How To Tell If Procrastination Is Ruining Your Productivity

  • Productivity tools and practices can distract you from actually getting work done.
  • Procrastination happens when people feel the need to avoid feelings of failure.
  • Being more flexible and adaptable in your work can help you get more done.

Planning is crucial to productivity. At least, that’s what gurus would have you think. But all the pretty planners, color-coding, and overpriced to-do apps in the world can’t solve the problem of procrastination. Indeed, many people lean on planning as a way of avoiding the work they need to do.

After all, planning feels good and productive. Few things are more satisfying than writing a list or updating your planner. Unfortunately, experts say that spending a lot of time organizing your life can be a sign of procrastination, uncertainty, and perfectionism. Here’s how you can tell if your productivity routine is actually holding you back from getting things done.

You feel anxious while doing your planning

Experts advise that you listen to your gut as you break out that planner. Do you feel like you’re in the flow and able to tackle the tasks on your list? Or do you have a pit in your stomach and feel icky about all that you have to do? If the latter, you’re likely using your planning as a way to control the chaos and avoid the potentially unpleasant tasks you have to do.

Instead, start diving into your work whenever you feel anxious. If you feel most creative and productive in the morning, take that post-coffee jolt and save the email-checking and list-making for later. Don’t let the appeal of “getting organized” distract you from the work that needs to be done. Focus on reflecting at the end of the day: you’ll start to feel more on top of things.

You stack your schedule every day.

Do you identify just a few key priorities for the day, or do you schedule every minute of the day in order to maximize your productivity? Over planning is a sign of procrastination, and by doing so, you’re likely impairing your ability to get things done.

Let’s face it: stuff happens. Meetings run late, you get hungry, tasks take longer than you expected. When you pack your calendar full, you’re removing any capacity to accommodate change — which can cause stress — and you’re forcing yourself into an impossible situation.

Build leeway into your schedule: it may feel like you’re relinquishing control, but the opposite is true. You’ll feel more in control and more capable of tackling your work. Your life will also feel less hectic and scattered, which will make you feel more capable of tackling your to-dos rather than hiding behind your task list.

You craft your to-do list in terms of goals

Setting goals is essential to personal development and productivity — but it can also be a way to hide your feelings of insecurity or avoid the possibility of failure. Many people enjoy the process of goal-setting so much that they forget to do the actual work. You may have read some articles advising you to devote set amounts of time per day for your goals. But life doesn’t work that way. Your to-do list should be flexible enough to accommodate life’s curveballs.

That’s why experts recommend that you set goals, but think of them as guidance rather than rules. Focus on what you can accomplish each day rather than viewing your to-do list as an endless march toward your goals. Make adjustments if needed, and forgive yourself if you don’t meet an arbitrary daily quota.

You’re unwilling to take action unless things are perfect

If you’ve ever planned a project into oblivion, you were a victim of perfectionism disguised as productivity. Many people wait until everything is perfect before taking action. In the meanwhile, the momentum they already have for the project fades. As the saying goes, the ship has sailed, and you find that you spent too much time planning to actually take action.

Be willing to jump in feet-first, and trust that you’ll adapt to curve balls and new information. That’s not to say you should skip essential tasks before launching a project, but it’s okay to work on things as you’re inspired to do so. You don’t have to have the perfect to-do list to get started.

Wrapping Up

To maximize your productivity, resist the temptation to over-plan your work. Filling out planners and making to-do lists feels good, but it’s an excellent method of procrastination that distracts us from actually getting things done.

When in doubt, listen to your gut: do you feel stressed and overwhelmed, or do you feel empowered and capable? If you’re making lots of lists and still feel uncertain, you might be hiding behind your productivity scheme. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and throw yourself into your work — even if your to-do list isn’t perfect.