Perfecting Procrastination: You can do it!

For the vast majority of us, it’s easy to get distracted. There is a vast ocean of bright shiny objects to occupy our attention.

Recently I was working on a few major client deliverables. With each passing day the need to complete them became more urgent and yet I would catch myself checking my inbox again, looking for comments on previous posts, doing price comparisons for a logo refresh. All good things, necessary things, but not the right things at that time.

In her book Thoughtfully Ruthless, Val Wright talks about being “Productively Unproductive”: Plan for periods where you are unproductive, but make them contingent on accomplishing the critical objectives for the day. In other words, procrastinate on your procrastination. Don’t try to eliminate the distractions; just box them.┬áHere’s how I put this into action:

1. Block time for important work

Allocating time on my calendar for work helps me structure my day. During these periods, the cellphone is turned to silent (and I never use the vibrate option – it’s annoying!), Outlook is moved to offline mode, and any unneeded apps are closed. Time to get to work.


2. Focus on the feeling

How will you feel once you’ve completed the work or reached a milestone? Positive emotions are motivating. Here’s a page from my book of daily objectives. That smiley face is very motivating to me! I know how good I will feel when I’ve delivered a truly creative and useful piece of work for my clients.

3. Log the distractors

When my mind starts to wander, I catch the thought and write it down so I can do it later. It goes on the other side of the page. My list has included:

  • Gather images for post on continuous improvement
  • Hunt for new album by MuteMath
  • Check in with John on web traffic
  • Shop for red shoes

They include things I love to do, but are not needed at the moment. By noting them I can ‘let them go’ and keep focused on the main task.

4. Plan your (procrastination) breaks

Not only do I block time to do critical work, but I block it for things that are not work related. Allocating time ensures things get done. That includes giving your brain space to rest. Calendar reminders tell me when my time block is coming to a close, and what I will be focusing (or not focusing) on next. When it say ‘Gym’, I’m motivated to finish up and get ready to go. When it says ‘RELAX’, it’s time to be unproductive! If I’ve earned it, then off I go. If I’m on a roll and want to keep going, then I hit Snooze and continue.

Even with the best of intentions we all get distracted sometimes. Setting yourself up with a “Structure for Success” will set the stage for accomplishment.

What’s next on your list?

As a Certified Thoughtfully Ruthless Consultant, I can help you get there.

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