How to Procrastinate Procrastinating, Part 2

This article is part 2 of 2 exploring procrastination avoidance. It’s written by Dr. Nadine Robinson, DBA, International MBA, B. Comm., a freelance writer, professor, and keynote speaker based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Nadine is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the Canadian Freelance Guild. Join her on her adventures by following her @theinkran.

How to Procrastinate Procrastinating, Part 2

An unknown author said: “Procrastination taught me how to do 30 minutes of work in eight hours and eight hours of work in 30 minutes.” As the quote says, some procrastination can help us write well in a short amount of time, but for other tasks, it can waste a lot of precious time.

In part 1, we went into the importance of unpacking why we procrastinate, and changing our thinking about the tougher tasks, including using positive self-talk. In this piece, I’ll focus on my favourite procrastination avoidance tips. In no particular order, I:

Make Yourself Accountable to Someone

I love working from home for the short commute and the comfier clothing, but an unstructured work day sometimes gives me too much freedom to flow between personal and my professional to-do lists. Without a boss looking over my shoulder, I feel less accountable. Now I have a couple of friends who I can call or text when I’m stalling. If they are tight on time, I simply ask them to tell me to: “Get to work!” Otherwise, they ask me what’s on deck for the week, and offer to follow up later in the day or week, depending how stuck I am.

I rarely need a follow up once I have committed verbally to my plan out loud. Sometimes, I don’t even need to have an accountability buddy, I simply have to state my plans out loud. There is academic research that points to this aloud approach working, and I am also living proof. That said, as much as crossing an item off a to-do list makes me mildly giddy, if I get to text my friend to let them know that I’ve achieved a milestone, it’s even better because I typically get a “congratulations” message back.

Productive Procrastination

After writing the heading for this section, I got a call asking if I wanted to go to the gym. Of course my answer was yes, as that allowed me to delay writing (and working out is important, right!?). The difference here is that there are some forms of procrastination that I’ll call productive, as they end up helping us, if used strategically.

Looking to delay writing an article about procrastination? Go to the gym. Are you avoiding sending that pitch email? Make a healthy dinner. Don’t want to open the email from the editor that you recently pitched in case it is a rejection? Do the dishes. Or, in trying to keep it in the work realm, if you don’t want to send a pitch, do some research on another article, or set up an interview, or ask a generative AI bot for interview questions.

As long as your productive procrastination isn’t ‘paint the house’ or read War and Peace it can serve a couple of good purposes. Firstly, you need to do the other thing regardless. Also, in crossing one item off the list, the dopamine released by your brain typically fuels the desire to cross off another task (often the one I was initially avoiding).

Hold Your Nose and Do It

Some work stinks figuratively. It’s natural to want to avoid it. Eat That Frog, a book by Brian Tracy, suggests that you do your toughest task first everyday. That way, if you get nothing else done all day, you’ll have still accomplished something important. I’m not partial to the analogy of eating a frog, let alone a live one, so I call them “Hold Your Nose” tasks. If the work stinks, plug your nose and follow Nike’s tagline of: “Just Do It.”

I made a commitment to myself to do one task that “just stinks” every day, but if they are really emotionally challenging, I will settle for at least three a week. Doing this for a month would mean that somewhere between 12 and 31 uncomfortable tasks were completed. Contrast this to delaying some of these tasks for weeks or months, and you can already see how much you can advance your business and take control of your life. Plugging your nose and getting a task done that you’ve put off for weeks will make you proud of yourself and will free up your mind from worrying about them for weeks to come.

The Seinfeld Strategy is taking this one step further. It involves posting a visible and prominent wall calendar, and x-ing off a square each day that you employ the new strategy. The goal of which is then not to break the chain, once you start. It’s accountability to the wall, and yourself every time you walk past it. Habit research shows that people who start a “streak” of any given task are more likely to continue it, which leads to the next topic.

Gamify Work and Challenge Yourself

If you use Duolingo to learn languages, or you use Snapchat regularly, you are already familiar with the concept of a streak and how it can motivate you to complete certain actions. I don’t like to fail, so I am now on day 497 of my language learning streak, and day 15 of my do one “Hold Your Nose” task a day.

It’s fair to say that I love a good challenge. To use this to my advantage, when I’m avoiding a task, I compete against the clock by setting a timer for an hour to see what I can accomplish. The Pomodoro method is similar in that you repeat cycles of 25 minutes of work, followed by a five-minute break that is used as a reward and to clear the mind.

The side benefits of this gamification of work are that I get more done in one hour than I normally would, and I keep going on the task that I was prepared not to start before I set the timer. I also tend to do less editing when I’m in “challenge mode,” which links to my love of the adage: “Done is better than perfect.”

Not unlike the Pomodoro method, gamification requires a reward. I often pair the timer “game” with whatever I’d rather be doing. I tell myself: “finish one hour of writing, and you can make a healthy lunch, or check social media, or watch an episode of Ted Lasso, etc.” Similarly, a streak of one month of daily “Hold Your Nose” tasks should be rewarded with a small purchase, outing, or perhaps a movie night.

And while these were the four main procrastination avoidance strategies that worked for me, if those aren’t your hot buttons, go back to the list from part 1 and do something else. The wonderful thing about all of these ideas is that you can start to employ them right away, to help you move towards the life you want and deserve. And when it comes to any fear of rejection, I’ll leave you with Marianne Williamson’s words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do… As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.

So, let’s get writing, and shining!

Posted on June 28, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: 

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