Procrastination is a sure foil to productivity. This goes without saying. Yet the pressure we put on ourselves to conform can impede productivity just as much.
I, for instance, am not a fan of Mondays. I often ease into the workweek rather than hit the ground running. The common expectation, however, is that one must start working Monday morning, and every morning for that matter, with nose to the grindstone.
I certainly could force myself to abide by the standard “mode of production”–I did when I was working the typical 9-5 job–but I likely would not look forward to doing so every Monday, let alone every day. My work rhythm simply doesn’t match that expectation.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Isa Watson mentions in a recent article, productivity can look different for each person. “Self awareness is the key when it comes to actually getting stuff done,” she notes.
I agree, and that’s why I’ve shifted away from the customary 9-5. Because I know that my most productive hours are from late morning to late afternoon, I structure my workday and workweek accordingly.
Now, not everyone has the “luxury” of adjusting work hours. But even if you must be at your job during such-and-such times, you may still be able to adjust what you do throughout the day to align more closely with your work rhythm.
That’s why understanding what makes you want to work is just as relevant as when you work. To find your most productive self, Watson suggests assessing your work habits: “[S]tart by taking a hard look at the behavior patterns that motivate you as well as the ones holding you back.” Understanding this can help you create a manageable workday, set realistic goals, and overcome feelings of defeat.
To accomplish this, I make a list of all the tasks and projects I must complete during a given week. This list often is quite lengthy. However, to prevent immediate panic, I focus on no more than two tasks (one small one and one big one) on a particular day. I find that if I don’t allow myself this “grace,” I will inevitably become overwhelmed.
And for me, feeling overwhelmed is the precursor to procrastination. When I sense that I have too much to do, I find myself not doing much of anything at all.
“Just get started,” some of you may think.
Here’s the thing. Attacking a task, any task, often is not the answer. As Aytekin Tank explains, “The ‘just do it’ approach works sometimes, but it’s not sustainable. If you’re repeatedly avoiding specific tasks, there’s an underlying reason–and odds are it’s highly personal.” Tank’s article lists four of these personal reasons. What’s important is knowing which is unique to you. You’ll then have a better chance of recognizing the triggers that make you want to procrastinate in the first place.
We all must hold ourselves to deadlines and certain expectations. However, the more we understand our work rhythm, the more we will stop procrastinating and the more we will follow a routine that allows us to work at our best.