Why procrastination isn’t always a bad thing

I have been struggling lately with chronic amounts of procrastination — I’ve tried forcing myself to do things, fighting against my instincts and giving myself severe talkings to. I’ve tried doing something else for a bit (distraction therapy) and then returning to important tasks, only to stare blankly at the screen, feeling grim. After a couple of weeks of this, the frustration became too great and I decided to explore my resistance to certain tasks and figure out why I was procrastinating and if it was possible to beat it.

I discovered that my procrastination stems from three things: uncertainty — when I’m not sure exactly what is expected of me, or I’m not certain of the outcome; boredom — when I find a task deathly dull or routine; and incubation — the most interesting of the three, this is when I don’t do something because I’m not ready, the idea isn’t fully formed or I’m subconsciously figuring out how I want it to turn out.

I’ve come up with a few tricks in order to circumvent the procrastination monster:

Uncertainty:

  • Ask questions; if the task is for someone else, double check exactly what they are expecting (remember: the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask); do your research. If uncertainty of the outcome is your problem, the only way to be certain is to do the task — you can always make changes later.

Boredom:

  • The most difficult one for me! Ask yourself why you are doing this task — could it be that it’s no longer relevant? If so, put it to one side and forget about it. If it really does need to be done, the timer is your best friend. Commit to doing 5 minutes, set the timer and away you go. More often than not, you’ll find yourself absorbed by the time the timer goes off and you’ll be able to keep going. If you’re still struggling, go and do something else for an hour, then come back and commit to another five minutes. Eventually, what ever it is will get done!

Incubation:

  • Just relax — set aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to jot down a few notes or developments, then let your subconscious do its thing. As long as you keep checking in and keeping track, you should find that the idea comes to fruition in its own sweet time. If not, could it be that you’re uncertain, or perhaps bored with the idea? Rinse and repeat as necessary…

So, there you go — I don’t think procrastination is a bad thing at all; it’s just a necessary device to make sure you’re really doing the right things. Being aware of the reasons why you’re doing it is half the battle.

What about you? Can you attribute your procrastination to any of the above, or do you have different triggers? I’d love to know — email me or come chat on Facebook.

Eli Trier is an Artist, Author and award-winning blogger who travels the world writing and drawing and making gorgeous picture books for grown-ups about everything from gratitude to productivity. She spends her days exploring ideas, messing around with paint and counting her lucky stars.

Her latest book The Gratitude Project: A Year of Saying Thank You to The People Who Changed My Life is available from Amazon.

Eli is currently working on a new book, The Creative Compass: An Illustrated Guide to Rediscovering Your Creativity, which is due to be published in September 2015.

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