Procrastination Isn’t the Reason You Can’t Get Things Done
Once you stop framing procrastination as the problem, you can finally adjust your habits and own your time
I am a lifelong procrastinator. It has fueled some of my best work and has also caused me a boatload of guilt and anxiety. And I realized, after more than a decade of deadline-driven work, that it’s not my main time management problem. In fact, it’s not really a problem at all.
The reason that my to-do list is never completed and that I never feel like I am getting enough done has far less to do with procrastination than with my chronic habit of overcommitting to work, and then underestimating how long that work will take me. Recognizing this, and adjusting my habits to address it, has transformed the way I structure my days.
More significantly, it has radically changed how I think about myself and my work habits. When I focused on my tendency to procrastinate, and took that on as an identity, I felt so much anxiety around the task at hand that it made me even less likely to dive in and start it. Once I understood that trying to do too much in too little time was the real problem, that dynamic shifted. Labeling myself a procrastinator is a prime example of fixed mindset — the idea that we are inherently good, or bad, at certain tasks or disciplines. Reframing my time-crunch allowed me to embrace a growth mindset, identify solutions, and ditch the guilt and anxiety. Here’s how I got there and how you can, too.
Recognize your work—all of it
In the shower one morning, I had an epiphany. All those moments when I’m supposed to be writing, but I instead get out of my seat and weed the garden, or vacuum, or prep for dinner, or stand in front of the refrigerator wondering why there are no good snacks inside? That time is not wasted. That’s the time when I let my brain unfocus so that creative thought can flourish.
All of these activities activate the default mode network in the brain. “The common thread in these activities is they are physically or mentally active, but only mildly so,” Nick Stockton writes in Wired. “They also need to be familiar or comfortable enough that you stay engaged but not bored, and last…