Your to-do list is bigger than you are. You can’t keep doing this. You’ve got tasks and goals lined up from here to forever. Most of them are dated today and tomorrow. Sure, it’s good to be busy, but not this busy. And not for this long without a break. When’s the last time you stopped worrying about everything?
Desperately struggling to achieve perfect time management and productivity is wearing you out. Let laziness back into your life. I know what you’re thinking: easier said than done, right? There’s so much stuff you have to do, and you can’t just skip it or hand it off to somebody else.
Actually, you mostly can do that. You just have to beat your fear first. Fear? Yep. You’ve got a serious phobia of goofing off.
Embrace Your Laziness
Like you, most Lifehackers are keen to be as productive as possible at all times. There’s a problem with that: humans are not built for 24/7 productivity, and nobody’s perfect at time management every single second. One of the best things you can do to boost your productivity is give yourself a break.
No matter what you’re doing, if you’ve been doing it for more than 30 or 40 minutes, your brain’s getting too accustomed to it. That means you’ll start to make mistakes. A very short break will let you maintain your mental focus, and a longer break will refresh your whole body, as well as your mind.
As for time management, it should come as no surprise to you that if you have fewer things to do, managing your time suddenly gets easier. If you’re genuinely struggling to manage time, rather than energy and motivation, maybe you simply have too many tasks on the go. The easiest way to test this theory is to reduce your to-do list. If that helps, problem solved. If you’re still struggling after halving your tasks, then you’re probably procrastinating. Trouble is, you’re doing it wrong.
When most people procrastinate, they do it in an aimless daze. Sharpen your procrastination skills and you’ll discover that procrastination is a tool, not a problem.
Every time you feel like avoiding a task, look at why you feel that way about it.
- Is it scary, like going to the dentist?
- Depressing or morbid, like drawing up a will?
- Tiring, like cleaning out your garage?
- Do you feel like you don’t know how to begin?
Once you’ve identified the source of your procrastination inclinations, address it. Take a friend with you to the dentists for support. Arrange to meet up with your extended family after finalizing your will. Ask for help cleaning out the garage. Figure out the first step to overcome your initial paralysis.
Get procrastination working for you by telling you how you can make your tasks easier to handle.
The other key thing about procrastinating is that it follows the same principles as the classic productivity advice to “action, defer, delegate, or delete” any task that crosses our path. In this case, the aim is to de-stress by delaying, delegating, and abandoning as many tasks as possible.
Abandon What You Can
Seriously, does this item on your to-do list have to be done? What’ll happen if it never gets done at all? If you can live with the consequences, ditch the task.
Does that sound scary? Are you thinking, “What if it turns out to be important after all?” No problem. Lay that fear to rest by keeping a list of your abandoned tasks, so that you can move them back onto your active to-do list later on if you want to.
Weirdly, some people call this approach a productivity technique while others call it laziness. I say if it works, use it.
Can you get someone else to do this for you? Really? You sure?
Most people overestimate their own importance in the completion of a task. It’s easy to think that your family/business/universe would collapse if you weren’t there working hard to keep it going, but the simple fact is that there’s usually someone else who can handle it. They just aren’t right now, because they can see you’ve got it already.
More importantly, can you find someone to delegate to who’ll perform well enough that you won’t feel disappointed? The biggest delegation screw-up is turning to somebody who’s willing, but not able. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by delegating to somebody just because they’re available. Look for the most reputable person with the most relevant skills that you can find, so that you can relax knowing the task’s getting done right.
Do It Later
No matter what you hear about Inbox Zero and other done-at-first-sight productivity tactics, they don’t work for everybody. If you’re so obsessed with emptying your inbox that you don’t get anything else done, that isn’t a productive day!
Assess the urgency and importance of any tasks you can’t abandon or delegate. Today, do only tasks that:
- need to be done today or tomorrow, like buying more milk before the store closes.
- have a lot riding on them, like revising for an exam or booking your next vacation.
Everything else can be added to your “to do later” list, where it can stay until it becomes important enough to do today (or, ideally, until you find someone to do it for you instead).
How do you feel about laziness and procrastination now?
Don’t let fear of imagined consequences blind you to the real benefits of doing less. Goofing off is vital to your productive lifestyle!