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5 Ways to Procrastinate and Be Productive at the Same Time

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Sometimes, you need to give yourself permission to procrastinate. This isn’t going to be your average blog post on productivity hacks. I’m not going to promise you a new way to streamline your life, or give you a secret formula for reducing the stress that comes from avoiding the things you know you have to do.

Instead, I’m going to give you a list of several things you can do when you really can’t avoid procrastinating, but you still want to move forward with your goals. We all procrastinate, and there is very little we can do to avoid it. These few tricks will help you get past periods of procrastination with as little pain as possible.

One of the main reasons most people decide to procrastinate is because of a feeling of uncertainty. Uncertainty comes from not having a clear idea of what your goal is or what the best course of action might be to achieving your goals.

The following five practices help me to tune out the noise around me, quiet my mind, and get past periods of procrastination:

1. Write

Writing (or drawing) is one of the best ways to clear your mind and clarify your goals. Often, I’ll get to a point in my day when productivity lulls and I realize I’m staring mindlessly at the computer screen, unable (or unwilling) to focus on anything. In these instances, I’ll take a step away from my computer and write for 10 or 15 minutes.

Occasionally, there is structure to my writing, but other times there isn’t any. The process is therapeutic and can be quite fun. Authors and entrepreneurs the world over from Tim Ferriss to Richard Branson use this technique to help focus their thoughts and outline their next steps on the road to success.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

2. Exercise

Take a few minutes to get some exercise the next time you’re feeling unproductive. It can be anything from a set of 10 jumping jacks or pushups to an all-out 5-mile run.

The point of this practice is to get the blood pumping and help you clear your mind. It’s hard to work about what to do next on a large project when you’re trying to catch your breath after climbing up 5 flights of stairs. Take the time to reset your brain and you’ll be ready to start work again before you know it.

3. Read

I’m not talking about catching up on recent social media posts or the lastest gossip column. I’m talking about reading some good writing. Whether hard copy or digital, fiction or nonfiction, read something that inspires you and teaches you something.

I happen to be a big fan of nonfiction books related to business, but I’m also really into history and biographies of famous historic figures. Whatever you’re interested in, take 15 to 30 minutes to step away from what you’re doing and absorb something substantial that will influence how you think about and view the world.

4. Talk to strangers

This sounds much creepier than it is. Talking to strangers is one of the best ways to reset your mind and get a new perspective on a problem you might be facing in your work or personal life. Go seek out different perspectives from people you don’t know at work, on LinkedIn, even in the coffee shop or at the bar. Ask what they do, what they’re working on, how they feel about what they do.

Listening to others, and showing compassion by caring about what others say, is a surefire way of resetting your mind and shifting your frame of reference when it comes to solving your next problem or challenge.

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

5. Cook

Cooking can be a very meditative process. The concentration required to plan out your next meal, buy the write ingredients and assemble the meal properly requires concentration and creativity. Stimulating the parts of your brain responsible for planning and concentration will help to rewire your brain and streamline your thinking when you start to procrastinate.

No matter which tool you decide to use next time you get stuck or consider procrastinating, remember that all of these exercises are meant to help you reduce uncertainty in the decision making process by helping you clear your head and clarify your thought process.

To be honest, I find myself using these tricks more often than I might care to admit, and I have found them invaluable as I’ve worked to build my own career and launch multiple side businesses.

What are some ways you spend your free time and propel forward at the same time? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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