You can read Procrastination For Introverts Part 1 here and Procrastination For Introverts Part 2 here.

If you’re an introvert then your methods of procrastination will likely differ from those of your extroverted friends.

To put off starting, an extrovert may make a phone call and chat, while an introvert might make a simple task into an over-analysed, over-planned, over-engineered nightmare. To dodge work, an extrovert might organise a lunch, while an introvert might organise their desk and bookshelf for the 27th time.

And if you’re a creative introvert, or one who works on your own stuff from home, then you face a whole other level of challenge in order to get down to work each day.

For a decade I’ve been writing for my websites from my home office, surrounded by books I’d like to read and TV shows I’d like to watch and countless other not-work things I’d like to do. So I’ve learned a thing or two about procrastination.

Over the years these insights have shaped the way I work and boosted both my productivity and the pleasure I get from my work. I think they’ll help you, too.

Here are my 4 insights about procrastination for introverts.

4 Insights About Procrastination That Have Changed The Way I Work

Insight #1: Wanting To Procrastinate Is Not The Problem

Insight #1

Wanting To Procrastinate Is Not The Problem

Let’s get one thing clear: starting is hard.

And if starting involves being in your own head with its perfectionism and self-doubt and flagitious overthinking, if it involves facing the existential abyss that is a blank page, then it’s incredibly hard.

Wanting to avoid starting is not only natural, it’s smart. If you always went willingly to a difficult fate then one might question the quality of your cognitive functioning.

No, procrastination is not your enemy – and realising this is liberating. It stops you resisting feelings of avoidance, which are normal. It stops you beating yourself up for laziness or a weak character, which you don’t have. It stops you doing battle with procrastination, which is not the issue, and lets you focus on what is:

The problem is the inescapable reality that starting is just plain hard. 

Blaming your urge to procrastinate for not starting is like blaming your desire to eat donuts for eating too many donuts. Of course you want to eat donuts – they taste good. Wanting to eat something that tastes good and wanting to avoid something that is hard are human nature.

Donuts taste good, starting is hard. Get to the root of the issue.

Resisting procrastination is actually an excellent way to procrastinate. You can google solutions. You can lie on your couch and psychoanalyse yourself while stroking your beard. You can trace it all back to that childhood trauma when someone replaced your choc-chip muffin with a gluten-free kale sandwich.

All of which stops you from getting your butt in your chair and simply… starting.

Don’t waste your time and energy fighting procrastination. Procrastination is nothing more complicated than your mind saying that doing what matters to you is difficult.

Thank you, mind, you are right.

It is difficult. Starting is hard.

Insight #2: Pulling Works Better Than Pushing

Insight #2

Pulling Works Better Than Pushing

No this is not a digression into the esoteric art of knot tying.

I’ve experimented with many ways to motivate myself over the years. When I’ve tried to make myself go sit at my desk and do my work, it’s always been a fight.

But when I’ve felt drawn to that same work, when it’s enticed me, then much of the fight has simply disappeared.

A lot of this comes down to why you’re doing something.

If it’s coming from a place of should then yeah, you are stuck in push territory. This is like taking up running because the doctor says you ought to lose weight after you broke his scales that time. It was one time!

Compare this to coming from a place of want. Taking up running because you want to feel fitter and stronger and enjoy the thrill of a marathon.

(Um, the thrill of a marathon? Who is coming up with these examples? What was wrong with the donuts?)

Another thing that can turn a push into a pull is time. Sometimes I resist work because it’s not fully baked, an idea needs to incubate further. Sometimes your mind knows you’re not ready and is stalling for time.

For me, these are excellent opportunities to go do a combat class, or work on something that uses my brain in a different way. This is a strategy I call proconstructinating.

Insight #3 ‘Proconstructinating’ Is A Valuable Strategy

Insight #3

'Proconstructinating' Is A Valuable Strategy

So what is proconstructinating? It’s procrastinating constructively – avoiding what you ‘should’ be doing but still achieving something useful.

Sometimes I want to avoid the precise thing I know I should be doing. It’s a kind of childishness, or rebelliousness, or maybe it’s just human nature. Whatever causes it, it makes me feel that I really really don’t want to do the right thing.

A while ago I realised I could make this work for me if I set up my work in a cunning way.

So here’s what I do. I make sure I always have a range of tasks to work on, usually a nicely written list on pretty notepaper. I survey my list and identify the task that’s most important. Almost instantly I develop a strange longing to do anything else, so I happily throw myself into one of those other tasks just to escape the main one.

Haha I chuckle to myself, gleefully dodging item #1 on my to-do list while conscientiously making my way through items #2 to #7.

Now if you think this sounds like I’m dealing with a child, then, well what’s your point?

Perhaps you’re more grown up than I am, almost certainly you are, in fact. Still, if you struggle with procrastination then I suspect you, too, have an obstinate little child in you who can be effectively wrangled with strategies not unlike those of the Supernanny and her naughty step.

Once you accept that you have an inner child who doesn’t want to be told what to do, you can provide options that allow you to rebel and still make progress.

I also like to think of this as surfing the motivation wave – giving myself permission to work on whatever I feel like each day, as much as possible. Taking the should out of my work, the pressure, the push, helps me ‘give in’ to procrastination while still being quite prodigiously productive.

And you know what? The cool thing is that once I start making progress, the important task I’ve been avoiding doesn’t feel so onerous, and I often find myself slipping into it without further evasions or tantrums and only the whispered promise of a chocolate bar.

Insight 4: In The End You Have To Be Like Abba

Insight #4

In The End You Have To Be Like Abba

By ‘be like Abba’ I don’t mean you should grab a hairbrush and belt out Super Trouper. Though I’m not going to lie to you, typing the name of that song did make me do just that.

But no, I have something else in mind.

I’ve gone through phases when I’d wait for inspiration to hit before going to my desk. This is also known variously as kidding yourself; achieving nothing; and yeah how’s that working out for ya?

At times when I think my talent is so rarefied that I must wait for the muse to stir imagination to life, I remind myself of an interview I read years ago with the members of Abba. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the songwriters, would have breakfast every morning and then go outside to their studio. There, guitar in hand, butt on piano stool, they would work and work and work. Composing music. Writing lyrics (not even in their first language yet so much better than most of the crud written today).

Muse or no muse. Inspiration or no inspiration. Rain, hail, or snow. Though often snow because after all they lived in Sweden.

They were creative geniuses. Love or hate* their music (*I’m sorry, we can’t be friends anymore), it would be hard to find another body of work where each song is so singular. Other recording artists have many songs that sound similar – often on the same album. I can’t think of two Abba songs that are alike.

You’d think such outstanding creativity would be the product of wild inspiration. Or drug-fuelled invention. But no. It was simply:

  1. Being in the place where the work is done and
  2. Doing the work.

There really is nothing else.

Change How You Think About Procrastination

It's Time To Change How You Think About Procrastination

Don’t let procrastination become a monster with which you do battle, sapping your energy, wasting your time. Procrastination is not the problem!

The problem is that starting is hard.

You can make it easier to start if you acknowledge that starting is genuinely difficult.

You can make it easier to start if you remind yourself why you want to do this.

You can make it easier to start if you let yourself start anywhere, wherever you feel like.

You make it easier to start if you’re sitting on your chair, at your desk, with your fingers on the keys.

In fact, maybe you can go start right now?