You’ve probably had those days when watching the cat nap, editing the pictures in your phone or cleaning the inside of the kitchen cupboards suddenly jump to the top of your to-do.
Interestingly, these days often coincide with the times when you are to begin a really important new project or when a new client proposal is due.
That’s procrastination: the art of filling up your to-do with the least important tasks while the priorities that require your immediate attention linger at the bottom of the list. Now, if you’ve ever felt guilty about your procrastinating ways, I highly recommend Tim Urban’s TED talk on procrastination.
First, he’s quite the master procrastinator himself and his world-class procrastination skills are sure to make you feel better about your own habit. Second and most importantly, he shares in very entertaining layman’s terms his interesting take on what happens in the mind of procrastinator. My summary won’t do justice to his talk but to sum things up: when we procrastinate our drive for instant gratification kicks in and takes over our rational ability to work towards future objectives.
From my own observation, procrastination tends to kick in as a mechanism to avoid pain or discomfort.
Personally, I tend to procrastinate when I feel overwhelmed by a project I am not quite sure how to handle, when I am bored by a task or when there’s just too much to do. That’s when I feel this violent urge to spend the afternoon reorganizing my socks by color or pinning healthy recipes. Over time though, I have started to develop a trick to confront these urges when they strike: I call it doing nothing mindfully.
The idea is simple: if I need a break I might as well take a proper break. Not a break filled with guilt and anxiety but a break that allows me to relax and get back to my real to-do quickly.
Here’s how the process of doing nothing mindfully works:
– First, I notice the urge to procrastinate when it kicks in.
– Second, I stop everything I am doing. Even the staring out of the window or the manic internet surfing…!
– Third, I ask myself what I am running away from.
– Fourth, I give myself a moment to play, without guilt. Depending on the what’s upsetting me and on the emergencies of the day this could be anywhere between a few minutes or the whole day. The idea is to allow myself to feel relaxed and confident again so I can get back to the tasks at hand.
– Fifth, once I am back in the zone, I create a plan to deal with what I have been avoiding and I get back to work.
Now, this is still work in progress and I am not claiming to always be able to curb the urge but this process definitely helps.
How about you? How do you cope with procrastination?