Q: When is procrastination our friend?
A: When we work on one useful project while avoiding another.
For example, you finish your geometry homework while avoiding writing a book report. (However, you still have to write the book report.)
Project as interesting as watching paint dry? Take a pause and keep after it.
The rest of the time, procrastination costs us in many ways.
Procrastination Magnets. Our lives are full of distractions. To name a few: mail, texts, Twitter, Facebook, people, noise, weather, and a million other things. [Just now I decimated a few bubbles in an addicting online game.]
Shifting Attention. We know that multi-tasking doesn’t really work. What we do is shift our attention from one thing to another. Doing this all day becomes a habit.
When we shift our attention, we lose focus. If we are trying to design, write, plan, or create something that takes more than a couple of minutes, getting that focus back takes extra time.
Here are three useful suggestions for dealing with distractions. Let’s say you are working on something that requires actual thought. And let’s say that you have an impulse to check the weather report. What to do?
- Pause | Notice the Thought | Keep Working. When you are tempted, just pause. There’s a moment between thinking, “Oh, I wonder if it will rain later” and launching the weather app on your phone. You have a choice. You can wait for a break.
- Make a Note. But what if you remember that you should make a phone call or schedule an appointment? It makes sense to capture the thought quickly so you won’t be distracted by keeping it in mind (or worrying about forgetting) while you’re working.
- Track the Distractions. If you catch yourself checking Twitter when you mean to be working, note what captured your attention. Just write a word, like “email” or “Twitter.” This helps to avoid acting on that thought the next time.
We live in a distracting world. Taking just a moment away from a task might seem like a small thing that doesn’t matter. But one small diversion easily leads to another. And it takes time to return all the way back to a productive state.
When we mean to be working and the impulse to do something else comes to mind, we can pause, write a quick note for later, or keep a list of the temptations we want to avoid next time. Little pauses can help us to keep our focus and momentum for the tasks that help us meet our goals.
Book Review | The Procrastination Equation