What does procrastination sound like to you?
To me, it’s like this….
That sound is the emotional noise that reverberates through my brain as I’m actively not doing a thing I’m supposed to do. It’s an unmistakable mix of anxiety, dread, self doubt, hesitation, among other fun feelings that I experience as “blerghh.”
Sure, the volume of “blerghh” varies depending on the type of work I’m avoiding, how urgent that work is, and how sufficiently I’ve distracted myself via youtube and or/social media, but that is the noise!
Anyway, I want to talk about procrastination because it’s one of those things that everyone experiences but not everyone likes to admit (or attempt to overcome). We’re not all hyper efficient robots and that is okay. Even some of the most prolifically productive people were known to be prolific procrastinators. It didn’t stop them, and it sure as hell won’t stop us!
Procrastination Types According to Me*
*You will see no source material referenced because these classifications are original creations from my brain.
Classic (Explicit) Procrastination:
The classic type is the kind of explicit unproductivity most people think of when they think of procrastination. I define explicit procrastination as the following:
Avoiding critical tasks by expending time on activities that deliver little to no value to your work.
Just before I started writing this article, I spent a solid 45 minutes classically procrastinating. The activities I partook included:
- Eating leftover soup
- Texting friends and family
- Having non-work related conversations on slack
- Mindlessly refreshing and scrolling through my facebook feed, eyes glazed over, not actually reading any posts
Throughout this 45 minute of active procrastination I was experiencing very high, nearly deafening levels of blergh.
Integrated procrastination is a more subtle and insidious form of not doing. In the long run, it can be more detrimental to your productivity than the classical type. I define integrated procrastination as such:
The prioritization of work based upon the level of stress a given task inflicts rather than the importance of that work in meeting an ultimate goal.
I call it “integrated” because it has been assimilated into how you work in ways you might not realize. For example. I love working with data, and as a result I often find myself doing data related projects before doing something I enjoy less, such as responding to a bunch of emails. In this case, I tend to procrastinate sending emails by prioritizing work that I enjoy more.
Sometimes integrated procrastination is good! If you are really inspired to work on something you’re more likely to be highly efficient and creative in that work!
That said, this can get dangerous if you consistently procrastinate certain aspects of your job in exchange for more inspired work. As you keep deprioritizing something, the amount of effort it takes to complete it piles up, which makes you want to de-prioritize it more and then all of a sudden you have 50,000 unread emails!!!
This is especially tricky as a small business owner; we do so much of everything that there is no way we are going to love all of it.
The other dangerous thing about integrated procrastination is that we can easily rationalize it away.
“Oh I just couldn’t get to the emails I had so much data I needed to clean up!”
As a result, we often feel more okay with this sort of procrastination (lower levels of blergh), despite it still having a significant impact on our productivity.
My Tips for Conquering Procrastination.
Okay — enough of the doom and gloom. I am starting to depress myself! Obviously procrastination is bad, but what can we do about it?!
Well. I am no expert, but I am happy to share my tips in hopes that they work for you:
1. Make a plan
Having a list of vague and seemingly unrelated responsibilities can feel overwhelming and lead to avoidance. To remedy this, I like to infuse a bit of structure into my daily to do lists. Remind yourself how each one of your tasks fits into your ultimate goal and schedule a time to get it done! Doing this helps provide purpose to mundane jobs, which can be all the motivation you need to get things done!
Tip: Break your list of vague to do’s into bite sized pieces that you can accomplish easily and cross off for that motivating dopamine boost!
Positive feedback is a tremendous motivator. When I am working on something really tough, I like to give myself a treat after finishing some goal. Whether it’s a five minute facebook break, a coffee refill, or time to chill with your dog is irrelevant; that treat is up to you! I have found that utilizing rewards as a motivational tactic allows me to work more efficiently and makes the process of work itself less dreadful. In turn, this makes me more motivated to begin work at the very onset since I know the process itself doesn’t have to be such a drag.
According to wikipedia, gamification “is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.” If you’re able to turn an aspect of your work into a game it can do tremendous things to your productivity! For me, I’ve found this to be really effective when it comes to completing rote tasks that don’t take much brain power. Here is a pretty silly example of a game I created that worked wonders for me as I was doing data entry.
Name of the game: ‘Work to the beat!’
- I put my itunes on shuffle as I started working.
- I took note of how many records I entered for each song that was played.
- The artist of the song that was played when I entered the most data won!
I know this might sound pretty ridiculous, but this “game” allowed me to knock out the work really quickly. I caught myself rooting for certain artists and typing in data with extra urgency when one of their songs played.
4. Be mindful.
Procrastination is often just about avoiding discomfort. It’s a really crappy avoidance technique because:
It’s uncomfortable in its own right. And..
It only makes the work you’re avoiding even more dreadful!
When I can feel myself procrastinating a particular task, I often just say to myself “this is going to suck, and that’s okay.” Being okay with the discomfort inherent to a particular activity can limit avoidance which in turn increases your comfort level as you allow yourself to do that activity more.
5. Check in
At the start of each week, I like to check in with both my work and myself. I review my ongoing projects, reflect on the state of the company, and recognize where I’ve been struggling and succeeding. This period of reflection allows me to ensure that the work that I’m doing is aligned with the goals of Whatify and enables me to create the structure that is so important to working efficiently. This process of checking in and being honest is the single most important thing I do to reduce procrastination throughout my week.
“Ahhhh..” is the polar opposite of “blerghhh.” “Ahhh” is the mix of relief, accomplishment, and pride that you feel as you check off those stubborn tasks on your to do list. We all deserve more “ahhhh” in our life and my hope is that after reading this article you’ll be able to add a bit more to yours.