Procrastination Mode

June Swinging1

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh man. I can not seem to get a handle on this week. I had three possible posts on the schedule for today (one about the stools we recovered, one about the cottage in France, and one about last week’s Alt Summit), with plans to write two of them. And now it’s almost 4:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t written anything at all.

The week after Alt Summit can feel like this, so it’s ridiculous that it still surprises me, but here I am, surprised yet again. I’ve been trying to figure out what threw me off this week and concluded that some of it is playing catchup after being gone, some of it is processing what I learned and experienced last week, and some of it is adjusting to the summer schedule with the kids home. Combined, it definitely feels like I’m falling into procrastination mode.

June Swinging2

But. I really, really can’t be in procrastination mode! I’ve got kids and commitments and deadlines that need attention. So I’m trying to remember my best methods for getting back to work. Alas, I’m coming up short.

Help a girl out, please! If/when you find yourself in procrastination mode, how do you get out of it? Tips, tricks, and techniques all welcome! : )

P.S. — I love these images of June practicing the particular skill of lifting oneself onto a swing. She’s officially a preshooler! Also, did I tell you she’s had a big haircut since these photos we’re shot? I need to share pics.

43 thoughts on “Procrastination Mode”

  1. ok, this is not a tip but i read some research that there’s no such thing as procrastination. what you’re really doing is prioritizing. and prioritizing other things besides work means that is more important to you now. when you think of it in those terms, it’s quite liberating.

  2. Jen, I love that comment! Thanks for such a helpful way to reframe procrastination. I think we’re often prioritizing rest, but we don’t actually give ourselves the space to just take a nap (rather than fret at a desk while not actually working).

      1. I think prioritizing rest after a big event like Alt Summit should always make the schedule. That and lots of down/debrief time/coffee chats with family and friends. My mom has a client and friend who is an artist and after every big show or gallery opening the artist gets physically sick and down in the dumps after the high of her previous event. Though she has been a professional artist over fifty years she still hasn’t learned to prioritize her own rest and care. May we all learn our own lesson of it sooner.

  3. Oh, man, I’ve been having the same issue this week, and I definitely do not have the excuse of organizing a major conference last week! Sometimes just getting out of the house and working from a coffee shop is a good strategy to make myself work (and not connect to wifi where I could get distracted). I think you deserve a week of rest after what you just accomplished.

    1. I noticed her shoes too. That’s the detail in these pictures that screams “preschooler” to me.

      As for getting back into gear when I’m in procrastination mode, I find that breaking down what needs to get done and making a list of small manageable tasks helps me. Nothing on the list is difficult or overwhelming, and by the time I’ve accomplished a couple of them, I’ve remembered how good it feels to get tasks checked off my to-do list, and that’s motivation enough to keep going, or even take on bigger projects. Good luck finding what works for you!

  4. One tip is to set a timer to 15 minutes and commit to focusing on one task until the timer goes off. Once you’re into it for 15 minutes you may have found your groove and want to continue. If not, come back to it later for another 15 minute try. I’m so distracted by multitasking that sometimes forcing myself to commit to a single task helps focus the mind.

  5. Ah, I know this feeling well! I find the best way to cope is to give in to it, at least as much as you can. Put aside an afternoon or an hour or however long you can spare, and just make it about you. Be totally indulgent and relax. Then when you’re done, you’ll hopefully feel refreshed and ready to start back.
    It’s really important to take a step back from things once in a while, to give your brain a moment to reboot. :)

  6. This is what seems to work for me and I even used it today – I think what is the easiest thing I have to do right now. The job that takes the least brain power and I could do without thinking. I start with that and I feel as I work my way through a few menial jobs (sometimes just clearing a counter off of paper work) it inspires me to keep going and just do one more small job. Before I know it I have accomplished more than I planned. Getting on that roll is the hardest part.
    And I always have a list. My husband laughs at my lists but they help me a lot.

  7. You need to clear your mind after such an intense week. Cut yourself some slack! I finally finished teaching yesterday (am/pm K) … My own kids finished school 2 weeks ago. I did NOTHING today… Was completely exhausted. I understand! You do need to post pics of June’s haircut soon though! Wondering if she got bangs:)!

  8. Give yourself permission to rest….kids, careers, conferences, etc…are emotionally exhausting. Eat well, hydrate, and make a doable to-do list. I choose one extra thing to tackle a day beyond keeping kids alive, fed, and entertained. Work from a place of rest;)

  9. I’m not much of a procrastinator, but I think it has more to do with attitude than anything else. Everything is done in its own time, and other than lazing around in bed all day eating bonbons (although that sounds quite attractive to me right now!), getting up and facing the day with some amount of cheer and gratitude is good enough. I imagine the things you need to do and want to do will happen in the order that they’re supposed to!

  10. I often find that getting outdoors usually helps me sort myself out with moving forward and onward with my goals! Breathing the fresh air for even just a walk to the mail box is refreshing!

  11. I sit down and slowly visualize doing each little step of what I need to do (in sort of a feeling way, like I almost feel myself doing each little step)..this really works for me!! especially when I’m tired..all of a sudden I find myself jumping up and doing what I just visualized..

  12. I’m a big list maker. I also subscribe to the ‘do this for just 10 min’ philosophy. Another thing I’ve learned is calendar blocking. I literally block out time on my calendar in whatever increments I need to do those tasks. It looks a bit nuts on my calendar, but it helps! And then I know that after I do xxx, I have a break where I can do whatever I want (or nothing). Visualizing it helps me.

  13. Procrastination is one of my greatest weaknesses! I find that determining my least favorite task then choosing a reward (ie an iced coffee, baking that dessert I’ve been wanting to try, setting aside an hour to read a good book) that I will enjoy after I complete my hated task often motivates me to get started. Then once my to do list is cleared of the hated task, I am more excited to get to work on the rest of the list.

  14. I have no tips for you, as I seem to live my life in procrastination mode (ugh). But I wanted to tell you how adorable that girl of yours is. I love that her shoes are on the wrong feet. So cute.

  15. Sally from Little Hiccups

    I don’t have any tips either but I certainly know how you feel, especially this week. Our first week of Summer vacation was filled with playing tour guide (and tourist) with my parents visiting from Australia. Now that they’ve gone home I have so much to catch up on but can’t seem to get started. I feel like my brain needs a rest from all the excitement of the last week which, combined with the kids being home and a newborn keeping me up at night, has left me feeling drained. I imagine you’d be feeling the same after Alt – minus the newborn bit ;)
    My plan for tomorrow is to try and throw myself at it and just get started on the most important things on my list. Then again seeing as I’m up writing this at 4am I won’t get my hopes up too much!

    1. Sally from Little Hiccups

      P.S. Looking forward to seeing June’s haircut. I’m sure she looks adorable. My three year old finally had her first “successful” haircut just a few weeks ago but despite the fact that she had inches cut off it still looks the same! Oh, and I say “successful” as every other attempt has resulted in tears and us leaving the salon with nothing done.
      I hope June isn’t scared of the hairdresser too.

  16. Ok so I’m blaming the procrastination on the Summer…..I have been having the same problem, on top of everything else I am also pregnant so I am also blaming my laziness on that, I’m sure one of these days I will wake up and be motivated to get everything done on my list but today is not that day :). So for now I’ll just tell myself that I am prioritizing.

  17. I don’t know if you’ll want a link, but philosophers and psychologists do work on procrastination. There are a few tips from the ancient world you could try. They offered up three different strategies (all at odds with each other!)

    Procrastination (which only counts as such if you feel bad about it) has always been a problem. I could not love your blog more, by the way. It’s so wonderful. Thank you for it.

  18. I find that’s what happens to me when I get overwhelmed. It’s funny though because I think I’m way more productive when I have a lot on my plate, but when I do get in a rut, being so busy can make it tricky to overcome. I have to remove myself from what I’m working on and just call it a loss for that day and plan to start again the next day. That, and I make lists of things I need to do. I have so many lists!

  19. I remember a particular lecture at a training before I embarked on a new career. The speaker emphasized that our bodies and minds will naturally “take a break” after intensive periods. He encouraged us to plan for it, and not to mistake what it was. Practically, that meant that after we had a major event that required big changes in our schedule, extra hours, and sharp thinking for extended periods of time, we would do well to just go ahead and plan for a low time in the few days following.
    This meant that we gave our staff extra, mandatory days off after these events. It also meant that we delayed major decisions, planning meetings, etc. during the week after a big event. The trainer encouraged us to not be confused into thinking that something was wrong with us because we had these low moments. Rather, when we could see it as our body and mind doing what keeps them healthy, we could find ways to work that into our planning schedules. This helped us stay sharp and focused over the long run.
    I’m no longer working, but my husband is. His staff has one of their biggest events of the year this weekend. Next week, they’ve already been given an extra day off and they are encouraged to use flextime over the next couple of days. There will be a lot of follow up work from the event, but they’ve already made arrangements for that to either be done on the day by temp staff or later in the week. That way, no one feels like they have to be in the office pushing work through. They know they are expected to rest, decompress, take care of personal things that were pushed off because of the business leading up to the event, etc.

    It’s not rocket science, for sure. Probably more psychiatry than anything else. I do think that those of us who are able to multitask a lot, keep high energy most of the time, handle intense schedules, etc. have a hard time planning in a break or listening to our body and mind when they are telling us it’s time for one. That lecture 12 years ago “gave me permission” to do that, realizing I would be more productive and effective in the long run if I did.

    Well, that’s my take on it!

  20. julia g blair

    You deserve to have a rest. And you can rest on your laurels!!! You’ll know when
    they start to feel itchy! So proud of you and the marvelous things you accomplish!

  21. Oh how I love seeing pics of Baby June!
    Cut yourself some slack, you’ve done a lot! Take some time to recharge after ALT. if you must work, I find that making a list, and then picking the top 3 that I want to get it done helpful. Some suggest categorizing the items on your list by priority. All “A” items are important (to you), “B” items are important but not necessary, and “C” items are nice to do but not important…something like that! Good luck, don’t worry, and rest! xo

  22. I am so in this right now! Ugh! This is what I do. If you have a microwave or the timer on your phone, set it for as many minutes you think you need to regroup. When the timer goes off, grab a pencil and paper and make a list and then check things off as you get them done. I keep procrastinating on cleaning out the guest room closet. I’m doing it but I give myself little breaks. Why does stuff get put in there anyway?!! Now I need to go buy hangers at the dollar store! Bye!

  23. I think I’m in procrastination mode as well and am loving these tips! Setting a 15 min timer is a good idea, sometimes a to-do list works for me, but right now I am feeling that sun shine in through the windows and listening to the birds calling each other and wondering what I’m doing inside!
    Hope you’re having a good Friday, Gabrielle :)

    (June is adorable! Can’t wait to see haircut pics)

    1. I totally use the time trick. For the next 15 min (or 30, whatever) I am going to focus on _____ and nothing else. Then I take a break, then reset. Focusing for smaller periods of time is easier and helps me eliminate distractions.

  24. My grandmother always said you can do anything for 15 minutes. It always seems like such a reasonable amount of time that even things that seem insurmountable (eg. Slip covering my living room furniture) get done. It did, however, take me 9 months in 15 minute increments:)

  25. I love all of the advice to actually schedule rest time. That totally makes sense. It’s like after having a baby, you schedule that time to do nothing except take care of the baby, nothing else. Why shouldn’t we do the same with other big events in our lives. Schedule that rest time!!

  26. I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator. Awful. The only thing I’ve found that works for me is to make a long to do list of very small, very specific tasks. Even if it’s for a large project, I break it down into small pieces so I can convince myself it’s not as overwhelming as I think and feel accomplished when I can check off little things as I go.

    Oh and music. I always need music on if I’m going to get any work done.

  27. I am a very recent convert to the belief that feeling unable to move forward means that not enough rest and self-care has been done and that it is needed. Working with a coach this year she demands that I schedule in very specific self-care activities every week & she follows up. I feel much happier about my life when I am tending to those things and I am also more efficient at everything I do — plus I prioritize a lot better too. I do less and am happier.

  28. I had to smile reading this post because so often I read blogs and check Facebook when I am meant to be working! So here I am gearing myself to work but reading your blog in bed :) I love the 15 minute rule – a friend of mine runs and she is full of tips which I try very hard to follow. Now I really do need to get up, clean my office and start work…

  29. Interestingly enough, Americans use that word a lot more than in France where almost no one knows what it means! I guess we just use “postpone”, “wait”, “hang out” “do stuff instead of working ” etc
    I guess I procrastinate a lot, but that’s only because I work better “au pied du mur”, literally “at the foot of the wall”. I keep doing it, while regretting it when the adrenaline hits, but I can’t change, that’s who I am! Embrace procrastination!

  30. I think Jen nailed it. We all need to not be so hard on ourselves for postponing, taking a breath, waiting and relaxing. Yesterday evening I walked to the grocery store while my husband fed and bathed our daughter. I picked up a few things we needed and as I walked home I was overcome by this whole body tiredness. After four weeks of non-stop house guests I’d finally had a few minutes to stretch and breathe and really listen to my body. It was saying very clearly, “Can you please slow down a little bit? Can you turn off that brain? Put down and laptop and let yourself relax.”

    It is so easy to feel that giant mental list we carry around prick the edges of our brains and scream, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” Sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to stop.

    Plus I have a few strong feeling that although it feels like procrastination to you, you do have the time and space to take this breather before your deadlines hit and no one has any clean underwear left.

    I have decided to reveal in the days I decide to “play hooky” from it all.

    Best of luck!

  31. I experience this feeling often after a vacation. My mind has so much to think about, it leaves little time for actual doing. I notice it as a pattern and forgive myself for a week of un-productivity. It takes my mind and emotions time to process what’s going on in my life, once vacation changes my perspective. I journal a lot more, order a lot more takeout, do my self-care things, sit and just FEEL and tell people who care. Take time to meet an out of touch friend for lunch. I crave the kind of food that helps brain growth, and forgive myself for eating too much pizza and hamburgers. There is always a moment when things finally switch back in to gear. And I end up making up doubly for lost time. But not because I guilted myself into getting things done. It’s because I looked up and realized i just spent the last two hours scrubbing the entire house.

  32. I just start small. Instead of tackling the whole pile, which seems like mission impossible, just tell yourself you’re going to do one small thing. Then when that’s done, one more, and so on. Once I get moving, I find that it’s fairly easy to keep moving.

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