8 steps to procrastinating efficiently

As it turns out, being laid off is hard on your psyche. (So is weaning off your SSRI in the fall, but that’s another post.)

I enjoyed a summer of being in limbo where I couldn’t really get to work on my consulting business. I was on severance, so I couldn’t apply for the state’s Self Employment Assistance Program — as you have to be receiving unemployment to apply for it. I didn’t want to become self-employed before being officially unemployed, as then I wouldn’t quality for unemployment insurance payments. It was a lovely situation, in which I got some business things done and mostly celebrated the summer.

Then came fall. The kids went back to school. I had blocks of time to myself during the day again. I started getting unemployment, I applied for the self-employment program, I was approved. Time to forge ahead!

Yeah. About that.

I’ve done this running-my-own-business thing before and was successful. I know I can do (and am doing) it again. But I realized yesterday that something is different this time.

It’s different when it’s your choice

After Duncan was born, I chose to leave my job and strike out on my own. I had a baby at home who I got to spend my time with instead of days at the office. I did it largely for him and he was my motivation to keep at it and be successful. I wasn’t about to go back to full-time employment.

This time, I was laid off. I was made redundant, let-go, removed from the reduced budget. And, even though I know my work was valued, that it had nothing to do with me personally or was a reflection of my work, it’s still a blow. It’s just about impossible not to think, “But if I was really irreplaceable, they would have figured out how to keep me.” The fact that I haven’t actually been replaced doesn’t seem to assuage my injured heart.

So what can I do about it?

It’s true, I could go out and find another full-time job and have the pleasurable ego-boost of a fancy title and large salary. I know I’m worth it. But I’ve decided — for the kids and for me — that I don’t want to keep going in that grind. I decided that this is a blessing — to be released and given an opportunity to forge a new path.

But the daily forging of that path is proving to be something of a challenge.

Challenges are good, I tell myself. I thrive on challenge. It’s when I grow and become more of myself.

Challenges are also hard. They require new ways of thinking and doing.

Creating structure

The biggest challenge right now is simply focus. Using my time wisely and efficiently. I’ve decided I need structure to meet this challenge. I need to figure out my priorities for spending my time.

When working for someone else, that structure was built into the job. There were deadlines and expected accomplishments — quarterly newsletters, annual appeals to be mailed by a certain date, monthly e-news, events with pre-determined dates and deadlines. Now? Not so much.

I got back on Twitter yesterday – after making a checklist of the work activities I need to accomplish on a daily basis (writing being one of them), that apparently seemed like the most doable.

It’s part of my procrastination technique of productivity. It works very well, if you have enough things on your list.

How to procrastinate well

  1. Make a list, separated into sensible categories, of all the things you need/want to accomplish.
  2. Look at the list for a while.
  3. Choose the least objectionable item.
  4. Do it.
  5. Check it off the list.
  6. Feel accomplished.
  7. Go onto the next least objectionable item.
  8. As new things come up, add them to the list (I like to use a whiteboard).

Over time, there will be something you want to do less than the thing you’ve been procrastinating about the longest, so everything eventually gets done.

This technique has served me well through years of highly productive, high-demand work life. Go forth and make lists! Time to check something off mine.