Most of us have come face to face with the dangerous results procrastination brings:
- Our parents' frustration with us as they tried to help us complete our homework at the last minute
- Our physical exhaustion during college after we stayed up all night finishing a term paper
- Our negative evaluation at work when we waited too long to start that financial report the board needed for a strategic decision
While procrastination, let unchecked, can definitely be harmful, there are ways you to use it to your advantage while giving your mind a break from the intellectually draining work of running a company.
Schedule your procrastination time.
This may sound counterintuitive (you may be thinking: Can my slacking off really count as procrastination if it’s done purposefully?). But scheduling procrastination sessions can actually be a valuable tool to help you recharge and get your head back in the game.
Procrastination generally causes damage to your productivity when it is uncontrollable and done as the result of fear (often a fear of failure, though other factors can figure in). But if you take the time to schedule regular sessions of procrastination during a time when you normally would feel guilty about not getting work done, you can take control of your instincts and the situation and emerge more productive on the other side.
The crux of this strategy is to actually stick to your scheduled procrastination times. As long as you do, your procrastination will basically amount to another form of planning, which is never a bad thing. Respect the integrity of the schedule at all times.
Combine procrastination with physical activity and strategic thinking.
We’ve all been bombarded with the statistics surrounding the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle -- including an increased risk of certain cancers, and, for women, nearly double the risk of a heart attack compared to the rates for active people. Unfortunately, modern office culture feeds directly into many of these dangers.
However, it’s possible to use the urge to procrastinate to simultaneously clear your mind and benefit your body.
Take solace; this doesn't mean you have to leave the office, go to a gym and get sweaty in the middle of the day. Instead, use your scheduled procrastination time to take a walk and clear your head at the same time. Remember that any movement is preferable to sitting; it doesn't have to be vigorous, high-impact exercise to positively affect your body.
If you work in an urban area, you can get out and wander the streets for a while. If it’s 95 degrees out, with 90 percent humidity, you can walk the corridors and floors of your air-conditioned office. And if you’re also using this time to brainstorm and think creatively about big-picture ideas for your company, all the better.
Use "procrastination time" to build your network.
Many of us wish we had more time to maintain our personal and professional networks, but the day-to-day realities of a leadership role leave little opportunity for anything unrelated to core business functions. In particular, entrepreneurs with families and close friends have to maximize all available time with these loved ones, leaving the more causal connections and acquaintances in our networks to suffer accordingly.
Instead of wasting your procrastination time by scrolling through your social media profiles for the tenth time today, focus on initiating or responding to communication with those outside your closest circle. Send an email to another local entrepreneur with whom you’ve connected before, or take some time to chat with an area influencer.
You don’t need to have anything to immediately gain from these interactions, but, long term, they can be crucial to maintaining connections. Better yet, use this time to work on scheduling face-to-face time with those among your network: Surveys indicate that 95 percent of respondents view in-person meetings as absolutely essential to maintaining long-term business relationships.
Write a detailed to-do list so that later you can get back on track.
Despite the fact that some experts doubt the effectiveness of a physical to-do list, recent evidence supports the idea that such lists still have value. Not only is it harder to move on to other tasks if you haven’t marked previous ones as completed, but there really are few feelings as viscerally satisfying as "crossing items off."
So, do that yourself: Momentarily revel in your progress. (As a tool, turn to one of the hundreds of list-making productivity apps if you like, but good old-fashioned pen and paper works just as well as it always has.)
Even if you’re using your procrastination periods to make lists of tasks related to work, that activity won't actually feel like work, due to the lack of substantive thought required for cataloging tasks.
Allow yourself the time to simply make a list of these actions without thinking too deeply about how you will accomplish them, and you’ll still benefit from the value of controlled procrastination. Be as detailed as possible when creating your to-do list, even going so far as to write down specific emails you need to reply to. The more detailed you are, the less likely you will be to let your mind wander too far off task.