Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How to Deal with Procrastination

Every now and then when I sit down to write a post for my blog, I find my mind drifting off to other tasks; things that I could be doing at that moment instead of writing. In these cases, it’s not an issue of struggling with writer’s block, as I know exactly what it is I wish to write about. Instead, the problem has to do with something we all face at one point or another in our daily lives – getting stuck in the procrastination rut.

It’s a common situation that we can all relate to – finding ourselves procrastinating when there’s this pile of work that requires our current attention and focus. Of course, thanks to today’s hyper-accelerated sense of immediacy and drive to increase productivity, procrastinating not only draws our frustration and annoyance, but it’s also become something we feel guilty about doing.

Ironically, part of the problem with procrastination is that we’ve created a negative perception around it, instead of recognizing it as being a normal behaviour. After all, even the most efficient workers among us procrastinate at times. In dealing with procrastination, we need to understand that the real issue here is not so much the behaviour as how we choose to respond to it when it happens.

With this in mind, here are some things you can do that will not only help with maintaining some level of productivity, but which will also change how you look at procrastination:

Time for a break from that pressing task

Let’s face it; in these moments, we know intuitively that this work has to be done and yet we just can’t get our minds out of neutral. Trying to rationalize yourself back into drive is not going to happen. What’s more likely to happen is that you’re just going to increase your level of stress and frustration, which obviously won’t help you in getting back into that work groove.

So if you find yourself procrastinating over a task that needs to get done, simply accept the fact that your mind is not ready to tackle it and put it on the back burner, with the understanding that you’re simply taking a short break before resuming your work on it.

Focus on some of those less-critical tasks

Invariably we when start procrastinating, we tend to let ourselves get distracted with all sorts of mundane activities – getting caught up in a round of cards on the computer, hanging out on our favourite social network site, or maybe even just aimlessly moving around the office supplies.

As we all know, performing these activities doesn’t help to alleviate our procrastination or the subsequent feelings of frustration that we’re not being as productive as we should be. And yet, we still find ourselves being drawn into these time-draining activities that end up offering us no solutions or breaks to the work pile on our desks.

What we can do here instead is use this time we now have to work on some of the other tasks on our list – perhaps there’s an industry report you’ve been meaning to read, or maybe you have some paperwork that’s been sitting on your desk waiting for you to file it away. While these activities might not help push your main project forward, shifting your attention to working on these lesser tasks will at least give you the satisfaction of knowing that you were able to get some work done and off your list.

Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Of course, sometimes you might find yourself incapable of getting your mind out of this rut, and even the most menial tasks look insurmountable. At these moments, you just have to recognize that this is your mind’s way of saying you’ve been neglecting something key to healthy living – making time for some purposeless play.

Now, to be clear, this isn’t the same thing as people playing solitaire on their computer and then complaining about how they should be working on this particular assignment. In those cases, the act of playing is a diversion from performing a task, as opposed to intentionally taking up an activity of play simply for the fun of it.

Given how for so many of us, the goal behind working so hard is to free ourselves to be able to pursue activities purely for the sake of enjoying our lives, using these moments of procrastination to at least grant yourself a brief moment to enjoy the act of playing will certain go a long way to improving your sense of inner balance.

Granted, none of these exercises will help you get more work done on that project you’re dragging your heels to work on, nor will they cause a decline in how often or how long you find yourself procrastinating in the future. What they will do, though, is remind you that it’s quite natural to procrastinate every now and then and that you no longer need to have this negative perception of it because while you may not be productive in tackling the problem in question, you can still be constructive in managing that time to do something else.

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10 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , | April 6, 2010 by |

10 Comments on

How to Deal with Procrastination

  1. On April 6th, 2010 at 7:28 AM Xurxo Vidal said:


    Three points stuck out for me:

    1. How we choose to view procrastination

    2. How we choose to respond to it

    3. You can procrastinate on one thing and still be productive elsewhere

    You're absolutely right about it being better to accept that you may not yet be ready to tackle the task at hand and it might be more productive to walk away, take a break or do something else of value and then come back to the task.

    In addition to shifting attention to another task or taking a break, I also find that breaking down a task in easier to manage chunks helps get things moving. Too often things appear more complicated or too huge to tackle in our minds so we keep putting them off.

    Breaking these down into smaller components helps alleviate the stress, fear and pain we feel when thinking about completing or even starting the task.

    I would love to hear what strategies you use to break things down in smaller chunks. Is there anything specific you do or think about when using this strategy? For example do you write things down, use a digital recorder to capture your thoughts, or go for a walk to clear your mind and come back with an action plan?

  2. On April 6th, 2010 at 10:53 AM Meryl K Evans said:

    Valuable and insightful points, Tanveer. I just returned from a non-work activity and feel pulled all over the place as things piled while I was away for a couple of hours. So I have sit back and pick an activity.

    Sometimes we procrastinate because we don't like the activity or we're afraid it won't be good. If we don't like it — can we get rid of it? I had a couple of clients I let go of because I found working on their stuff was more a struggle than a pleasure. It made a difference.

    The part about not being good enough — at least, get something started. You can make it better later. Don't dwell on perfection.
    .-= Meryl K Evans´s last blog ..30+ Writer Uses for YouTube and Videos =-.

  3. On April 6th, 2010 at 12:25 PM Twitter Trackbacks on Topsy.com said:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Xurxo Vidal. Xurxo Vidal said: How to Deal With Procrastination – http://bit.ly/9Wg8FG via @tanveernaseer #in […]

  4. On April 7th, 2010 at 7:16 PM Martin Perron said:

    Great posts and comments so far Tanveer!

    I think it's important to understand "why" we procrastinate and this might be for different reasons for each individual. There is definitely a mis-perception that procrastination=lazy as you pointed out and the root causes for procrastination are complex. Once someone has figured out the "why", the "what to do about it" becomes much clearer.

    But someone can always put it off for later to figure it out…ok, back to solitaire 😉
    .-= Martin Perron´s last blog ..AdWords Search Funnels Coming to a Campaign Near You! =-.

  5. On April 29th, 2010 at 5:39 PM Overcoming Brain Farts | Brain Wads said:

    […] In his blog post, Tanveer Naseer talks about how to deal with procrastination and make it work for you. He talks about working on a less important task, like re-organizing your desk, filing needed paperwork to fill that time void so it’s at least productive in another sense. […]

  6. On August 30th, 2010 at 2:15 PM Positive procrastination | I Manage Products said:

    […] Some slightly more useful thoughts on procrastination: How to Deal with Procrastination […]

  7. On October 20th, 2010 at 2:49 PM You can’t get away from procrastination | First Impressions said:

    […] The only advice I’ve found on the World Wide Web that tells me it’s okay to be human – it’s alright to put things off on the backburner until you feel prepared to do it, and do it well — is Tanveer Naseer’s post on How to Deal with Procrastination. I have been meaning to pin it on my cubicle wall – right behind my computer. Some day I’ll get around to doing that. […]

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