Procrastination: It’s not a four-letter word

by | Mar 29, 2021 | Coaching

Everywhere you look it seems you can find articles about how to work when you don’t feel like it, or how not to procrastinate. Inherent in these writings, there are often subtle (or not so subtle) admonishments about not doing that one thing or things on that nagging to-do list.

Is it really about not feeling like it? Or is there something more at play?

If one is afraid to do something, that’s an entirely different story. So is not liking what you need to do. We all have to do things that we don’t like to do and eventually have to get off our duffs and do them.

But what if there is no fear factor? What if we actually like doing the thing that we feel stuck in?

If you’re noodling over a problem, or trying to bust out your next creative product, this is when procrastination can actually be a helpful tool.  Yes, I said it.  Helpful.

It’s tempting to chain yourself to the desk or the laptop and not move until you check that item off the list. Sometimes, in order to go fast, you need to go slow, or to even stop. When we’re not sure what to do next, it is often helpful to walk away from the problem or creative product and deliberately restrict yourself from thinking about it, or working on it.

I was facing a thorny decision recently about how I was going to move ahead on a new offering I’m developing. Every time I sat down to work on it, the same questions and decisions kept surfacing, and I had no answers.  It was frustrating, as the item seemed to blink at me in neon lights from my to-do list. It was really irritating me that I could not think my way out of this.

So I took a break and I would not let myself work on it. I did the laundry, baked bread and went for a very long walk. I completed some client calls and other work and I suddenly found myself coming up with the solution that was previously so elusive.

How did this happen? Purposeful procrastination.

We all know what it feels like when you’re trying to write and you’re staring at a blank legal pad, or that annoying cursor that just keeps blinking at you from a blank Word document. It’s often futile to sit there and keep staring at that blank page, beating yourself up for the remaining item on the to-do list, or having negative thoughts about yourself (e.g. I’m not making progress, I should be getting this done).

Get up. Get moving. Go tackle something different on the to-do list that is still productive and purposeful, but can let your mind wander. You’ll see things from a different perspective and may generate ideas you didn’t see possible before. You might even find renewed interest, energy and self-confidence.  The possibilities in purposeful procrastination are endless…

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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Nancy Jacoby,

Nancy is a registered nurse, recovering hospital administrator and ICF certified coach and consultant. She leads individuals, teams and organizations in growth, development and process improvement to yield sustained change and desired outcomes. 

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Nancy Jacoby, RN, MBA, MHSA, FACHE, ACC  |  212.779.2049  |  Connect on LinkedIn

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