The Art of Productive Procrastination

Procrastination is just a step on the path to productivity.

I’m a terrible procrastinator.

Productivity rarely comes easy!

When you work for yourself, you are both the biggest asset and the biggest liability to your business!

Self-Sabotage Becomes An Art Form

You talk the ideas through over and over in your own head.

Talk yourself out of things.

Ruminate over that ever-expanding To-do list until you take no action at all because it’s an insurmountable obstacle.

The self-talk is the loudest when you are your only colleague.

However, the worst form of self-sabotage you can practice in your business is to do nothing!

When you do nothing, you fail by default.

Why Do You Procrastinate?

There is a fine line between procrastination and perfectionism.

It doesn't need to be perfect it needs to be done. Stop procrastination

I don’t consider myself to be a perfectionist – I’m not that much of a ‘details person’. I have always been a big picture thinker.

The thing that stops me taking action, is not knowing ‘how’ to turn an idea into tangible actions or manageable steps.

I’m easily distracted by the shiny thing and the next thing, without finishing the current thing!

Others self sabotage for fear of judgement (whether consciously or otherwise).

We are often our own biggest critic. It’s easy to punish yourself for not ‘getting stuff done’

When you work for yourself, and often find yourself alone at home, it can be tough to stay motivated.

Part of the process

It’s taken a while…

Much soul searching. Habit forming. Playing tricks on myself. Finding strategies to be held accountable.

Eventually, I’ve accepted that procrastination is not always a bad thing.

In fact, it’s an important part of my process.

Ironically, I procrastinated about writing this article. Because, procrastination doesn’t necessarily mean lack of productivity, for me, it’s a step on the path to being creative and productive.

Acknowledge and embrace that procrastination may simply be part of your process (and that’s OK), but don’t let it get out of hand!

Procrastination Triggers

We all have our own triggers and signs that our progress is veering off course.

There are four triggers I recognise in myself when my procrastination is getting out of hand:

Trigger 1 – Email Grazing

I’ll mindlessly check my emails and react to every ‘ping’ for a new message throughout the day. Constantly interrupting my flow and splitting my attention.

Solution – Close my email. Consciously choose to only check it once in the morning and once in the afternoon

Trigger 2 – Doom Scrolling

Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, just to keep my hands busy, distract myself and fill time.

Solution – Turn off notifications on all social platforms so they don’t interrupt or distract you.

When I check my emails twice a day, I also dip into Social Media to check messages etc.

Be OK with scrolling for entertainment, but consciously limit or plan in time for this instead of letting it bleed into the limits you set for your working day.

Trigger 3 – Multi tasking

Contrary to popular myths, humans can’t multitask and there are no gender exceptions here. We may be capable of doing more than one thing at a time, but if our attention is split we won’t do any of it properly, and shouldn’t try to!

Solution – Single Tasking. Focus on one thing at a time. I realise that’s not always easy when we all have such busy lives, but it is that simple!

Consciously stop yourself from flitting from one task to the next.

Single tasking cycle
Pick a thing. Do the thing. complete the thing. Move on to the next thing. Repeat

Trigger 4 – Self Punishment

Negative self talk is bad for our medical and physical health. That’s not ‘woo-woo’. That’s is well established, well researched, well proven FACT.

Paradoxically, our brains are wired to focus on the negative. Our ‘fight or flight’ instincts often overrule our logic. Although we may not be running from obvious predators, we are still hard wired to avoid threats. However, sometimes our biggest enemy can be ourselves.

That’s not to say we should always think positively and deny any negative feelings or experiences, but it is easy to trap ourselves into a spiral of self punishment.

Solution – This is a long, complex, deeply personal one. A lifetime’s work for many of us. There is no ‘magic pill’ or single solution, but there is one simple way to switch up how we treat ourselves.

Rather than criticising ourselves for ‘not’ doing things, we could reward ourselves when we ‘do’ something. However small the task we complete, or however small the reward is, humans are always more productive and motivated when they are positively reinforced than when they are negatively reinforced.

Two Top Tips to be a Productive Procrastinator

  1. Conscious choice. Most of my triggers are about doing things mindlessly and thoughtlessly. Making conscious choices, being mindful instead of mindless. It’s OK to ‘waste’ time, it’s OK to procrastinate. It’s also OK to be a perfectionist but (number 2…)
  2. Set limits. Establish boundaries for yourself. Get help if you need it to be held accountable. Set a timer. Whatever works to get you to establish and stick to those limits. Everything in moderation (including procrastination and perfectionism!)

Remember – It’s OK to ‘waste’ time. Humans are not built to be ‘on it’ constantly.

We need down time.

We need to rest, relax, restore, reflect and reset. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for needing that in your life (including yourself).

Sometimes, that involves watching silly cat videos on Instagram, or pointless crap on TV. It’s all OK. The trick is to set yourself limits and stick to them.

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