We often see procrastination as a bad thing, something that stops us getting tasks done and ultimately leading to stressful last minute deadlines. Some people actively describe themselves as procrastinators. And even if you don’t you can probably think of a time or two when you have indulged. For me it’s usually over things like doing the washing up or hoovering - I think I could potentially procrastinate about them all year - if I let myself!!
So, why and how might procrastination be a good thing?
I want to look at the power of focused time. If you spend 30 minutes focused, distraction free time, could you achieve more than you would in two hours of interrupted time? From personal experience I know that I can. It’s slightly scary when you do a repeat task and suddenly find you’ve completed it in half the amount of time it took you last time. This hits home hardest for me with marking. With focus and deliberate speed I can mark an essay (1000 words) and write the feedback in 10-15 minutes, but I also know that I can easily spend half an hour or more on it. Is this just me, or can you relate to this amazing time difference in productivity?
According to research (Dr Gloria Mark) interruptions occur up to four times an hour in the average work day, but interestingly it is not only external interruptions that are to blame. They found the 44% of interruptions are self inflicted by workers changing tasks before the one they are working on is finished. The problem with interruptions is obviously time loss, whether they are caused internally or externally. And this leads to higher stress levels and frustration as people try to make up the same amount of work but in half the time due to all the distractions.
This is where procrastination could come in handy!
How can we stay focused on one task until it is finished without allowing ourselves to be distracted and wander onto another task.
I’m guilty of my mind wandering and then finding myself absentmindedly sliding the unlock screen on my phone actually looking for a distraction!! Really bad - I know!! But I always believe that awareness is the first step in breaking a bad habit. I now will do things like put my phone on the other side of the room so I can’t just pick it up and distract myself. This can be great when I really need to focus on a task. The other element of preventing self distractions comes down to a little Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment and being able to focus on one thing. Quite often mindful practice is about focusing on the breath. But if we can be mindful about our thoughts, when we notice they have wandered or feel that urge to flick onto Facebook, quickly do the hoovering or strum a guitar, we can be present enough to notice what is happening and gently guide ourselves back to complete the task we started.
Even if your distraction is another work task, it seems that it is a more efficient use of time if we can stick with one task and finish it rather than jump around. Could we literally use procrastination to our advantage? Well, maybe…
Procrastination is essentially putting things off until another time. Often choosing easier tasks over harder ones. But could we deliberately put off all tasks until we have completed the ones we are working on? A twist on procrastination, I know - but worth a thought...
External distractions and solutions:
There are of course the external distractions which account for the rest of our time loss. But there are some simple things we can do here:
Internal distraction solutions:
ENJOYING THE BLOG? YOU CAN GET THIS CONTENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX WITH OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER.
SIGN UP BELOW
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.