Productive procrastination is putting off something you know you need to be doing, but you decide to shift your attention to something that appears to be just as meaningful. Productive procrastination involves a conscious decision to put off tending to something that is life changing, affirming, and will get you closer to your goals. Productive procrastination shows up when you are getting closer to living the life you deserve, but you are afraid you don’t deserve it. Productive procrastination is a disruption of bold thinking, awareness, and action.
Here are consistent examples of productive procrastination I hear from friends, clients, and myself:
I did not work on my project today because my daughter’s Brownie troupe needed an extra set of hands. (But in reality:Filling my time volunteering with the Brownies gave me an excuse to not push myself.)
I caught up on laundry because I knew calling potential venues for my next event could wait until later. (But in reality:I am so afraid of putting this event together. Doing laundry was a guaranteed success.)
I cleaned out the hall closet instead of working on my book because the clutter was distracting me. (But in reality:Working on this book is hard and I don’t think I can finish it. At least the closet looks great!)
I called my sister today and we talked for a long time. I did not get to my yoga class, though. (But in reality:Yoga is good for me but I’m the worst student in the class. I want to be the best right now. Talking to my sister made me feel like the best.)
I signed up for another training to ready myself to look for a leadership position. (But in reality:I have an advanced degree specializing in leadership under my belt, plus all the work experience I have. I do not feel ready to take this leap. I don’t trust myself.)
I’m going to update my social media accounts with some fun posts. My followers deserve it. (But in reality:I know getting on social media is a time suck. I don’t feel up to facing the stuff I really need to be doing, so this feels like I’m doing something.)
I stayed up watching the movies I got from the library. It’s good to be up-to-date with these films so I can talk to people at parties about them. (But in reality:I do not want to go to bed at the same time as my husband because he will want to get busy, and I’m not feeling sexy right now with this extra weight gain.)
Are you ready to do something about it?
When I am motivating myself and helping my clients get out of their own way, here are the steps we start with:
Write 7 affirmations
Writing affirmations is a way to boost your confidence and self-motivation. Before the start of the week, write one affirmation for each day of the week so you will have one ready for each day. This may sound overly simplistic, and in many ways it is. The point is to have the affirmations ready when productive procrastination, negative ideas and self-defeating thoughts show up. The affirmations will serve as a slight nudge to get you back to getting the right stuff done.
Examples: Julia, do not worry about doing things perfectly, just do your best. Marcus, you were excited about this project when you started because you know it’s the perfect time to go for it. Gretchen, do not focus on how slowly you’re going – build up your stamina. Jana, you are special so do not minimize it.
We have big and large successes that matter to us, but we hardly take time to acknowledge them. Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes each day to document your accomplishments. I encourage clients to use sticky notes to write down daily accomplishments (one accomplishment per sticky note) that can be posted in a spot they see all the time. The most popular locations are on bathroom mirrors, on a bulletin board, on the refrigerator, and in a journal. Having your accomplishments displayed will serve as a reminder that you deserve to invest in yourself to get closer to your goals. Looking at your accomplishments will shift your plans when you think productive procrastination is a better choice than doing what you know you should be doing.
Update your work space
If you are choosing productive procrastination over completing tasks, projects, and work that is a priority for you, change up your work space. Add more light, rearrange your furniture, get rid of clutter, and updating your décor are some immediate steps you could take. Finding a different location to complete your work on days you really need to concentrate and minimize distractions is another way to keep productive procrastination at bay.
Shake up the format of your to do list
Writing down what you need to do is important to keep you on track, but a “to do” list with a long list of tasks can be very intimidating. I encourage my clients to set up their “to do” lists based on categories. Take a sheet of paper and create boxes based on the categories in your day-to-day life (e.g. book project, proposals, wellness, carpool, household, partner time, etc.). As you compose your “to do” list, write down your tasks based on each category. This will give you an idea if you have too much going on in one area. You can also assess if abundance in one category is causing you to yield to productive procrastination. Using this system will also give you the freedom to re-prioritize tasks, get the right help to get things done, or remove tasks that no longer fit your time or interest.
Work with an accountability partner
If productive procrastination turns out to be your kryptonite and you cannot release yourself from its grip, find an accountability partner. Seek out someone who understands how you think and work so they will not be afraid to push you in your right direction. It is challenging to be told to get back on our right track even when we know we need the nudge. Finding a good fit in an accountability partner will feel right to you if she can reference the goals you set for yourself, understand your productive procrastination triggers, call you out when you are making excuses, and nurture your inner confidence.
How does productive procrastination show up for you? How do you redirect yourself?