Image of a cork board full of post-it notes.

Energise: Solving Procrastination

The rut that is procrastination is all too easy to fall into and difficult to get out of. In recent weeks, I have discussed the causes of procrastination, as well as what it looks like. Now, it is time to discuss solving the problem entirely – and the solution might surprise you.

The blurb on Dr. Ali Abdaal’s book, Feel-Good Productivity, reads “The secret to productivity isn’t discipline, it is joy.”

As Dr. Abdaal explains in his book, we play mostly as children, and as we grow up we are told that there is less and less room for play, or fun, in our lives. Much of that room is then filled in with various metrics – money, power, material wealth, career progression, etc. This paradigm is draining.

Gallup Strengths tells us to operate predominantly within the realm of our top ten Strengths, because those Strengths energise you, reduce stress, and create a space in which you are more productive.

When we think of procrastination, we imagine someone who is lazy, or simply chooses not to work; but this approach closes the door to solving the problem as it ignores the reality of the situation. A procrastinator is someone who is struggling and not experiencing joy. Clearly, there is a place in our adult lives for play, joy, and fun.

As part of solving procrastination, Dr. Abdaal outlines a process, and the first step is Energise, which he then breaks down further into Play, Power, and People.

The word ‘play’ evokes images of being carefree and without stress. Playfulness ends where stress begins. Stress paralyses us, negatively affecting our decision-making, harming our overall performance and productivity, and thus causing procrastination, which is a defence mechanism against this paralysis.

What would your work look like if it were fun? If we could enjoy the challenging projects, and the menial tasks, just as much as we enjoy our hobbies, we would get more work done and to a higher standard. Ask yourself what it is you ‘play at’ – what do you do to energise outside of work? While you may not be able to indulge your hobbies at the office, there is nothing stopping you from finding ways to enjoy your work.

Completing tasks gives people a boost of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, all of which are ‘feel good’ hormones. This creates a positive feedback loop which further motivates a person to do more.

As something that energises, power is about how much autonomy you have in the workplace. What needs to be done? In what order can you complete your tasks? Does each task have a strict order of operations or is there room for creativity? Where and how can you do your work? A cubicle in the office might work for some people, but others will do better when working outdoors, sitting in the sun, and listening to the birds.

During the lockdowns of 2020, the world learned the hard way that many people actually need company. For many, not being around others is difficult. Humans are social beings, we feel safer and happier when surrounded by people we trust, and when those people are co-workers, it opens up opportunities for discussion and collaboration; even introverts benefit from this.

Many people partake in something called ‘body-doubling’, which is when you work alongside someone (either online or in-person). Even if you work in complete silence, or on entirely unrelated tasks, a ‘double’ can provide company and hold you accountable even while focused on their own work.

The best ways to solve procrastination is to make your work more fun and creative, to gain autonomy in the workplace and use it to your benefit, and to work alongside others.

To energise yourself is to stave off procrastination.