~by Sophie Taylor~
It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting down to write this article.
Staring hard at the computer screen, I peck out a few lines on the keyboard. Then I lean back in my chair.
“Hmm. I could really use some coffee.”
I go to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. The TV’s on in the living room.
“Hmm. I wonder what’s on the news today?”
Half an hour goes by before I remember my article. I jump up from the sofa, hurry back to my laptop and write a few more paragraphs.
Another ten minutes pass as I write intently. Then Morag, one of my cats, comes up to me and lets out a squeal, demanding to be fed.
So I get up, and scoop some kibble into her food bowl.
The rest of the day passes this way: alternating between trying to get work done, watching TV, making food and back to doing a bit more work. And no matter what people tell me, most of the time I can’t just sit my butt down, drink that coffee already, and finish the article.
You’d think procrastination was a bad thing. But it’s not – at least not always.
What I’m doing isn’t procrastinating, it’s percolating. I am not sitting down and trying to write the article straight through because my brain isn’t quite ready yet.
Most people will tell you that procrastination is a major productivity killer. Procrastination is seen as avoidance behaviour – we don’t do something straight away because we don’t feel up to a challenge. Or we fear failure, or are hung up on perfectionism, or we tell ourselves that we “work better under pressure”.
We’d much rather stay in our TV-watching, cat-feeding comfort zone.
But here’s the thing. What if procrastination were just your mind’s way of telling you that you actually need to take a break, so you can re-focus? As Alice Boyes PhD. writes in Psychology Today, procrastination can actually increase your overall productivity.
Sometimes, the harder I concentrate, the fewer ideas I get. But let me take a little detour from writing, and my brain serves up new ideas by the time I sit down again.
How to make procrastination work for you:
When used to your advantage, procrastination can actually save you time and make you more productive.
1. Don’t beat yourself up.
If you find yourself getting distracted, be kind to yourself. Everyone gets distracted at some point.
2. Understand what your brain is trying to tell you.
Often, we start to procrastinate because our brain is sending us a signal, but we fail to interpret what it really means. Rather than getting stuck in limbo, try to figure out WHY you’re procrastinating.
For example, if you’re trying to write an article, ask yourself:
— Am I stalling because I just ‘don’t feel like’ writing?
— or is it because I honestly don’t know what to write?
3. Take action: Allow yourself mini-distractions, but don’t let them derail you.
If it’s the former: in these cases, I find it best not to take a break and push myself a little harder. All you need to do is take small steps to get out of inertia and get the ball rolling. Also, when you’re feeling like this, it’s too easy to get sucked into watching TV reruns.
For example, if I’m writing an article, I’ll break the process down into small steps – creating the outline or a list of points – and focus on just the first step. Then, I’ll take another small step, never thinking too far ahead. And before I know it, I’ve got momentum and the assignment gets easier.
If it’s the latter:
Change it up. Take a walk. Make some coffee. Or even just stare out the window. But only do it for a short time, for example 10 minutes. Set a timer if you have to.
When I do this, I often find that my brain has cracked part of the problem for me while I was thinking about something else, because when I resume writing, I often know what I want to say.
So next time you feel the urge to put something off, don’t kick yourself – let procrastination work for you.
Meet the Author: Sophie Taylor
Visit her website here: Sanity Haven