The art of Procrastivity

People talk about how bad procrastination is, but I think that there is a way to procrastinate productively. I dub this effort PROCRASTIVITY and it helps me to do #ALLTHETHINGS!

Yes, that is a made up word…mind you if we look at the way language evolves it might be a real word soon enough. I digress, but really it’s just the synergy of how my avoidance of particular tasks can actually match up with my goals and deliver more outcomes in less time than you might expect.

To be honest I have a lot of things on the go at any one time. Collaborative projects, writing commitments, grad school, work for clients, hobbies, etc. etc. I do a lot of things in my quest to be a polymath and when I procrastinate I have discovered that I often avoid one work effort by doing another.

What? I decide that I don’t want to do my expenses and say…uhm…spend the time instead of doing my expenses writing a blog or doing research for a client. I’m not unproductive, just producing differently. You might be familiar with the feeling of being struck by a powerful need to clean out your closet when you should be doing your homework, or maybe the urgent need to squeeze in that week of meal prep before you can contemplate going to the gym. If you use your desire to avoid a task as fuel to complete another you can be abundantly productive.

While I have to admit that sometimes I do avoid tasks with the help of my couch and Netflix (I’m human people!) when I am avoiding one thing I am primarily working on something else that adds value to one of my goals.

So often we hear about the downfalls of procrastination. We hear stories of how people struggle to accomplish their basic life tasks and rarely hear positive stories. I’m here to tell you about how the act of deferring one task in favour of another can actually help people to deliver more than they thought possible.

Strategic diversity

In order to master procrastivity you need to make some choices about how you want to grow as a person. From making space to develop a creative skill, growing your career, or investing in a dream, your alternate projects need to deliver value to your life plan or personal goals. By doing this you will be assembling items that regardless of what you pick will be doing something good for you.

Think of it like a menu from your favourite restaurant, no matter what you select, it is sure to be tasty and fill your belly. BUT…… you also cannot and should not live exclusively on junk food anymore than you should limit your goals.

Implementing procrastivity

Make the initial list of everything you want to do and prioritise it. Include all the things that you want to do personally, with your loved ones, and professionally. Do not skip concepts like relaxation, fitness, and time with your family as they need to fit in just as much as getting that new certification or promotion might.

Note: The items on your list do not need to add instant value, but MUST add long term value to YOU (nobody else needs to get anything from your goals). Make sure that you are thinking thoughtfully about the things you are adding to your to-do list and how they might contribute to your overall quality of life and personal goals.

An example of this strategic diversity might be goals like learning a language, educating yourself about your professional field, training for your first marathon, doing your day job, and spending time with your family. While this might seem like a big roster of items you can easily slot them all in if you are aware about what items you can be flexible with and what items you need to stick to a schedule with.

Something like education in your professional field could have complete flexibility because you are reading/listening to content about the topic or maybe taking part in a MOOC. These items can be done in the time you wait in a queue for coffee or when you have a few moments free waiting for transit. Comparatively, things like our day jobs can’t be quite as flexible so you have to slot the other items around them.

Most items sit in the middle zone. Training for a marathon for example might require a certain commitment of hours on the road so you need to find a block of time a few days a week before or after work, while family/partner time might be very flexible about the when and not about the how much so you block most of your weeknights to dedicate to your goals and spend your weekend adventuring with your loved ones.

You also have to accept that the priority must correlate to how much time you can invest in each item right now. Maybe that means that something is not going to get as much attention in the short term because of current demands, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t continue to progress as time allows and may become more focused when something else reduces in volume or effort.

Opportunity for connections

So often when we are in the middle of something specific we develop tunnel vision. We forget about other perspectives or options. It’s not our fault, it just happens.

Procrastivity allows us to see new links between seemingly disparate topics through reflection and new knowledge creation. Personal reflection is often powered by walking away from a task and provides us with chances to let our subconscious brain problem solve as it places the new knowledge into slots in our brains. More often than not something that I have been working on for one thing can serve to inform another when I least expect it.

Learn new things

I know this is a bit overly simplified, but doing more than one thing intentionally helps you to learn and grow as a person. We can never know how a passion to learn to play the guitar might result in finding your dream job because of a connection you make or a place you go. Creating a plan to extend your comfort zone will be sure to drive you forward in more ways than the single skill you are acquiring or developing in that moment.

So, now that you have realised that procrastivity is the way forward what are you going to do about it?

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#Procrastivity for the WIN!

There are also some great to-do lists that can help you to master procrastivity. I really like this one from That’s what she said.

Feeding the seeds around us

I was inspired by a TedTalk that introduced me to the word prevernal a few years ago. Defined as the critical point where something has begun to grow, but is not yet mature. It talks about those early blooms on spring plants and can be used just as easily to describe our growth as people.

Some things can grow despite circumstances, while others begin life at a deficit and must be encouraged if they hope to discover opportunity.

Growth comes easily and naturally to some of us. Breaking through still-frozen ground is something that many can do successfully, but I don’t want to talk about them.

I want to talk about those prevernal people and ideas that need care and support.

Breaking the surface

We must sometimes offer help to others in order to see them achieve what they are capable of. These are the flowers that without someone clearing the snow and offering food to support their growth will never come into being. People need sustenance in this way more than nature might display. It could be because we only see the seeds that manage to break ground, in their effort to flourish and we don’t even know how many perished in the effort to just break the surface.

The word break implies that something must be destroyed in order to have another bloom, and I think that this is really quite true. When we discover change, there is always some lost part of us that lives in the wake of our evolution.

Once the change has occurred, it can no longer claim to be just a seed. The plant has broken through into the earth surrounding it. Both are changed forever. The earth is disrupted and the sprout can never return to seed.

Pollination

Many changes are for the better. So many show us the opportunity for more blooms and growth and with them comes the tipping point. In horticulture, many blooms are not enough on their own and require nurturing in the form of pollination. In people, the same lesson holds true.

You can just as easily stomp out that seed through intention or accident. You must be aware of the seeds around you and make a conscious decision to offer them support for their growth or at the very least stay out of their way.

Feeding the seed

Feeding can happen without being disruptive. It can be something so simple as keeping pests that may attack it away or as complex as daily nurturing and providing sustenance.

As leaders and mentors, we often combine these tools into our approaches. By sheltering that growing seed from negative impact, we are offering them the chance to find their own way. They may never make it out, but you were there to offer them some protection from the elements and enemies.

Through daily nurturing we can help those people and ideas to flourish when they might not have been able to. As individuals, we often think back to some person who offered food to the seed inside us. They told us we were good enough, or that we deserved success and opportunity despite the deficit we come from.

Deciding how to care

People are unique in their needs, but in many cases the same approach will help many, and from there you can customise the care to the individual. Five steps that work for both plants and people are below:

  1. Protect them from pests that may hurt them.
  2. Offer a safe environment to grow in
  3. Provide adequate sources of fuel
  4. Shine some light to help them grow
  5. Don’t try to squeeze too many seeds together or they will fight for space

Great leaders know that growth is a personal experience. It is our responsibility to give back to the world by providing new seeds a chance to bloom. Set those around you up for success and watch your garden grow.

Breakthroughs (The Road to my MBA Post 2)

Late last week my team found it’s groove.  We began to communicate effectively, and discovered that as a group we can really work together to get things done.  We became a high functioning team after a number of challenging tasks were presented for us to complete together.

On more than one occasion I was struck with the idea that I could get so much more done alone, and during those times I could have. What is magical is when the team shifts as a group and starts to produce to the volume of their communal capacity. It took us twelve days to get to a place that many teams may never reach.  It wasn’t easy, but it does say a lot about what effective communication can do to help a group move forward together.

I’ve worked on lots of “teams”, but they were more just groups of people following the demands/requirements that a boss set out for us.  We didn’t collaborate on the best methods or approaches to problem solving, we just did it the way the boss said to.

I can admit that I have also been a”boss” at times when I thought I was a leader.  Instead of having a dialogue with my reports I was mandating that they complete a project or task my way.  Being a leader is an evolution.  You need to grow with your team and take turns following another person’s ideas through so that you can understand what the best way to tackle a problem really is.  You need to do things wrong, so that you really know and understand when you do them right.

Leading means learning and growing, not dictating.