Procrastination is often considered the mortal enemy of productivity. However, while we’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s no good way to put off something on out to-do list, that’s actually far from the truth. Enter: productive procrastination.
Unlike typical methods of procrastination, like watching TV or texting your friends, productive procrastination can actually help you accomplish your tasks more efficiently in the long run. In fact, research suggests that taking mental breaks can actually improve your focus, making you more productive on the whole.
“Procrastination gets a bad rap, but is nothing more than having conflicting feelings about taking an action—cleaning the kitchen, filling out tax forms, ending a relationship, or eating more healthfully. The more we suppress our ‘don’t want to do’ feelings, the less likely we’ll do whatever it is,” explains psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW.
“By stopping pressuring ourselves to do a behavior or take an action and, instead, by nonjudgmentally examining the feelings why we don’t want to do it, we are more likely to be able to work through these feelings and resolve our ambivalence. Procrastination tells us a great deal of useful information about ourselves which we can use in the future.” Don’t know how to start? These tips for procrastinating productively will have you turning those breaks into something useful in no time. And when you want to increase your productivity on a daily basis, start with the 15 Ways to double Your Productivity in Half the Time!
Take a Walk
A little exercise might just be the very thing you need to improve your focus when you feel the urge to procrastinate. In addition to giving you a much-needed endorphin boost, which can help you get in the right mental state to focus on the task at hand, exercise may make you more attentive.
In fact, research suggests that exercise can actually improve mental focus, so when you’re feeling a little foggy, try moving your body for a few minutes. Ready to make the most of your day? Add the 60 Ways to Buy an Extra 60 Minutes Every Day to your routine!
Make a To-Do List
Want to make those moments of procrastination more productive? Start by making a to-do list. Making a list of the tasks you want to complete can help you get in the mindset to get them out of the way and make it easier to schedule your time when you’re ready to tackle them. And when you want to reinforce those productivity-promoting measures, discover the 40 Best Ways to Keep New Habits!
Journal Your Distractions
The first step toward mitigating those productivity-ruining distractions is identifying them. Writing down the things that are keeping you from focusing by hand can help you compartmentalize them, and may even increase your attention.
In fact, researchers at Princeton University and UCLA found that writing things down by hand can actually improve your memory, meaning it might be easier to identify and eliminate those distractions in the long run. And if you’re experiencing some workplace burnout, check out the 20 Ways Smart Workers Keep Cool Under Pressure!
Jot Down Your Goals
Procrastination doesn’t have to mean avoiding the things you’re trying to accomplish. In fact, research suggests that writing down your goals is a great way to increase your chances of accomplishing them. Make a list of what you want to accomplish today, tomorrow, and a month from now and you’ll be using that procrastination period more effectively.
Schedule Your Procrastination
Instead of letting yourself procrastinate whenever the mood strikes, try scheduling some breaks instead. Giving yourself a prescribed period during which to procrastinate will help you scratch that itch without taking time away from deadline-oriented tasks.
Figure Out Why You Need a Break
You might realize that you need a break from what you’re working on, but all too often, we ignore the why fueling our procrastination. If you want to procrastinate more productively, try taking a few minutes to identify the sources of stress, discomfort, or distraction causing you to need a mental break and attend to them first. And when you need some serious TLC, check out the 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.
Need an effective means of procrastinating without derailing your day? Try brainstorming. Allowing yourself to express some stream-of-consciousness thoughts, whether about your work or personal life, can help get those distractions off your mind and get you back into the groove in no time. And when you’re ready to enjoy every day a little bit more, try out the 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!
Say Some Affirmations
Instead of feeling glum about your need to procrastinate, giving yourself a much-needed infusion of positivity may be a better bet in the long run. Saying a few positive affirmations about yourself can help you feel more confident, increasing your productivity, as well. And when you need an instant jumpstart, check out these 25 Non-Coffee Ways to Boost Your Energy Levels!
Give Yourself a Time Buffer
It happens to the best of us: we get stressed out about a deadline and then procrastinate until we actually risk not meeting it. Instead, to procrastinate in a more productive manner, give yourself a scheduled break with some lead time before your work is actually due, which will indulge that instinct without the deleterious results.
Solve a Puzzle
Who says that productivity and fun can’t go hand-in-hand? If you want to make the most of your procrastination time, try solving a puzzle. Not only is problem-solving a great way to improve your confidence, research even suggests it may improve your cognitive fitness and memory, making you more effective when it’s time to return to work.
Read Something Relevant
Just because you need a break from work doesn’t mean you need to turn your brain off with some mind-numbing activity. Reading the news, an article relevant to what you’re working on, or just skimming a chapter in a book can help you productively de-stress and get your head back in the game. When you’re ready to add to your reading list, start with the 40 Books Every Man Over 40 Should Have on His Bookshelf!
Empty Your Inbox
A crowded inbox can take a surprisingly heavy toll on your mind. If you’re feeling like you can’t concentrate, try responding to your important emails, deleting the junk, and giving yourself the peace of mind that comes with no digital to-dos left on your plate.
Polish Your Résumé
Even if you’re not looking for a new job, having an up-to-date résumé is never a bad idea. When you feel like you just can’t effectively complete your work, dust off that CV and you’ll turn your procrastination time into something more productive in an instant.
Switch Up Your Work Environment
Even if you love your job, those same four walls you stare at day in and day out can feel less-than-inspiring over time. In many cases, this same boring environment may even make you more prone to procrastination. If you want to make yourself more productive, try using that period of procrastination to switch up your work environment, whether that means trading in your cubicle for a couch in a communal space or just getting outdoors for a few minutes. Research suggests that novelty can increase creativity, so that change of scenery might just make you better off in the long run.
Say Thank You to Someone
Make the most of that procrastination time by expressing your gratitude to someone else. Not only will saying thank you to a friend or co-worker make them feel good, saying thanks can help boost your mood and help relieve some of those feelings of frustration making you more procrastination-prone. Not convinced? Discover the 5 Ways Being Thankful Can Change Your Life.
Catch Up on a Podcast
Just because you’re trying to procrastinate productively doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any leisure activities. In fact, listening to a thought-provoking podcast can help get you energized, and may even give your brain a boost along the way. Don’t know where to start? Check out the 15 Podcasts That Will Make You 15 Percent Smarter.
Do a One-Minute Meditation
Stress is one of the biggest contributors to our desire to procrastinate. The good news? Taking just a minute to meditate and take some deep breaths can help you reduce your stress, improve your focus, and get you back on track without taking up more of your mental energy. And when you want to make your mindfulness time more effective, check out the 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Tackle a Smaller Problem
If you’re feeling like you just can’t tackle the bigger problems on your plate, start with a smaller one first. By crossing a smaller item off your to-do list, you’ll give yourself the boost of confidence necessary to accomplish those bigger goals.
Talk to a Friend
A little talking can go a long way when it comes to relieving the stress that might be causing you to procrastinate. Better yet, talking to a trusted confidante about how you’re feeling and listening to their advice can help you figure out solutions to the problem at hand that you might not have come up with alone.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It
Want to make those periods of procrastination more productive? Stop beating yourself up about them. When we chastise ourselves for needing breaks, we stress ourselves out, making it harder to actually accomplish the things we’re trying to get done. If you find yourself in dire need of a procrastination break, just consider it part of the process, and move on. Not getting as much accomplished as you want? The 10 Morning Habits Destroying Your Productivity could be standing in your way.
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