You start your day with the best of intentions.
You tell yourself that today will be different. Finally, you’ll buckle down and start that project that needs to get done. That nagging voice in your head keeps getting louder and louder. You need to put this project behind you.
You sit down to knock it out, once and for all. Today is the day.
“I’ll get started on that project as soon as I check my email,” you promise yourself. You need a few minutes to ease into this.
You open an email, which reminds you of something interesting. You click that shiny link. Before you know it, one link leads to another. Something you see reminds you of something else you must do. You’re out to sea, caught up in the tidal wave of “just a few minutes.”
Suddenly, you look up at the clock. What happened?
Over two hours have passed, and you’ve accomplished nothing. That beast of a project stares over your shoulder and taunts you. The best of intentions evaporated in a matter of seconds, leaving you with nothing to show for your “work.”
How do you tame that beast, and get the work done?
If you’re not procrastinating on a regular basis, you’re not as productive as you could be. Instead, make peace with putting things off.
The reason procrastination gets a bad wrap is because many people don’t harness its power. Instead, they allow distractions to steer the ship into stormy, rocky seas.
Here’s the thing: your mind will taunt you throughout your workday. It’ll throw unrelated thoughts into your mind at the worst possible times. That’s never going to change.
You forget what to say in the meeting, because you remember that you have to pick up milk from the store on the way home. You’re excited about the weekend, or wondering if a sick family member is okay. You remember 18 different things you need to do right after the meeting.
Every few seconds, your brain throws distractions in your direction. You can dodge them, but they’ll come back again and again. You can try to ignore them, but they’ll come at you louder and faster. You can follow each thought immediately, like productivity gurus tell you to do. But you’ll never get anything done that way.
How do you focus?
Capture every thought that tries to distract you. Write it down. Scribble it as fast as you can. Then, gently return your mind to the project at hand. Catch each fiery dart of distraction. Instead of dodging it, embrace it.
You get distracted when your mind worries that you’ll forget to deal with something important. When you capture your idea, you signal your brain that you won’t forget. A few fiery darts later, your brain gets the signal that you’re in control.
Suddenly, you experience clarity. You’re calm, cool, and in command. You get more done, with less stress.
How can you make procrastination work for you instead of against you?
- Keep pen and paper (or another capture device) with you at all times. When a thought seeks to steal your attention away from what you’re doing, scribble it down. Write it as fast as you can and get on with the task at hand.
- At the end of the day, leave a few minutes to review your list. Go through each item, one by one. Ask yourself, “What’s the next thing I need to do with this?” Do you need to note your calendar or schedule? Call someone? File it away? Take the appropriate action, or schedule it.
The choice is yours. Make today a productive day. Harness procrastination, make the most of every second, and cut that monster down to size.
by Jesse Lanclos