram), and the reward (time spent not dealing with your inbox). The only downside to this is, of course, that the "routine" is in no way beneficial or constructive—it's more or less a waste of time (don't we know it).

The trick here is to stop yourself once you've approached the "routine" stage, and reconfigure your go-to habit. Duhigg suggests setting aside a list of alternative routines that actually contain some semblance of substance, but are completely unrelated to the task you want to procrastinate—a process he calls "implementation intention." When the need to take a mental break arises, do something on that list instead of turning to your iPhone. Using this method, you will eventually graduate from "mindless Internet procrastinator" to "productive procrastinator." Congratulations—you deserve a mental break.

Want to test this "productive procrastination" theory for yourself? List your alternative habits in this stylish notebook, and share your verdict in the comments below.