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Low-Level Procrastination

Recently, a book was returned to the San Francisco Public Library 100 years after the due date – by the original borrower’s great-grandson, who has had the book since 1996. That’s an example what I’d call extreme procrastination.

If you have ADHD, chances are you can recall a few times in your own life when your tendency to put things off got far out of control, even if you’ve never engaged in procrastination that spanned four generations. However, what I want to talk about today is a less glamorous kind of procrastination, what I’ll call low-level procrastination.

ProcrastinateLow-level procrastination is measured and subtle. A few minutes here and there. Maybe I need to work, but I decide to scroll through my Facebook news feed one more time before I get down to being productive. No big deal, right?

Because it’s subtle, though, low-level procrastination is insidious. There are two ways low-level can lead to a lot of wasted time.

One is that low-level procrastination can turn into more low-level procrastination. While I’m going through my news feed, I see a short little cat video I’ll watch before I start my work. And now that I’m on YouTube, I see one of the “recommended videos” that looks interesting – I’ll just watch that, then I’ll really get to work. And so on.

The second way low-level procrastination wastes time is that it can add up. If I do four tasks and I take ten minutes to scroll through my news feed before every task, that’s forty minutes altogether. Those ten-minute scraps of time could’ve been collected into one serious chunk of time that I could’ve then used to do something productive or to engage in some more substantial leisure activity.

The upshot is that it’s always a good idea to be aware of where your time is going.

Of course, we can’t account for every last second of our lives. We’re not robots – or if we are, we’re robots running fairly buggy software. But if you’re prone to engaging in low-level procrastination, take note of that tendency.

In some ways, low-level procrastination is even worse than extreme procrastination because it breaks up big blocks of time into useless little fragments. Collect those fragments back into one meaningful chunk by cracking down on low-level procrastination, and you might find it suddenly feels like you’ve added an hour or two to your day.

What are some kinds of low-level procrastination you engage in? Please share – forewarned is forearmed!

Image: Flickr/olivia mew

Low-Level Procrastination

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Low-Level Procrastination. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2018, from


Last updated: 20 Jan 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jan 2017
Published on All rights reserved.