My name is Zoë Wundenberg and I’m a procrastinator.
I have a bit of love/hate relationship with my Procrastination Monster as it’s brought me my husband (I met him while procrastinating the final essay of my undergraduate degree) and it’s allowed me to hone ‘proven ability to work successfully under pressure’ skills (hello résumé add).
For me, procrastination isn’t all about watching cat videos or trying on my entire wardrobe either. For the most part, my procrastination is productive in that it still yields work product or adds value to me professionally (I heart TED Talks). However, when you’re prioritising all your tasks based on enjoyment and passion rather than commitment and deadlines (like me), things can get a little stressful. So how have I managed to keep my monster in check?
1. Generate and manage a time management plan
My Dad was the head of the Design and Technology department at one of our local high schools and he was ever so proud when I decided to take D&T in Years 11 and 12. He often used me as an example to students (I pity the poor kids) because I took to the time management aspect like a duck to water. When I graduated Year 12 and moved on to university, I implemented the skills I learned in D&T to plan out my semester on a yearly planner so I wouldn’t miss a deadline or assignment. Admittedly, the plan was in lead pencil and many an all-nighter was undertaken, but it was still there and I had something to work from.
Fast forward ten years, and I’m a business owner juggling multiple jobs at once. Keeping track of what I’m doing for each client and when each project is due is a complex and often challenging task. So one evening, I used my Procrastination Monster for good and Googled ‘online time management tools’ and came up with a free online web application that allowed me to create my own chart with removable post-it like notes so I could plan out my week according to deadlines and keep track of what I was doing and for whom (there are lots of options available but I use this one).
It has proven to be an extremely effective way for me to keep my Procrastination Monster at bay because each day has tasks assigned and I need to tick them all off before I reward myself ‘me time’.
2. Set yourself ‘me time’ pockets
Even if I’m overworked and under the pump with piling deadlines and a crazy schedule, I make sure to allow myself pockets of time throughout the day where I can do something I enjoy. I just make sure to set a timer to ensure I’m aware of the ‘leisure time time-warp’ that seems to envelop my office like a bubble whenever I go ‘off-grid.’ Fifteen minutes here or there to Google the next iPhone release rumours, explore latest technology in transaction processing, read an article of interest, or crochet 20 rounds gives my brain the time it needs to reset and allows me to jump back into my work again with renewed energy.
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Refresh, Rethink, Recharge – absolutely justifiable, when controlled.
3. The gold star approach: reward yourself at the end
I often find if I have something to look forward to at the end of completing a project, I can work more efficiently and effectively to achieve my goal. If I don’t fall asleep (because it’s 2am when I get it done and I’m propping my eyelids open with matchsticks), I reward myself with an episode (or three – who needs sleep?) of my favourite TV show while I work on a passion project or do an infographic for my own blog. Incentive drivers can work wonders for repeat victims of the Procrastination Monster.
4. Be realistic about what you can achieve
I seem to have a propensity for saying ‘yes’ to everything and I find it quite challenging to say ‘no’ to helping people who need my assistance. While the ability to say ‘no’ is another blog post altogether, managing my schedule realistically and openly is an easy way around the problem. Instead of saying “I’m sorry I can’t help you”, I say “I’m sorry, I’m booked up this week, however I have some time next Tuesday if that works for you?”
This brings me back to the little web app I mentioned in point one above – it allows me to see at a glance exactly what my availability is in terms of work time and how I can and can’t fit additional requests in. Being realistic here can help me to avoid the feeling of overwhelm by logically and systematically scheduling my work over the week and reduces the Procrastination Monster triggers dramatically.
Most of us have a procrastination bone, but some of us are better at suppressing it than others. I think the heart of my ability to stay on track as a sole trader without a whip-cracker standing over my shoulder is honest passion for what I do and a real desire to help my clients reach their goals. Holding myself accountable to the deadlines I set is a vital part of this and while I do sometimes fail to do this, it is usually due to unforseen reasons such as illness or accident rather than the Procrastination Monster.
My biggest battle with the Monster? It’s sleep! Rather than keeping me from doing my work, the Monster keeps me from sleeping as I stay up as late as it takes to get the work done! So remember this: ‘productive procrastination’ is still hazardous to the health, but if managed appropriately, random and spontaneous forays into productive un-prioritised work product (as I prefer to call it), can be a positive part of your work day.