Procrastination gets a bad rap. People blame it for all of their time management problems, and by people I mean me. I suffer from procrastination just as much as anyone else! We all try to avoid procrastination, but ultimately end up falling victim to the same cycle over and over. We all know that it is going to happen. Cyril Northcote Parkinson may have been writing a satire piece in the Economist when he coined his famous Parkinson’s Law, but man did he hit the nail on the head back in 1955. Parkinson’s Law says that work will expand to fill the time allotted. Instead of trying to control and avoid procrastinating, we should embrace it. I have gathered, through my own experience, five different ways to take advantage of procrastination.
1. Setting Priorities
The whirlwind of tasks is a huge problem when it comes to procrastination. One of the reasons I actually start to procrastinate is I don’t always know where to start. It becomes so difficult to figure out where to start sometimes that we just put off doing everything all together. However, this is a prime time to start to prioritize. A great tool to use to help prioritize is a Power List. A Power List is simply the non-negotiables you have to complete each day. First, create your to-do list; this is everything you want to do today. Next pick 3-5 items that HAVE to be done today. These 3-5 tasks are now your Power List. An awesome trick that can also help motivate you to help you get this done is to be accountable. Andy Frisella, CEO of 1stphorm and host of the RealAF Podcast, adds a win or lose aspect to his Power List; complete the non-negotiables, and you win the day; if you don’t, own up to it and mark it as an L, but use that to fuel you tomorrow.
2. Small Wins
Completing a task feels so good, doesn’t it? It fills you with energy and makes you feel unstoppable! You can use that feeling to help push you to complete other tasks. Look at your to-do list and see what the smallest tasks are and start there. Start with making your bed. Navy Admiral William McRaven said to the 2014 University of Texas graduating class, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.” Use your small wins to help fuel you to take on the larger tasks throughout your day.
3. Set Deadlines
Deadlines are a huge cause for stress, but they can also be a powerful motivator. Having a looming deadline and the proper priorities set up (through your power list we talked about before) is going to give you added focus to get the task done. Even self-imposed deadlines make all the difference when it comes to creating a sense of urgency. The added sense of urgency is a perfect time to begin to work on your flow state. Flow state is a period of intense focus, no distractions. That means set your phone to Do Not Disturb, lock yourself away in your office if you have to. Start small, 30 minutes, then take a break, but push it and eventually you’ll be able to handle hours of flow state work.
4. Gamify Your Work
Games have long been able to bring us joy, and when we win, a sense of accomplishment and pride. We can apply those same things from games to our work. Gamification is the act of adding game-like mechanics to non-game contexts. Things like levels, rewards, badges. These are all things that we can add to our work. The simple act of crossing off something from that to-do list is rewarding enough sometimes! However, there are tons of task manager apps out there that have these functions and may be a great way to start gamifying your day.
5. Take a Break
It may seem obvious, but if you find yourself procrastinating, take a break! Procrastination on a task, especially one that you enjoy normally may be a sign that you are approaching the limit of your will power and need some time to recharge. Go practice some self-care; take a walk/hike/run, go enjoy a little time with some friends, go get a bite to eat, or have a cup of tea/coffee. In her book, Nothing is Sexier Than Freedom, Helen Edwards said “Everyone needs a break to refuel, recharge, and jump back in full throttle.” You need to make sure you take a break. That way you can go back full force!
The world is filled with distractions and procrastination seems like the easy way. The problem is that procrastination will only lead to more stress. However, with the tools I listed above, you can use procrastination to your advantage and find a way to fight through it. Challenge yourself over the next week; pay attention to when you start procrastinating to see what it is you can do to get through it.
About Aaron Gonzales
Aaron is a self-care expert and founder of Menfulness Box, a men’s self care subscription box. He hopes to raise awareness on men’s mental health issues and how powerful self-care can be in dealing with them. You can connect with Aaron on Instagram or Linkedin.