It’s 6pm. You haven’t really accomplished anything today … but hey, you needed some time to relax. You took a long lunch and re-watched a couple of episodes of a TV show. You spent an hour or two in a coffee shop, flicking through a few newspapers. You updated Facebook and Twitter and Google+ …
… so why do you feel stressed?
Chances are, you weren’t really relaxing. You were procrastinating: putting off what you wanted to get done because you felt some resistance to it.
Here’s the difference:
Procrastination is unfulfilling. It’s a displacement activity – and you’ve constantly got a nagging voice at the back of your mind reminding you of all those tasks on your to-do list. Procrastination might make you feel a bit better temporarily, but you’ll end the day feeling frustrated with yourself.
Relaxing is restorative. It’s a deliberate choice – not something that you seem to fall into. You relax during scheduled breaks, or when your work is done for the day, rather than whenever you start to lose focus on a task. You’ll not only feel good while you’re relaxing, you’ll feel good afterwards, too.
How to Procrastinate Less …
1. Block any websites that tempt you to procrastinate. (You might even want to shut off your internet connection entirely for an hour or two.)
2. Remind yourself that if you get all your tasks done, you’ll be able to relax sooner. It’s easier to stay on-track when you’ve got something to look forward to.
3. Pick one task to focus on at a time. It’s very easy to end up procrastinating by constantly switching between tasks. (“I’ll just check my emails…”) If you find your attention slipping, remind yourself “I’m working on X right now.”
4. Take regular breaks. No-one can stay focused for hours at a time. Aim to work for 20 – 45 minutes at a stretch, then give yourself 5-10 minutes to stretch, walk around or even meditate.
… And Relax More
1. Schedule in time to relax. You might, for instance, plan to go to a movie on Saturday afternoon – which makes it easier to stay focused on chores in the morning.
2. Make a deliberate choice about what to do. You don’t necessarily need to decide ahead of time – often it’s good to follow the whim of the moment. But do pause to consider what you’d really enjoy.
3. Fight any feelings of guilt. We all need time to rest and recharge. Don’t let other people tell you that you “should” relax in their way: if you want to spend Saturday catching up on TV, and you find that rejuvenating, then go ahead!
4. Set firm boundaries around your work. You might need to do some tasks outside 9am – 5pm (or whatever your hours are) – but try to set aside at least one full day every week when you don’t work at all.
So … will you find time to relax properly today? Let us know your thoughts and tips in the comments!
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