Stop Procrastinating by Planning “Procrastination Activities”

Want to stop procrastinating once and for all? Here’s a quick tip that actually works.

Firstly, why do we so often fail at controlling our procrastination? There’s something we want to get done, and more often than not, we’ll allow ourselves a moment of distraction. That moment turns into hours, and by the end of the day that action item is left unchecked.

Well, it’s obviously something that we are doing internally, that makes us procrastinate. Perhaps there is fear attached to that thing we have to do? Like writing a speech you have to give publicly, or preparing for a meeting with the boss.

Or maybe it’s simply that we just don’t like to do that thing? Do you know anyone who actually likes preparing their tax returns? No matter what the action item is, there are going to be a ton of them in our lives, so we better equip ourselves with some tools to manage, if not downright eliminate, procrastination.

Everyone does it, and I was no exception. Full disclosure, I still procrastinate sometimes, but nowhere near the amount I used to. And using this tactic I’m actually fairly productive now 🙂

So, what’s the cure doc?

We know from our meditation to let things be as they are. This is acceptance and surrendering to reality. So let’s try a little experiment. I did. And it’s been working a treat for years.

Procrastination Activities

Plan your day as you normally would. You have your to-do list of action items, or schedule of events for the day. But now, you are going to add some things.

Add in your favorite “procrastination activities.” If you can’t keep away from your email inbox, book in a half hour before lunchtime, and a half hour at, say, 4:30 pm. (Okay, if you’re a real email addict add another 30 minutes in there somewhere, but I suggest you get some help with your inbox!) Add in anything that you do to procrastinate during the day.

  • Coffee breaks
  • Random paperwork
  • Reading the paper
  • Facebook
  • Web surfing
  • Watching TV
  • Cigarette breaks (another one to seriously consider dropping completely)
  • Snacking

If you do any of these things you can see how enjoyable they might be. Also, how completely useless and unnecessary.

The point is to schedule these things in, and follow your bookings. Make specific times for these activities and stick to them. Don’t do them all in a row, but put them between your productive tasks.

In order to commit to all the things you need to do to procrastinate, you are likely to see and feel how wasteful these activities are. Your productive time is being squeezed, and you are wasting your life. And all for what? To delay doing something that might be a little uncomfortable? To put off what you think might scare you? To distract you from your life?

Hard work often pays off over time, but laziness always pays off now.

~ Anon.

If you’re a particularly bad procrastinator, this exercise might bring you to the conclusion that you’re in the wrong business or job. You aren’t enjoying what you’re doing. So, the solution for you might be to find something else entirely, something that will satisfy your values in your career. Then, as if by magic, your procrastination time will be reduced. Or perhaps transformed into merely “break activities,” where the activity you’re doing isn’t for escape, it’s just while you’re recharging.

If your procrastination isn’t as severe, then planning in a few of these activities will lessen the pressure that you might put on yourself to get something done. You will be allowing yourself a little time to clear the mental RAM, and reset before the next task.

I did this a few years ago for about a week, and I got quite upset with myself for wasting my life away. I very quickly reduced that time spent procrastinating without any other motivation or willpower. When it’s the meaning of your life on the line, you don’t need any greater motivation than that.

Power Tip for the Advanced

During the scheduled procrastination activities (or whenever you find yourself procrastinating), put your attention into the body. Become mindful of the here-and-now, and just watch with awareness what you are doing. Bring your full consciousness into the activity, and simply watch what happens.

Anything done with your complete consciousness will reveal its full truth to you. If it’s not good for you, you’ll simply decide with awareness to stop doing it and likely never do it again. Or at least have the choice whether to do it or not in future.

So give the ‘stop procrastinating schedule’ a try for at least a week, and let me know how it goes.

3 comments… add one
  • Ronald Apr 29, 2012 @ 9:58

    Hey Jim, I have actually been doing this for a week and here are my thoughts/results:

    – I struggled at first to squeeze everything in, until I figured out that that was probably the point. So, productivity went waaay down in the first couple days, but then as I was forced to reframe the procrastination activities that I was doing, I saw they weren’t actually making me happy.
    – Day 3 picked up the productivity as I pared down the procrastination activities, and so did my mood! I was way more motivated to do the things I needed to do, and also enjoyed them more.
    – Main thing I got out of doing this was that I started to see the long-term impact my procrastinating was having on my life, and I was then motivated to then do something that would help my future – and strangely, I got pleasure out of doing that?! E.g. Playing Call of Duty 3, turned into spending time planning out my finances, and I actually enjoyed it! Weird, but totally cool.
    – I’ve decided not to stick to it full time, because I feel like it’s kind of done its job and I can focus better on what I need to do now.

    Thank you, a very valuable exercise!

    Ron

    • Jim Apr 30, 2012 @ 20:54

      Ron, awesome work! You my friend are manifesting your destiny.

      Taking action is the absolute main thing to get out of this. You’ve learned for yourself that some of the steps weren’t for you in the long run, but you tested it out and the experience you’ve gained will benefit you from here on out.

      When you can feel the benefits of doing the things you need to do to build your future, you actually get excited and motivated about it – even if those little short term things aren’t fun.

      I can’t commend you highly enough 😀

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