Procrastiworking: How to Recognize it and When to Stop

Procrastiworking. Do you do it?

If you’re a goal-getting high achiever, chances are you do.

And what’s more, you might not even know it!

But let’s back up for a minute.

What in the world is procrastiworking anyway?

Simply put, procrastiworking is avoiding the project you need to complete with a different productive task instead. 

It’s organizing your desk when you should be submitting those reports.

It is getting lost in your inbox when you planned to edit the chapter in your book.

It’s tweaking the appearance of your presentation slides instead of actually working on the presentation.

Sound familiar?

If so, you’re in good company; procrastiwork is my go-to form of procrastination.

And it is sneaky!

You see, procrastiworking keeps us busy, which gives an illusion of productivity.

But here’s the truth; just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive.

So what can we do? How can we ensure we’re using our time well and not getting stuck in busywork?

That’s exactly what we explore in episode 61 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast. 

You can listen to the episode above, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • Where procrastiwork shows up in your life
  • How to identify where procrastiworking holds you back
  • How to sidestep the pitfall of procrastiwork and keep your productivity levels high

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Episode 61: Procrastiworking: How to Recognize it and When to Stop (Transcript)

You are listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 61.

Hey everybody. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for tuning today. What’s going on with you? It officially feels like fall here, which I love. And I’m excited for the leaves to start changing colors. I’m telling you, fall is the best time to be living in New England.

I am really excited about today’s podcast episode, and it was inspired by what we talked about last week, actually. Last week, in episode 60, we explored why you might be putting off that one task on your to-do list over and over and over. And we talked about 7 powerful questions that you can ask yourself to start taking action on those projects and tasks and finally check them off your list.

Now, on the bigger picture, what we are really talking about is a form of procrastination, right? If you are putting off a task on your to-do list repeatedly, one might label that is procrastination.

Breaking Down Procrastination

But here’s the deal, I really like to break down the concept of procrastination into smaller categories. I like to get much more nuanced when it comes to exploring our tendency to procrastinate because we each have so many different reasons why we do it. We have so many different thoughts about why we aren’t doing the thing. 

And when we can get more specific about the different situations, we have an easier time pinpointing the thoughts and feelings that are driving this procrastination. And ultimately, creating our current results. 

This is especially true for both my ADHD clients – and myself – who often struggle with getting started. One of our challenges is with executive functioning and actually getting started on tasks, so when we can get really specific about what’s going on and why we are procrastinating in each individual situation, it helps us fix the problem much more efficiently. And you all know I’m all about efficiency.

Today I want to talk with you about one of the sneakiest forms of procrastination out there, which has – in my humble opinion -one of the best labels in the world. And that is the sneaky practice of procrastiworking.

What is Procrastiworking?

I wish that I could say I coined this term, but it actually comes from an incredibly talented illustrator and letterer named Jessica Hische. And the general idea behind procrastiworking is when you are doing something that is seemingly productive in order to avoid what is actually on your to-do list.

Now, I know you, listeners. I know some of you were sitting there smiling the moment I said the term procrastiworking because you knew exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been there. You have your own favorite forms of procrastiworking.

And I’m not going to lie, it is absolutely my go-to form of procrastination as well. And I think one of the reasons why so many of us can identify with this concept is because we are goal-getters. We are high achievers. We always want to be doing something. And we never want to be wasting time. 

And what’s more, many of us often tell ourselves – over and over – that there’s always more to be done, right? There is always laundry to get put away. Emails to get answered. Invoices to go out. And errands to run. There’s always something to do. Now, that thought in itself deserves an entire episode, because it is a thought that can hold us back from doing so much. But for now, just notice if that thought sounds familiar to you.

The Problem of Procrastiworking

Because the problem with that pattern of thinking when it comes to procrastiworking is that we turn to these types of tasks – when we would otherwise avoid them – because we do not want to work on the thing that actually needs to get done. We make ourselves busy, and we tell ourselves – well, this needs to get done, too. And we put off the thing that’s actually important for the thing that was on our calendar in the first place.

In other words, procrastiworking it’s super sneaky. Because we are avoiding our work with something productive that needs to get done at some point.

Be honest. Have you ever done this before? Or am I alone here?

So that brings up the question, “how do I know if I am procrastiworking or just getting work done?” And that’s a great question. I have a few signs that can help us recognize whether or not we are falling into the procrastiworking trap. And I’m am sure there are many more – these are just the ones that I’ve personally noticed myself fall into at different times. 

How do I know if I’m Procrastiworking

In my notes, I’ve labeled it as “you may be procrastiworking if…”

You’ve worked all day with nothing to show for it

So, you may be procrastiworking if: You feel like you’ve worked all day but you have nothing to show for it.

Have you ever been there before? This one drives me crazy. You have been constantly busy all day – even all week – but you can’t really remember what you completed. You can’t remember what you got done. And you don’t really have anything to show for it.

And as a side note – this is one of the reasons why I talk about the importance of keeping a to-done list. When you track your progress and make note of what you complete each day, it helps you stay on track a little bit more and recognize much quicker when you’re slipping into procrastiworking.

You’re not making progress on your goals

You might also be procrastiworking if: you aren’t making forward progress on your goals. Instead, you feel like you’re just treading water without really moving forward. You know what you want to do. You have your bigger picture goals. But instead, you get stuck in the day-to-day minutiae and all the tiny details.

You’re making excuses

You might be procrastiworking if: you find yourself justifying what you did at the end of the day with statements like, “I hadn’t planned to do this today, but it had to get done eventually.” Or “I was planning to work on this project today, but I had so many other things that just kept popping up throughout the day.” 

Now, there are times when emergencies pop up. That is not what I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is when we use these types of statements like “I wasn’t planning on doing this, but it had to get it done eventually” more often than not. And you’re doing so without really questioning whether it’s an emergency or not. You’re just not sticking to your calendar. 

You’re constantly busy but rarely productive

And the bigger picture telltale sign that you might be procrastiworking is if you are constantly busy but rarely productive. 

So one of the most powerful lessons that I have learned from my teacher and mentor, Brooke Castillo, is that being busy is not productive. 

Being productive means actually producing something. It’s not just keeping your hours filled with tasks. 

Being productive means sitting down for a designated amount of time, working on something, and having something to show for your effort at the end of that session. So for example, at the end of this hour of work, I will have produced a podcast episode.

Unfortunately, we often slip into busy busy busy without focusing on what we are actually creating. On what we are producing. and our time slips through the cracks. Remember, the only time we want to be busy is when we are busy being awesome.

Now, as I mentioned toward the beginning of this episode, procrastiworking is my go-to form of procrastination. It is what I turn to almost every time when I don’t want to work on something hard or that I simply don’t want to do. 

But now that this behavior of procrastiwork is so much more on my radar, and I know what to look out for and where I often get sidetracked, I’ve been able to catch myself how much more frequently. I notice the sneaky thoughts that used to trick me, and I no longer fall for the belief that I’m being productive just because I’m keeping busy.

In other words, I’m on to myself. 

And by talking through the concept of procrastiworking today, and exploring how it might show up for you, and what we can do to shift gears, you’ll be ready whenever the urge to “make yourself busy” strikes. 

What does Procrastiworking Look Like

So what does this look like specifically? What kind of things might we be doing when we are procrastiworking?

Of course, the answer could be endless. As I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, it is simply doing something that is seemingly productive in order to avoid what you originally intended to do.

Email Inbox

For me, procrastiworking usually shows up in a handful of different ways. One of the most common is getting lost in my email inbox. 

Normally, I am pretty scheduled when it comes to my inbox. I have certain times of day when I check my email, and otherwise, I try to stay out of it. But when I am avoiding a task, I am in my inbox much more often. I am answering emails that can wait. I’m unsubscribing from junk emails. And I am doing a whole bunch of stuff that — does eventually need to get done – but it doesn’t need to get done now. Especially since it was not on my calendar to do at that time.

Unplanned organizing and cleaning

Another common procrastiworking pitfall for me is any type of cleaning and organizing. It often sounds like the statements, “oh, I will just quickly unload the dishwasher before sitting down to work for the day.” Or “let me just organize my desk quickly. I can’t possibly work with such clutter.” I know it’s gotten really bad when I’m voluntarily putting away my laundry. You all know how much I hate putting away my laundry.

Visual “tweaking and tinkering”

Another area where procrastiworking often shows up is in terms of visual stuff. So I might spend a bunch of extra time making sure my PowerPoint slides look really nice. I might waste time tinkering in tweaking my website layout or the copy on a certain page. I might spend way too much time designing a social media post, or playing around with setting up polls or other engagement tools on Instagram stories, etc.

Recipes and meal planning

If I’m hungry, I might find myself looking for recipes, or putting in an order through instacart. That’s when my brain reminds me, well clearly have to eat. We better tend to this right now.

And again, none of these are bad things to do. They are important, productive tasks that we want to get done. Yes, we want to answer our emails. Yes, we have to eat eventually. And yes, we want to clean up whatever needs cleaning.

The difference is in the timing

The difference is in the timing. It’s whether you intentionally made time for these tasks or if you are using them as a buffer so that you don’t have to work on the thing that you actually planned to do.

And that difference is everything. Because when you’re not working on the big projects – when you’re putting off the more challenging projects that take a little bit more time and effort – you’re not going to see that forward momentum on your goals. You’re not going to see that growth in your business, the good job performance, etc. 

Instead, you’ll probably find yourself feeling a bit stuck because you’re treading water. You’re reacting to the things that pop up rather than being intentional about your time, acting on the tasks that you planned, and producing results each time you sit down to work.

All right. So we have talked about what procrastiworking is. We’ve talked about how to recognize whether you are falling into the allure of procrastiworking. And we’ve talked about common tasks that often fall into the category of procrastiworking.

How can we prepare for procrastiworking

The last few ideas I want to explore are: When does it typically come up and how we can plan for it?

Have a clear getting started plan

Now again, this is going to be different for everybody. But I can tell you for me and what I’ve noticed with my clients, is one of the most common times we slip into procrastiworking is when we don’t have a clear plan for ourselves at the beginning of the day. I have personally noticed that if I do not map out my schedule the night before, when I sit down to work for the day, my brain doesn’t have that clear plan of attack. It is missing the step by step instruction of what I’m going to start with, so it starts slipping into, what should we do first? Where should we begin? What are the fires we need to put out right now?

Get clear on your end goal

Similarly, if we don’t have concrete clarity on the goal or project that we’re working toward. Or if we don’t know exactly what we will produce by the end of the work period, we might start slipping into procrastiwork. 

So for example, if I just wrote “reading” for 2 hours between 10 – 12 on my calendar for the day, I don’t have a lot of clarity there. Because I don’t really know what I am going to complete by the end of that two hours, my brain wants to start thinking about other quick wins, instant gratification, and things that “feel” productive in the moment like answering email, organizing my Tupperware containers.

But if I wrote read 3 chapters from X book between 10 – 12, then when I sat down, I know exactly what I meant to do. And I know I have a finite time to finish reading those three chapters.

Break down the big projects

And then the last area – which I’ve talked about in previous episodes so I won’t go into it here – is when I’m thinking the project or task on my schedule seems too big, or I am dreading it, or I think it’s going to be too hard. When this happens, it means that I didn’t take the time to really break down the steps into bite-size pieces so my brain starts freaking out, and once again, I slip into the urge for quick wins with small procrastiworking tasks.

Are You Procrastinating? Ask Yourself These Three Questions

So what can you do? How can you start recognizing whether you are procrastiworking or not?

I have three simple questions that you can ask yourself, which will help you get crystal clear on whether you’ve slipped down the slope of procrastiwork.

Question 1

So the first question is: is this task on my schedule for the day? If the answer is no, then you’re probably procrastiworking. 

As we’ve talked about before – stick to that calendar. And – of course – if you’re someone who struggles with a calendar. If you’re having a hard time sticking to the plan that you created for yourself, and you want some help with that, make sure you head to and we can chat.

Question 2

All right. So first ask yourself, “is this task on my schedule for the day?” Then, ask yourself: “is this task contributing to one of my bigger goals for the week or the month ahead?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to return to your calendar. What did you schedule for the day?

Question 3

And the last question to ask yourself is a slightly different flavor, and it’s , “had I planned to do something different with my time than what I’m doing right now?” If the answer is yes, then once again, it’s time to revisit that schedule and get back on track.

Awareness Exercise

Now, I also want to stress something super important here. And I think it’s something that a lot of us busy awesome people forget.  We are all humans with human brains.

 And do you know that that means? We all procrastinate sometimes. It happens. And nothing has gone wrong if it does. So please don’t use this as a reason to beat yourself up if you notice that you slipped into some version of procrastiworking.

In fact, I decided to bring this topic up so we can have it on our radar. It is one more tool in our tool belt to help us learn more about ourselves and increase our awareness of our brain and the thoughts racing around inside of it.

So if you notice that you are procrastiworking rather than being hard on yourself, I encourage you to get curious rather than judgemental or harsh. Ask yourself some questions. What am I avoiding right now? Why am I avoiding it? Why don’t I want to do the thing that’s on my schedule right now? What am I feeling right now?

By getting curious and listening to the thoughts that your brain offers you about why you’re avoiding the task, you will gain so much more insight into yourself and your work. And what’s more, you can start questioning those thoughts that your brain offers you like – it’s too hard. I don’t want to do this. This is boring. I don’t know how to do it. And you can start creating better feeling thoughts that get you taking action, sticking to the plan, and boosting your productivity by producing the results that you want in your life.