I procrastinated in writing this article. Honestly. Yesterday, it was on my Outlook Task list. I looked at the task, grimaced, and worked on email. I decided that I didn’t have enough information to start, so I didn’t. I postponed the task until today. This morning, the task came up again. I grimaced and played Spider Solitaire for 30 minutes while drinking a cup of coffee.
Everyone procrastinates from time to time – Olympic athletes, billionaires, Charlie Brown, and even Professional Organizers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of failure and destruction brought about by procrastination, but how can something that is so natural to the human condition be all bad?
Dr. Piers Steele defines procrastination as a tendency…
“To voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse-off for the delay.”
Dr. Steele’s definition* is a good one, and I agree that procrastination can put a person in a bad spot. However, if everyone procrastinates from time to time, how realistic is it for us to deny it? Are we just setting ourselves up for failure and guilt by setting goals to never procrastinate?
In the spirit of “we all do it anyway,” let’s make the best of procrastination. Here are some tips to make your procrastination as useful as possible.
My Favorite Procrastination Tactics
Tactic #1 – Do something enjoyable
Taking a break to do something you like (Spider Solitaire anyone?) is a great way to switch gears from one complex task to another. To make this brain break successful:
- Plan for it: “When I am done with ______, I will do ________.”
- Enjoy the heck out of it: “Woo-hoo, new high score!”
- Limit the time spent there: “I’ve got 15 minutes, I better make it count!”
Tactic #2 – Procrastinate productively
When you have a large, multi-step task to accomplish, it can be very difficult to get started. How many times have you stared at a blank screen and just sighed? Minimize the screen and spend 15 – 20 minutes doing some productive procrastination. Try these techniques:
- Name the emotional beast that is causing your procrastination: fear, perfectionism, stress, distractions. Once the beast is named, it can more easily be tamed.
- Make a list of all the steps involved in completing the large task. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- Schedule appointments with yourself to complete the tasks, and keep those appointments.
- Update your To-Do list. Free your brain from all the random tasks you are trying to remember and you may find it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Tactic #3 – Plan an Unprocrastination Day**
Step One: Go ahead and procrastinate, just keep a list of all the items you are actively and willfully procrastinating.
Step Two: Set aside an entire day to perform all the distasteful, dreaded, or just plain boring tasks on your list. Race against the clock to accomplish the tasks. Strive for completion, not perfection.
Step Three: Celebrate at day’s end with the reward of your choice.
Are you ready to procrastinate now? No? Maybe later then.
**Thanks to Real Simple Magazine (April, 2011) for this genius idea.
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at [email protected] or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.