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In Forge. More on Medium.

A counterintuitive strategy for getting back on track

Photo: Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

Surely I’m not the only one who has found it difficult to focus and work efficiently recently, by which I mean for the past year or so. But I’ve also discovered an unexpected trick for getting work done in difficult times: You don’t need to find your own productivity if you can borrow it from someone else.

I’m not talking about some kind of dark magic where I transfer my procrastination to others. The alchemy I mean is the burst of energy I can get simply from watching TV. …

⚙️ Today’s tip: Identify the emotions around procrastination.

Procrastination isn’t always a time management issue. Sometimes, it’s an emotional issue.

Pick a task you’ve put off. Ask yourself how you feel when you think about it. Now, connect that feeling to your procrastination. What about this task is making you feel that way?

Want to be free of that feeling? There’s an easy solution. All you have to do is complete the task. And now you’re free.

⏱️ More from Forge on managing your time:

How to Have Higher-Quality Leisure Time

The Most Meaningful Thing You Can…

What would you get done if you only had until 10:30 a.m. to work today? Do that first.

Photo illustration; Image sources: © Eggy Sayoga/Francesco Milanese/Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush/EyeEm/Getty Images

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an incredibly useful thought exercise I’m calling “the 10:30 a.m. question.” It occurred to me when my part of Pennsylvania got hit with a heavy winter storm one Wednesday. The forecast called for snow, heavy winds, and ice, and the power company warned of potential outages. I worried I’d only have until mid-morning, 10:30 or so, to work.

Like most people who work from home, I rely on my internet connection. …

Seven tactics from the ancient world that have stood the test of time

Marcus Aurelius writing philosophical advice to his son. Photo: Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The Roman-era Stoic philosopher Seneca once joked that the one thing fools all have in common is that they are always getting ready to live but never actually do.

That was 20 centuries ago. For tens of thousands of years, people have been procrastinating just like you do today: They put things off, delayed, made excuses, and wished their deadlines would disappear. And just as it does with you, this caused them anxiety, made them piss off their colleagues and families, and, worst of all, wasted time.

Fortunately, unlike our ancient counterparts, we have ages of wisdom to help us…

Bored man procrastinating from work by playing with motorcycle model.
Bored man procrastinating from work by playing with motorcycle model.
Photo: Michael Blann/Getty Images

Yesterday, I saw this Instagram post by the illustrator Liz Fosslien, shared it with the rest of the Forge team, and then… procrastinated writing anything about it.

Why? It’s right there on the chart: I didn’t know where to start.

When we put things off, it almost never makes us feel easy and unburdened. The therapist Kathleen Smith has written that procrastination, at its core, is a relationship problem — that worrying about how our work will be perceived can drive us to avoid it altogether. …

Procrastination is often about insecurity

Illustration: Justin Cassano

Dear Laura: I seem to thrive on time pressure. Whenever I have a big project, I find myself putting it off until the last possible minute. Then I race to get it done. I worry this isn’t healthy long-term. What should I do?

Everyone puts things off from time to time. Sometimes it’s just smart time management: Not everything needs to be done right this minute. Procrastination, on the other hand, has a specific and negative definition: It means delaying a task even though you know doing so will make you worse off.

This is almost always what is happening…

I stopped putting things off when I learned to see life as one big deadline

Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a procrastinator. Whereas a disciplined person’s workflow might look something like this:

Protect your most important tasks from getting tossed into the perpetual ‘someday’ file

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The writer Shane Parrish, perhaps best known as a self-improvement guru for the Wall Street crowd, recently tweeted, “The four most dangerous words to accomplishing your dreams are: ‘I’ll do it later.’”

If you’re someone who hasn’t started that new crocheting hobby you bought supplies for five years ago or made any headway on the proposal for that project you wanted to pitch to your boss, these words may strike a chord. We’re often so busy tackling our daily must-dos that our wish-to-dos, the endeavors that give our life pleasure and meaning, get put off — sometimes forever.

At times…

Fear of disappointing others is an enemy of productivity

A young businesswoman looking bored while working at her desk in a modern office
A young businesswoman looking bored while working at her desk in a modern office
Photo: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

Martha’s New Year’s resolution was to start therapy, but she didn’t show up to my office until April. In her defense, she came in to talk about her trouble with deadlines.

Martha, who worked remotely as a pop-culture reporter for a popular website, told me in our sessions that her biggest challenge was procrastination. Her job had become uninteresting, and she would delay an interview or rewrites on an article until she convinced herself that there wasn’t enough time left for the article to be great. This generated anxiety, which further fueled the procrastination. …

Sometimes you just need to do a bad job. Here’s how.

Credit: erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty

Just get it done, in all its iterations — just write 500 words, just run for 20 minutes, just send the email — usually seems like sound advice. And it can be when you’re procrastinating because you don’t want to do whatever it is. But sometimes the point when you actually sit down to do something is precisely when the problem starts: When the only way you know how to do something is perfectly, it can feel too overwhelming to begin.

For self-proclaimed perfectionists, in particular, the desire to get something right on the first try can be so powerful…

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