Watch out for the Procrastination Pixie

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 18th March 2015

My most important priority today was my hardest priority. I had set myself the task of starting a complex whitepaper, which held enormous value but needed some deep thinking and writing. I had a couple of meetings in the morning, and a few emails to send, but had blocked some time over the lunch period to work on writing.

Because I had blocked the time out in my calendar, I stopped what I was doing when the alert popped up, opened the document, and set to writing. The first thing I needed was a quote to open the paper. As I went to search for a good quote to use, the Procrastination Pixie came to visit!

Forty-five minutes later, I found myself on the floor putting together an office stool I had bought over the weekend. As I screwed in the final leg, I realised that this is not what I should be doing. I was meant to be writing the whitepaper! How on earth had this happened?

As I sat there, I ran through what I had done in the last forty-five minutes. It seems that on looking for the quote, I saw an online post worth reading, and commenting on. I then realised I needed a coffee, so I popped next door for a takeaway. I then made a quick call, and on hanging up I decided to put together my new stool. All without once being aware that I was procrastinating. It was like a Procrastination Pixie had come and taken over my mind, and mischievously diverted my attention to less important things. I was honestly gobsmacked at how easily I had been diverted from my most important task.

How often does the Pixie come to you?

Procrastinating is human, and happens to all of us. The most productive people catch themselves and manage the procrastination.

If you want to avoid procrastinating about hard, complex or distasteful work, try the following:

  • Schedule this work in your calendar and be specific about when you will do it

  • Work for short periods on complex work. They reckon 45 minutes is optimal

  • Turn off interruptions – email, phone and people (book a meeting room and hide)

  • Recognise the work you are likely to procrastinate about and actively commit to staying focused

  • If you catch yourself being diverted, stop the other work immediately and get back on task

This is a true story. It happened today. Many of you will be pleased to know that I am human!



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