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How to Beat Your Fear of Laziness and Procrastination

How to Beat Your Fear of Laziness and Procrastination

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.

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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.

Procrastinate Productively

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.

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  • 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.

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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.

Delegate Responsibly

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.

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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:

  1. need to be done today or tomorrow, like buying more milk before the store closes.
  2. 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!

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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