Intent – The Difference Between Procrastination and Time Off

Everyone knows there’s a difference between procrastination and time off.  But what exactly is it, and why do we need to understand the difference.

Procrastination and time off are two sides of the same coin.  So much so that often they can encompass the same activities.  Games, reading, fiddling with design, consulting sessions, e-courses, even blogging could all be a variety of activity types, ranging from critical importance, to disastrous procrastination.  It’s essential to understand where any given activity lies when you are doing it.  This helps you continue to make progress on the things you deem important.

And that’s just it.  It’s the things you deem important.  Fixing your sidebar during your peak creativity period is procrastination as surely as  playing puzzle pirates when you have a blog post to publish is.  Playing Puzzle Pirates after you’ve finished the first draft of the post and want to let it sit for a while, is time off.

The difference can be summed up in one word.  Intent.

The intention behind an action makes all the difference.  Now, don’t go thinking that this gives you permission to skive off all day and look back and go, but I intended to play World of Warcrack non-stop for 12 hours.  You’ve got to set the intention before you start.

There is a simple way to be able to evaluate the intention throughout the day, but it takes a little prep work.  Before you do anything, look at what are the three most important things to do that day, and number them in order of importance.  You don’t put time estimates here, sometimes these are way under what is actually required and racing to finish something just to fit into an arbitrary time estimate is never a good plan.  Of course, if something has to be finished by a certain time, a note of that time is useful.  Additionally, put down 2 or 3 time-off activities and set times for these.

At any point during the day, you can look at what you’re doing.  If it’s the most important thing left on your list, you are very clear that it’s intentioned.  If you’re doing one of the time-off activities and haven’t exceeded the preset timelimit for these, you can justify that it’s not procrastination, as long as you’ve made progress on the important stuff. (If you’re using Firefox, leechblock is a particularly useful addon for this.  It does take a little time to set up properly, but it’s time well spent)

You know have an idea of the difference between procrastination and time-off, and a way of determining which it is, but why is this important.

Knowing when you’re taking time off isn’t all that critical.  Knowing when you;re procrastinating is.  Not so you can beat yourself up for not having enough willpower.  Often, willpower has nothing to do with it.  You procrastinate for a fairly specific reason.  Often it’s hidden and rooted in resistance, but understanding that you are procrastinating is a huge first step in getting past it and moving on with the important things.

Tune in tomorrow when we talk some more about the Procrastination beast and his sometimes misguided sense of loyalty.

2 Responses to Intent – The Difference Between Procrastination and Time Off
  1. Lisa Valuyskaya
    August 31, 2010 | 2:21 pm

    You’re spying on me, aren’t you? Well, I’ll have you know I totally intended to refresh my Twitter stream a billion times!

    Ok, ok, fine. I’m gonna go write up more of that thing that I’m totally excited about. But also kinda scared. But I bet you knew that.

  2. Gareth
    September 1, 2010 | 3:49 pm

    You do that too? I start to get annoyed that no-one has tweeted in the last 50 milliseconds since I last refreshed. That’s when I know it’s time to step away from the computer.

    There’s nothing wrong with being excited and scared. I’m terrified about this whole task force. Of course, if I wet myself I can claim it’s because I’m so excited I just can’t control it. (amazing how similar those two feelings are)

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