Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How to Make Procrastination Beneficial For Your Business

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Even adult brains require playtime to stay in shape
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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3 Comments
  1. On August 12th, 2010 at 10:35 AM Anna Smith said:

    Hi Tanveer,

    When I read your post I remembered a cute video on the Fast Company website about how to procrastinate productively. I often do what you outline in point #2; when faced with a project I am not ready to tackle yet, I shift my attention to work on less critical tasks such as cleaning out my inbox, answering old emails, organizing bookkeeping stuff. These are the things I would normally procrastinate, but this way, they get done 🙂

  2. On August 15th, 2010 at 10:42 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Blogging has been my procrastination solution since I enjoy writing. I figure it equates to an act of productivity since I have blogs now stockpiled for the future when biz really picks up. However, since I enjoy writing so much, I keep procratinating getting to the bench that is cluttered with paper that I can see to my right as I post this comment. Now my bench is a loose end Tanveer that you have motivate me to attack this coming week.

  3. On August 16th, 2010 at 11:37 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    @Anna – Hi Anna,

    I remember seeing that video on Fast Company; thanks for sharing it here for others to see. Procrastinating is probably one of the most frustrating behaviours we experience because it makes us feel like we’re wasting time in not that task before us done. While it’s true that procrastinating can feel like we’re wasting time, that can easily be rectified if we simply shift our focus to working on something else until we find that motivation again to tackle the other task.

    Glad you enjoyed this piece, Anna, and thanks for sharing your experience with how you deal with procrastination.

    @Jim – Glad to hear this piece gave you the motivation to tackle that clutter of paper. As we procrastinate over completing a certain project, our mind sometimes starts to compensate for our lack of productivity by making this task seem bigger than it really is. Taking some time away from addressing it to deal with other tasks will help us regain our perspective on things and coming off of completing another task, we can have a greater sense of momentum to tackle this job we kept putting off.

    Thanks Jim for sharing your thoughts on this and good luck with taking on clearing away that clutter.

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