Let me first state I believe procrastination is an anti-value. Anti-values are values that have a predictably bad outcome. So, procrastination takes up residence with apathy, fear, poverty, laziness, hate, and other such energies.
That said, up until several years ago, I wrestled with the habit of procrastination in my own life. And part of that journey meant getting clear with how practicing core values like simplicity, peace, exploration, creativity, and balance wouldn’t enable my anti-value of procrastination.
In other words, I’m a minimalist who enjoys relaxing and who likes to have plenty of personal time to explore and create...and I used to feel guilt (another anti-value) because I would spend lots of time doing things I liked without getting a lot accomplished. It created a values conflict, which enforced a cycle of procrastination to escape the negative feelings I was generating towards myself.
So, I found one way to stop procrastinating...and that was to tell myself that if I was going to procrastinate by doing things I love, then I want to procrastinate well.
You see, most of us procrastinate very poorly. We choose to spend our time on tasks that provide zero value other than entertainment.
In fact, we often engage in procrastination behaviors that are even harmful, like eating unhealthy food or spending money needlessly. So here’s my advice:
“Procrastinate skillfully if you must procrastinate at all”:
1. Respond to important emails. Note that this tip uses the word “important.” Responding to important emails is work that has to be done. If you’re going to waste time, this isn’t a bad way to spend it. Give yourself a time limit and accomplish as much as you can.
2. Visualize your goals. Assuming you already have some well-defined goals, spend a few minutes visualizing your success. It might give a needed boost to your motivation. If you don’t have goals, now would be a good time to make some.
3. Clean and tidy. Clean your bathroom. Tidy your desk. Take out the trash. Mop the floors. If your home or office is a mess, use the time to bring some order and cleanliness back into your life. You’d be surprised how much a bit of cleaning can kickstart your feelings of accomplishment, not to mention the positive energy a clean environment provides. You’ll be amazed how a clean, simple, organized work or living space ignites your feelings of joy and productivity.
4. Pay your bills. They won’t pay themselves. Knock out this important task and get it off your plate. Many people procrastinate when it comes time to pay their bills. So, this is a great activity to perform when you’re avoiding other important things.
5. Read something worthwhile. What do you need to learn? Do you have any required reading for work or a personal improvement course? Read it now. It keeps your brain engaged in a meaningful way.
6. Meditate. Maybe you need to clear your mind. Meditation has so many physical and psychological benefits. It’s a great habit to create. Maybe you’ll gain some insight regarding the cause of your procrastination.
7. Do your shopping. This doesn’t apply to pleasure shopping. This is shopping for groceries or for drywall to fix the hole in the mudroom. What shopping do you need to do in the next week? Get it done today and free up that time later in the week.
8. Call your family. Call a relative you know you should call but haven’t for a while. Pick up the phone and get this important task out of the way. You’ll feel better afterwards. You might find that returning back to the work at hand isn’t as bad as you thought!
9. Update your resume. Maybe you’re feeling uninspired because you don’t like your current employment situation. No problem! Update your resume. You’ve probably been procrastinating on this anyway.
10. Exercise. The latest recommendation is for everyone to get 3.5 hours of exercise per week. How much are you exercising right now? If you’re under the recommendation, you may as well exercise while you’re procrastinating.
Everyone procrastinates, but some people procrastinate much better than others. Avoiding your work doesn't mean you have to waste your time. Simply substitute another important task for the task you should be doing. Not only will you feel more accomplished, you’ll create more balance and well-being in your life because, well...
Work isn’t always the most important thing that should occupy every moment of your accomplishments. In fact, you can accomplish a lot while you're procrastinating. Just make sure you keep it in good balance, then, return back to your primary task as soon as possible.