We recently ran a piece about how to stop procrastinating – but is time-wasting always a bad thing? Sian Meades, founder of lifestyle blog Domestic Sluttery, puts forward a different view...
Procrastination has very bad PR.
It’s a difficult beast. It steals your time. If you spend all day procrastinating, you’ll never get anything done. Except I don’t think that’s true. My website Domestic Sluttery exists because I was faffing about on the internet during a mid-week hangover. I had a massive to-do list that I was ignoring and somewhere in the middle of that, I launched a lifestyle website.
A lot of my ideas happen when I’m doing nothing. Have you ever tried to sit and think up good ideas? It’s really hard. I’m a writer; half of my job is thinking up ideas. Sometimes as soon as I sit down to think some up, my mind goes blank. That’s when procrastination can be a brilliant tool. I’m procrastinating three different projects today.
By doing something totally mindless, we’re let our brains whirr away behind the scenes. I think up ideas when I go for a walk, or when I’m doing laundry (and I know I’m really avoiding work if I’m doing laundry). Once I stop trying to think, my brain start to work.
It’s not just me. Laura Bradley created her vintage emporium Love Miss Daisy because she was daydreaming. “I’m very easily distracted! I’d been working in TV for years but knew I couldn't work for someone else my whole life. I would sit at my desk daydreaming about the future and plotting ways to get out. Even having naps helps me. I’d have an idea while I was drifting off and have to keep a notebook by me at all times to jot things down! I still do it now.”
Often we procrastinate because a job is too big, a task too intimidating. Sometimes I’ll jot down some notes and outline a few issues that I need to figure out and then go and do something entirely different. You’ve taken the pressure off, but your mind is still thinking. You’ve started the motions of tackling something difficult without even realising. It’s not about being lazy or skiving (there is a difference). Here’s how to make procrastination positive:
1. Ask yourself a question.
Ask yourself what’s bugging you? What’s the problem? Then go for a walk, play video games, maybe even have a nap. You’ll be thinking about your problem without realising it. Let your brain do all of the hard work for you.
When I’m thinking, I doodle. I draw silly little pictures that don’t really mean anything. I let myself play. When your mind goes blank, that’s when those lightbulb moments happen and the solution to your problem is suddenly obvious. Sometimes I write absolutely nothing of any consequence. Just words, often in crayon. It looks a bit mental when I’m on the bus, but it helps.
3. Know when you’re beaten.
We all need a break, whether we think we have time or not. You’re not letting yourself work at your best if you don’t give yourself time off. This isn’t procrastinating. This is our brains telling us that Chinese food and a West Wing boxed set is what we need.
Listen to your brain, it’s very clever. It’ll come up with fabulous ideas and excellent plans when you stop forcing them.
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Image: do it - procrastination concept by hang_in_there, available under a CC BY 2.0 license.