For many years I struggled with procrastination always burdened by the stress as I would feverishly work to complete a task prior to a deadline. Over the years, after many different business trainings, numerous books, countless blog posts, and life experiences, I have come to the conclusion that my problem wasn’t procrastination and instead, procrastination has been my saving grace.
Think of procrastination as a table of positive and negative, a two sided chart.
Let me explain…
First let me say that waiting to the last minute to do something is not a habit I would recommend. However, procrastination can be your friend when acknowledged and managed correctly.
- the action of delaying or postponing something.”your first tip is to avoid procrastination”
Similar: dithering, delaying tactics, dilatoriness, stalling, temporizing, hesitation, vacillation, humming, and hawing dilly-dallying shilly-shallying kicking the can down the road
Through the years I realized that it was in my nature to prioritize tasks and information through procrastination. It is our human nature to procrastinate which in the end helps us all prioritize tasks. Sometimes when we have a plan to do things in a certain order, our inherent sense to procrastinate kicks in and helps us prioritize what is really important. This goes back to our primal instincts. I will let someone else analyze whether or not they are part of our DNA, but my observations of people through the years would have me bet on it.
So how do you balance and manage procrastination to prioritize your tasks rather than avoiding tasks.
First, accept that you are going to procrastinate. While you can mentally improve your ability to logically procrastinate, your acknowledgment of your nature to do so will help you focus on the important tasks and prioritize better overall.
Let’s address procrastination for avoidance. Steven Pressfield, author of “The War of Art” does a nice job talking about procrastination and distractions that help us avoid doing tasks. This is the type of procrastination we want to stay away from and watch for signs that can help us determine which side of the procrastination chart our activities are.
Ask yourself the following questions constantly throughout your day;
1. Does my current activity benefit me or others around me in a positive manner promoting health, growth, and my overall life experience.
Consider your health, growth, and overall life experience in a broad sense giving consideration to your physical and or mental health. Is what you are doing improving your physical or mental health? Perhaps a better question is whether or not it is hurting your physical or mental health. Consider the benefit or impact of your actions financially. Are you risking your job by not doing your work? Are you being fiscally responsible having concern for you and or your family? Do your current actions add to the overall richness of your life experience? Just because you answer no doesn’t mean you shouldn’t necessarily be doing whatever you are doing. I am not going to judge if you want to binge watch your favorite streaming service. Asking the question just helps you check in with yourself.
2. Are you doing what needs to be done right now?
This question is much easier to answer not at deep. Give yourself some leeway on this. Just because you decided to get up and go take a walk doesn’t mean it isn’t something you shouldn’t be doing at the time. We all need breaks and it very well can be something you should be doing at that very time.
Now, how can you be productive through procrastination?
I find the key isn’t to keep yourself from procrastinating but to organize your tasks through a system of your choosing and liking, so that you have visibility to everything that needs to be completed. Procrastination will do the job of prioritizing for you even when you have tried to do this ahead of time. There are numerous systems and tools available for task management and there is no one size fits all. Do your research, try them out and choose. Don’t get paralyzed by the options though. Pick a direction and go forward. You can always make adjustments to your system in the future. There are digital solutions as well as pen/pencil and paper solutions such as a bullet journal.
A real life example of procrastination at work;
I need to fix the bottom step on my porch and had strong intentions to do so this week. I set a due date of today, but as life continues and tasks pile up, other things take priority and now I am putting it off until it becomes a priority. It will likely become a priority when I anticipate visitors for a party and I want to prevent them from getting injured. The point is that while I wanted it to be a priority this week, my priorities have changed and there really isn’t any specific event driving me to complete this task at this moment in time.
I wanted to use a very generic example of a task I had at home because I think we can all relate to maintenance that needs to be done around the house. The list is never ending and procrastination will continually help us prioritize these tasks whether you like it or not. However, be warned, procrastination can make us miss the deadline too, if we let it.
So, I leave you with the following;
•Accept that you will procrastinate
•Embrace your intelligent conscious and subconscious mind to procrastinate for you and know it is a super power we have
•Check yourself routinely using similar questions to those I provided
•Have a system
•Watch your step if you come over to my house.