Procrastination is common not only to freelancers, as you might think, but to every human being. We would hold off on anything that requires us to spend even a tiny bit more vital power than we are already spending on just sitting there twiddling our thumbs. With such a feature put deeply inside into our genes, it becomes challenging to keep motivating ourselves when there is no one to do it for you, which is the case when you are freelancing.
Procrastination and wisdom sound rather conflicting when put next to each other, yet to procrastinate wisely is quite doable and feels terrific, and chances are you have already tried it intuitively. That is exactly what you do while opting to deal with chores around the house rather than meet your deadline on an important task.
The Scientific Explanation of Procrastination
A human can procrastinate about anything, from housework to cooking oneself a quality meal. That fact have made scientists pose the question ‘why?’ And researchers suggest that getting things done, especially pressing matters, makes us uncomfortable in a way that resembles inflicting pain on ourselves. That is, procrastination is viewed as pure and simple natural evasion of pain and discomfort.
More pragmatic researchers tend to see the root of procrastination in the lack of time management skills. That is, when you put off everything till the last minute, truly thinking there is still plenty of time. Regardless of true reasons behind procrastination, a freelancer should learn how to do it wisely not to become broke one day.
How to procrastinate wisely?
To procrastinate wisely is to take control of your destructive habits and learn to benefit from them. According to John Perry, Standford Philosopher, a person who tends to procrastinate can be motivated to carry out a task of any difficulty as long as there is a more difficult and important one on the list.
You might have experienced Perry’s theory when finally deciding to do the laundry instead of completing a more pressing work-related matter. Any work around the house suddenly seems more important. This is a situation especially familiar to freelancers who choose to work from home, and it gets even more pleasant once you flatter yourself: “After all, the laundry wouldn’t do it itself”. One thing to learn is how to do some really important tasks, not just laundry, and make your day work.
Make your day work with wise procrastination
Embrace your weak points: Deep inside you know your personality better than anyone else, and you know what working conditions are comfortable for you. If background music gets you distracted, choose a quiet place to work right from the start. If feeling hungry makes you irritated, don’t fight it, grab a bite and continue working. From the beginning of a working day, establish your comfortable working environment.
Make daily lists: Making a list of tasks sets your mind on working mode and organizes you. Once you write the things down, they become doable and real. It actually frees some space in your brain. It also helps when you break a big task down into smaller ones. So, instead of putting down “complete the article”, you might want to write “write a body of the article”, “write a conclusion” etc. This way, you can take a little break after writing a body without feeling guilty. You might want to get familiar with the Pomodoro Technique and use your kitchen timer to get things done.
Prioritize wisely: Once you put everything on a list, set your priorities and deadlines. “ASAP” and “was due yesterday” are not real deadlines, they literally create panic, discouragement, and are as close to those pain-inflicting mechanisms mentioned above, as they only can be. A proper deadline is a date and time, and as you are the one who sets it, you can make changes if an emergency crops up or just because you are the master of your own time.
Take a break from creativity: When no creative ideas spring into mind no matter how many Pinterest boards you’ve browsed, switch to some boring routine, like doing dishes, filing, or even jogging. Switching between such different types of work is extremely relaxing for your brain and pumps it with creative juices.
Embrace your small wins: Feel like a superhero after completing nearly 80% of your checklist and it’s still before 2 p.m., and you think you can do a lot more. Rather than adding tasks to your checklist, give yourself some small reward and embrace your small wins. We seem to spend way too much energy on chiding ourselves for failures and quite not enough on praising our achievements.
Replay once again: Factories are productive because of repeating the same model over and over again. The same goes for humans. Once you have figured out your working mode, make it a habit of replaying the scenario daily. Remember, even the best mechanisms need maintenance and rest, and your computer tends to work better after a few good words on its productivity.
And if you get a bit creative once in a while with your schedule and checklists, well, go on, as you are the master of your time and of your life.