Hola, Focusers. Have you ever heard the old adage that there’s no procrastination without work–and no work without procrastination? Let’s unpack that, shall we?
No denying that some hard work can be fun, engaging, and rewarding. And at the end, you get results you can relish, right? You can’t complete a novel or get a rocket to the moon — you can’t even make the perfect three-course meal — without a shit ton of difficult, concentrated work.
On the other hand, if you’re that home chef, that would-be novelist — and even if you’re Ariana Huffington, Elon Musk, or J.K. Rowling — sometimes, you just … don’t … want … to … do … it.
OK, Elon Musk was a bad example. That man is a machine. But for all us mere mortals there is the abominable procrastination monster to contend with.
It doesn’t matter whether the job is small or big. Cleaning the toilet or solving a complex equation for that rocket. Procrastination — the powerful impulse to lie there like a head of broccoli, else tackle a whole range of other, clearly less important task, such as alphabetizing the spices — rears its inevitable, hairy head.
No surprise, across the plains and frontier of the Great Interwebs, a range of tools keeps multiplying, numberless articles published almost hourly on how to stop procrastinating. You’ve seen them: frenetic blogs and listicles that promise quick fixes for procrastination, one-quick-tricks, and a miasma of often conflicting information that seems to never address the source: WHY we procrastinate.
And yet, our interest in digging a deep grave for our enemy procrastination has only increased over time. Since 2004, Google Trends indicate that terms like “how to not procrastinate” have increased almost 120%. Are we really all this shaken-up about procrastinating? Is procrastination on the rise? Or is there something more complex behind it?
Here’s a surprise. Don’t fret that friendly monster.
We’ve written extensively on boredom’s role as a vital lifehack, and we think procrastination can be just as beneficial when used properly. Here’s why, in a nutshell: Procrastination is close cousins with a psychological concept that doesn’t carry all that you-suck-and-can’t-get-shit-done baggage: rumination.
Rumination is defined by Psychology Today as “repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion.” Sound familiar? Well, that’s a page straight out of procrastination’s book. It’s just, perhaps rumination involves more conscious consideration.
But what if, sitting at your computer while so-called procrastinating, you’re really nonconsciously chewing over the task at hand. Only consciously are you wringing your hands, thinking about how you’re not doing it now, how you won’t ever get it done, how you’re a fraud and everyone hates you, and your mother right after all.
The latter loop’s energy is seemingly boundless, lighting up all our neural networks and stimulating our brain–in all the wrong ways, it would seem. It’s a repetitive cycle that can’t solve itself unless we, in the words of Nike, just do it.
Which we usually do. When we’ve got no choice left but to act. When the consequences of not acting finally outweigh whatever relief we derive from putting it off.
Let’s rethink this loop and get more productive in the bargain. Remember, procrastination can be positive. You’re not necessarily lazy. It could be your mind telling you one of two things:
- That you need to take a break from the work:
Maybe you hit a psychic or intellectual wall. Stand up. Face away. Step away. Take a long walk. And give your mind some rest from it. Move however feels best to you. Mediate, whatever you have to do to escape your conscious thoughts and root yourself in your body. Pulling the focus away from your mind and into the present sensations of what’s going on around you can give your brain some well-deserved rest. And guess what? Your brain’s still working out a way over that wall. Even if you think you’re not thinking about it, you are. This is the reason so many spectacular ideas come to us while we’re in the shower.
- That you need to plan out the work:
Sometimes your procrastination is tied to an onerous task, like finishing a huge report. If you break down the work into smaller blocks, it can actually become easier to get the steps done, and you’ll be breathing that fresh productive air in no time. If the task is as simple as, say, mailing in your payment for that traffic ticket, try planning something fun or interesting near a mailbox. Knowing that there’s a reward beyond just completing the task itself is sometimes all the motivation we humans need. Gotta clean that toilet (if you think you do, you definitely do) consider listening to your favorite podcast while you scrub. Yes, we just wrote about NOT multitasking. This is a great exception to that rule.
If none of that stuff works, there’s always music. But it has to be the right type of music. Specially engineered music tailored to how your brain focuses can make all the difference when a deadline is looming in your calendar, and you’d rather be doing anything else.
Tune in, sit down, and slot yourself into gear for a set period.
Try it now at focusatwill.com.