Let’s face it. You’re probably scrolling through your [insert your favourite social media site here] feed right now to kill time, waiting for the day to finally end. That project that you’re working on will get done... eventually. You have a long to-do list and everything seems so important that you simply can’t choose just one thing to get done. Or maybe you just thrive under pressure, so you're waiting till last minute to finish it. You say to yourself: “This is the last BuzzFeed article. The last kitten/puppy/your favourite furry animal Youtube video. The last Lumosity game.” Before you know it, your day is almost over and yet another deadline is staring you blank in the face. And it all started with a five minute break...
It’s ok. I get you, and you’re not alone. We all procrastinate in some degree at some point in our lives.
Whatever the reason for your procrastination, you can be sure of one thing: your habit will never change if you avoid leisure activities thinking that you’ll get more things done!
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
We often tend to overwork because there’s a lot to get done. That’s understandable and sometimes even expected, but unless you’re part machine or a superhero of some kind, you will have the desire to occasionally interrupt your work and engage in some sort of pleasurable activity. Suppressing your need for leisure in hopes that you will get more done will definitely not increase your productivity or allow you to work any harder. It’s just like a balloon: when you put pressure on one side, the other expands to the point where the balloon explodes. When you ignore or suppress your need for leisure, it will only increase to the point where you won’t be in control of it anymore. So instead of taking just a few minutes between tasks to recharge, you will suddenly find yourself at the end of an hour long Youtube spree.
Although it might feel counterintuitive to set time aside for leisure activities, especially when you have a lot of work to do, I can’t stress enough the importance of diverting attention away from work. Writers are usually very aware of this: if you sit with your work for too long you will soon become uninspired and uncritical.
Let’s think a little about the word recreation, a synonym for leisure. It’s made up of the prefix re-, showing a return to a previous state or a restoration, and creation, which comes from the Latin word for making or producing. It’s no mistake that the notion of leisure is so close to that of creation. When you take time for leisure, you are generating a positive flow of energy for yourself.You are actually recreating your passion, your focus and your drive. Taking this back to your work will only increase your productivity and efficiency.
The problem with leisure
The problem with leisure is that it’s just too hard to resist. In her article “Read This Paper Later: Procrastination with Time-Consistent Preferences,” Carolyn Fischer writes that “people like leisure and prefer it sooner rather than later.” She points out that we are more likely to consider the short-time gains of taking leisure time now than the utility costs of having to complete more work later or within a shorter time period. In other words, we are more likely to do what is fun and easy now, and postpone the harder stuff for later, something also known as task aversiveness. Your to-do list is almost never that hard to complete, but you’re just avoiding it for one reason or another, and you should try to understand why you procrastinate.
The goal: leisure without procrastination
By identifying why you procrastinate, you can begin to hash out a plan to avoid this and increase your productivity. It can be as simple as taking a 5 minute Facebook break for every hour you work, or stepping out to get some air at the end of a long period of focused work. Take a night off to go dancing or to your favourite yoga class, or spend your Sunday hiking or barbecuing with friends. Whatever you choose to do, strive for balance!
A happy employee is a productive employee: a few words for managers
If you’re a manager, you can encourage your employees to nurture their interests and passions. Create an environment that is conducive to both high productivity and to leisure. Don’t be afraid that this will negatively affect your employees’ performance. In fact, unhappy employees in the U.S. cost $300 billion per year in lost productivity!
How do you recharge your batteries? How often do you procrastinate? What is your remedy against procrastination?