Procrastinating on anything when it comes to our work is seldom an idea that most of us would consider to be “positive,” and it’s a topic that I discuss in more detail on Episode 074 of Productivity Paradox. But did you know that, in many cases, applying a bit of procrastination can actually help you when it comes to those big work-related projects that you have on your plate?
Today, I’m going to discuss how procrastination is often the key when it comes to doing better work… and how you can effectively apply procrastination to your work day to help you succeed!
Let’s get started!
It’s not uncommon to hold off on tasks with an extended deadline until the deadline draws near… In fact, often putting off big projects and tasks until we are almost down to the wire can actually help us to be more effective when it comes to seeing the task through to completion!
It sounds crazy, right? But it’s true!
Now, I’m not saying that you should always put things off until the absolute last minute… But, research has shown that allowing for a little bit of inactivity (procrastination), in our day can help us to de-tress and refocus our energy faster when we are faced with a challenge compared to moments when we force ourselves to power through when we don’t feel motivated.
This phenomenon is known as the Zeigarnik effect, based upon the research of Russian psychiatrist and psychologist, Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik. According to Zeigarnik, people who experience interruptions when they are performing important tasks are able to recall details of those tasks 90% better than people that work on the same tasks straight through without any breaks. Ultimately, these interruptions lead to less mistakes and better results overall.
How can you apply a bit procrastination to your day when faced with important tasks?
One of my favorite methods for ensuring that I allow myself time to complete tasks is by building time buffers into my schedule. I discuss this particular method in more detail in Episode 018 of my podcast (check it out if you haven’t already!), but the beautiful thing about time buffers is that you can make them work for you when it comes to scheduling breaks throughout your day, as well.
A rule of thumb that I like to employ is that, for block of focused work time, I allot 2 minutes away from what I’m working on to give myself a mental break. This means that I can clear the clutter from my mind and prevent myself from feeling burnt out at the end of the work day.
Your breaks can be as simple as taking a short walk to the water cooler, reading a book for pleasure for a few minutes, walking around outside, stretching, or listening to music!
Any break, or procrastination, from the big task you are working on will help you feel less stressed, increase your focus, and make you better prepared to see it through to completion… And chances are, you’re going to perform much better on the task than you would by forcing yourself to work straight through!
A common misconception about procrastination is that it means we are “doing nothing.” But this simply is not true!
I talk about the differences between active procrastination and passive procrastination my blog post, How Procrastination Can Help You, but for this purpose we will be touching on how active procrastination can boost our productivity at work when it matters most.
How does active procrastination do this? Simple!
When we actively procrastinate, we are taking short breaks from that one big project on our to-do list and are instead focusing our energy on lesser, smaller tasks. While the bigger project will eventually require our focus so that we can cross it off our list and ensure that our deadline is met, active procrastination actually helps us to get rid of all of the small stuff that often has a habit of invading our minds, causing stress and inhibiting our progress when we need it most.
To apply active procrastination to your work day, I recommend creating a task list each day. Those that will require your focus, but that you may feel yourself hesitant to get started on, will go at the top… and those that do not have any set deadlines or pale in importance by comparison will land at the bottom.
While it feels counterproductive to put off that big project on your list, active procrastination will actually focus your energy on smaller tasks and will rid them from your plate (and from your mind).
Not only does this clear the way for you to focus on your bigger tasks when it comes time to sit down and get to work… but you will actually find that you are able to accomplish more throughout your day by employing some active procrastination when you’re feeling stuck or less motivated to get your top priorities done!
Once those smaller items are done, all that is left to focus on are those tasks at the top of your list, which means you are likely to devote more focused energy and increase your overall performance.
Have any tips and tricks of your own for allowing yourself space to clear the clutter from your mind during your work day? I want to hear them! Feel free to share them in the comments below and be sure to listen to Episode 074 of Productivity Paradox for an in-depth look at procrastination, the different types, and how it can affect us.