The Benefits of Productive Procrastination

After getting a bad case of COVID recently (and despite being fully vaccinated), I found myself really wiped out and unable to find my way back to “work mode.” My energy was low, and yet at the same time, I felt restless, an urge to do something remotely useful, but not necessarily vitally important. You know the feeling?

If you have ADHD like me, or even if you don’t, you probably know exactly what I mean. This week on the podcast, I’m talking about productive procrastination. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it even possible to “productively” delay getting stuff done by doing other stuff? Or is it better to do nothing at all and just practice self-care instead?  

I think we’ve all been there, somewhere at the intersection of overwhelm, distraction, and guilt, when we’re doing busy work but we’re not addressing what’s at the very top of our to-do list. Take a deep dive with me on the subject of productive procrastination and where I think a happy medium might be found, in prioritizing goals and not just movement.

Don’t put this one off! Tune in now!

Links & References

Time Stamps

[1:03] – Amber had a bad case of COVID

[2:14] – Productive procrastination, good or bad?

[6:45] – Riding waves of energy to get things done, for ADHD peeps

[10:27] – Examples of productive procrastination that are less helpful

[13:00] – Wasting time staying present instead of resting

[14:15] – Amber’s favorite form of productive procrastination

[15:07] – Setting boundaries on time and scope when you’re productively procrastinating

[16:26] – When to give in to productive procrastination

[17:47] – Working on your One Thing

[20:06] – Prioritization is an important skill

[22:32] – Black Friday deal for Amber’s quarterly workshop


Amber Hawley  0:01  

Business owners are increasingly being pulled in so many directions, feeling like they aren’t reaching their full potential in business and life despite their type A ways. With my background as a therapist, entrepreneur, and as a dotcom dropout with ADHD, I interview and coach high achieving business owners like you who want to stop struggling for success by using psychological systems, strategies, and the occasional care-frontation. This is the easily distracted entrepreneur, your place to slay overwhelmed perfectionism and shiny object syndrome so that you can get done what matters most to you. 


Amber Hawley  0:41  

Hello, hello. Well, if you’re listening to this on the day it comes out then tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And even though I feel like the last few months have been filled with lots, and lots, and I do mean lots of challenges, I am actually feeling a lot of gratitude. One, I’m so happy to finally be feeling well-ish, as I say, but for the most part, feeling really well, which is good, because it turns out in October, I ended up getting COVID. Despite being vaccinated, I still got it. And it was not fun, as one would imagine. 


Amber Hawley  1:26  

Every couple of days, I got a new symptom it was, it was impossible to do anything. There were a couple of weeks where I literally did not do anything. And then even after that, like as I was, quote, unquote, coming out, I would still have these setbacks where I thought I was doing well. And I was like, Okay, tomorrow, I’m gonna, you know, go back to work. This was on a Sunday. And then later that day, I broke out in head to toe hives, and I got a fever. And that lasted for a few days. So it just, you know, COVID was the gift that kept on giving. And, and every time I thought, okay, I can do something now I can focus, it wasn’t going to happen. 


Amber Hawley  2:14  

But what did happen was I did, here and there, I was able to do a little productive procrastination. And, you know, I guess, I realized, like, there are some times where actually doing those kinds of things can be helpful. And just because it makes you feel like you’re getting something done. And then there are times I know, I have done it myself. And I have seen it in many of my entrepreneurial friends and people that I’ve worked with and coached where productive procrastination takes them down quite the rabbit hole. So I wanted to talk a little bit about that today. Productive procrastination. Is it good? Or is it bad? That’s the question. 


Amber Hawley  3:04  

So I’m going to start with an example of when I did this, during my last few weeks of recovery, I had that week, like I said, that I thought, Okay, I’m ready to hit the ground running. And then I woke up, you know, really ended up being really sick for a few more days. And it just kept giving. And at that point is when I realized like, oh, even though I keep testing negative, I clearly have COVID. And then my daughter tested positive for COVID. So it was pretty much confirmed at that point. Well, that following weekend, I actually started to feel more energy and thought, okay, maybe this is it. 


Amber Hawley  3:48  

Although, you know, it had been going on for, I think, three weeks at that point. And unfortunately for me, the week before that, I was at a conference where I got to speak. So that was a lot of fun. And the week before that I was sick. So I felt like I hadn’t really worked since September, at this point. So even though I started feeling better, I felt really restless, like I needed to do something I needed to get something done because I’d been laying around for quite a while, is how it felt. 


Amber Hawley  4:21  

And so I had Sunday, it was Sunday, and I really try to have boundaries around not working on the weekend, despite the fact that I literally hadn’t really worked since September, which isn’t 100% True, right? Like I think we say those things that I’m like, Okay, well, I did still see clients and, you know, show up for membership stuff, but at the same time, it wasn’t my normal working environment and I wasn’t doing anything outside of seeing clients or showing up for trainings. So I felt like I had enough of this laying around. It wasn’t quite 100% but I was feeling better. 


Amber Hawley  4:57  

And instead of doing something like getting caught up on some of the work that I was clearly chronically behind on or doing something like my laundry, which would set me up for the week, I decided I needed to reorganize my front room. In our house, we call it our yoga room, because when we moved in, we didn’t have any furniture for it. We just had yoga mats in there. So we still call it the yoga room. All of a sudden, I was like, Nope, I need to reorganize this. So I reorganized, I purged, I rearranged furniture. And it felt really great. Like it felt, it just felt more peaceful. 


Amber Hawley  5:41  

Because for me, when I have things like cleaned and organized, I feel more at peace, that’s just my personality. And I it’s something I don’t know if it’s being a Virgo, maybe a little OCD-ish, but I feel good when when things feel like everything’s in their home. And it makes me feel more relaxed. So I did that. And then you know, like anything, it kind of creates that chain event where I went around and cleaned the rest of, you know, the kitchen and dining room area. And because I’m the one who usually does that stuff, and like I said, I’d kind of been out of commission for a while. 


Amber Hawley  6:19  

But the whole time I was doing it, I was like, I know, this is not the best use of my time or energy. There are other things that are probably more of a priority. But that’s where my mind was, I was in that space of, I feel like organizing, I feel like focusing on the home. In this moment. Even though I felt, quote unquote, behind in work, I still felt like it was that’s where my energy was. 


Amber Hawley  6:45  

And so that’s something that I commonly hear from people, especially with ADHD, because it’s kind of like, I need to ride those waves of energy. And on one hand, this can be really good because we can get those waves of energy and really get major projects done, or, you know, do something that makes us feel really good. Or in my case, like in my case, the whole house felt super cleaned, organized, all the clutter was gone. I did a little more purging, and I felt like Oh, good. Now everything feels taken care of and organized. And I feel ready to go into the holiday season, not feeling kind of stressed or overwhelmed. So in that regard, it was very positive, it was very productive, right? I mean, this is the thing about productive procrastination, we can totally justify it. And figure and, you know, make sense why this was a good thing to do. 


Amber Hawley  7:44  

But in reality, I also knew there were important things I needed to be doing in my work that weren’t getting done. So that’s the, that’s the trade off, right. And like I said, it can be really easy to say, oh, I want to follow where my energy is. And there are times where you have to do that. Because there are times where mentally you are like, I am not in the space to maybe write content or go through my finances or record a podcast episode, you just need to do something in a different area. Because that takes a certain type of energy, right? Maybe your brain isn’t ready. Maybe your brain is like I you know, I’m feeling better. But I don’t want to be working, like I’m not in work mode, I need to be doing something else. 


Amber Hawley  8:32  

But the downside of that is, if we’re always just following our energy, there are times where that down energy, it lasts way too long to get done what’s important in your business. And I’m not talking about being sick, being sick is a totally different thing. Right, like and, you know, that’s I think the hardest part of this whole COVID experience. I mean, obviously, there are many hard parts to it. But I think the hard thing is, when you go through it, it lasts so much longer than we’re used to when we get sick. And you know, for those of us, we’re not talking about chronic illness here we’re talking about, you know, getting the flu or a cold or something like that. 


Amber Hawley  9:14  

That’s the hard part about COVID is it really just keeps, keeps on going. And for so many people I know that months later, they still feel the impact of that. I’m about a month out now. And I would say I still definitely feel it. I noticed the brain fog of things that I just completely forget. And I have kind of waves of energy, like all of a sudden having energy doing something and then just hitting a wall and I need to lay down. So it makes it extra tricky. 


Amber Hawley  9:47  

And the other thing is though, going back to following our energy waves, you know, that downtime can be like, Oh, we really only feel on maybe one or two days a week and And then maybe the rest of the time not so much. If we’re not having any kind of like focus on what we need to get done, it makes it really hard to get done those important things that you have to, and it causes us a lot of distress. And it makes sense though, like when there’s something we’re avoiding, or we’re feeling kind of emotional about, or like I said, it takes a certain type of energy, it can be really easy to never make space and time for that. 


Amber Hawley  10:27  

I think it’s really common when we’re feeling overwhelmed to fall into the practice of productive procrastination. Maybe that shows up like rewriting your master list, maybe you already have, you know, your to do list either in a notebook or in whatever task management software you use. And it’s all spelled out. But you decide to rewrite everything because it gives you that sense that you’re doing something. But the reality is, it’s already there for you and you’re not actually doing the work, you’re just kind of, you know, going back through and reorganizing and kind of revisiting it.


Amber Hawley  11:07  

This also happens with like social scrolling, I mean, we all have lost a lot of time to doing that. Now, when you’re using it like intentionally when you’re intentionally going on and making posts, or if you’re going on because you’re just you know, having fun, but not the intention of working, it’s when I see people think, Oh, I’m going to go on social media because I need to connect, or I need to see what’s going on. And they can lose a lot of time to that. 


Amber Hawley  11:34  

Also, rethinking your offers, instead of putting them out again. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately, where, you know, we need, we know we need to be posting or emailing our list or reaching out to people. And instead, we sit and think, oh, maybe this isn’t the right offer to be putting out there. We start to question the things that we’ve already created. Because we might have anxiety about putting it out there and the fear of like, maybe nobody’s going to buy it or call us, or whatever the thing is. Maybe we won’t get a positive response. So we stay kind of stuck in this place of ruminating over our offers, our business plan, our business model, instead of actually doing the things that we know we need to do. 


Amber Hawley  12:20  

The other way that I see this, the productive procrastination, is when you decide I’m going to take a deep dive on this new technology instead of actually doing anything on your to do list. And, you know, I probably could go in and come up with like 15 more examples. But those are just some of the ones that I see most commonly. And I’m sure maybe you’ve done one of those, or maybe you have those things that you know, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and not sure what to do, or you know what to do but you’re you don’t really want to do it. You have those things that you, your go-tos that you kind of do to keep yourself procrastinating but still feeling productive. 


Amber Hawley  13:00  

So sometimes we feel that need, like, oh, I need to work, I need to stay at my desk, or I need to be in work mode. Because we’re feeling that pressure, like you know, you have a lot of things to do. And so instead though, like I said, we’re wasting time just staying present. Sometimes, we need to actually let ourselves rest, just give ourselves permission to say, It’s okay, I’m not, I’m not going to do any work today, I’m not in work mode. And instead of sitting there and feeling like you’re doing something, and then the reality is you didn’t actually do anything that was on the to do list anyway, which actually makes you feel worse, it makes you feel depleted, because you wasted time doing that. And you didn’t actually get anything accomplished at the end of the day. 


Amber Hawley  13:48  

So sometimes taking rest is important. If we actually allow ourselves that rest, we can come back to our work feeling more, more rested, more focused, and actually get the things done that we need to as opposed to just kind of making ourselves sit there like we’re punching a time clock, right? I mean, that’s the whole point of being an entrepreneur is not punching a time clock. 


Amber Hawley  14:15  

As I said, I think my favorite form of productive procrastination is organizing. That’s another really common one for people. And whether that’s home organization or work organization. Again, it’s very alluring because we can actually see the results. And so there are times where you’re trying to clear the mental clutter as I say, and you, you organize, whether that’s your office, your paperwork, you know your files or your home, it actually does leave you feeling better because you can see the results. But this is one of those slippery slope things because you can absolutely go down a rabbit hole and lose a lot of time to this and frankly, you could spend all day every day, like cleaning and organizing, in my opinion, and never run out of things to do. 


Amber Hawley  15:07  

So I think the important thing is, if you give this to yourself, like you say, Hey, this is what I need, I need to actually like clean up my space. So that energetically, it feels like my mind is more clear. And I’m able to focus better, then do that. But I think it’s really important to set boundaries on the time that you’re going to give that. And the scope, like because one room can lead to the next room, kind of like in my example of, you know, the the yoga room leading to the dining room and the kitchen. Luckily, that’s pretty much it, you know, it’s a small, contained area, and I gave myself all day Sunday, and it did, you know, kind of bleed into Monday. So I did use like a half day on Monday. But at that point, I was like, Okay, now I’m back into the work week, I need to actually get back to focusing on my work stuff. 


Amber Hawley  15:58  

So kind of being realistic about like, how much time will you give it, or, you know, if it’s like, a really busy work week for you, and then all of a sudden, you say, Hey, I’m going to clean out my garage. And you know, that’s like a multi day project, maybe maybe a full week, who knows how bad the garage looks? That’s something that maybe you should actually put that one off and have like a planned time to do that, instead of kind of giving into that whim. 


Amber Hawley  16:26  

So when are other times that you should give into this productive procrastination? I think sometimes when your energy is low, but you’re maybe feeling restless, that can be a good time to kind of allow yourself to go down that road a little bit. And I think it’s really great if you can have a list of things to do when your energy is low. But so it’s something that maybe is a little bit more mindless. But it will actually get done something that’s actually important for either, you know, the projects you’re working on, the goals you’re working on, or something that’s impacting your business. Or stress levels for that matter. 


Amber Hawley  17:06  

So some examples of that might be cleaning out your email. Making a list of holiday obligations, so that you can better organize and plan your time accordingly. It could be entering all of your passwords into a program like LastPass, or something like that, where you’re actually doing something that overall will make your life a little bit easier, but again, doesn’t have that, that urgency right now. So those are some things, you know, that you can kind of come up with and say, Okay, I’m going to give myself this when I’m in those spaces of low energy. 


Amber Hawley  17:47  

If you’re in a period of recovery or overwhelm, it can be very freeing to say, Okay, I’m going to do my one thing for each day that I need to do that, you know, to be working towards whatever goal you’re working towards, and then I’m going to rest, or play, or focus on self-care. This can be this paradoxical thing of, it can feel like, no, I need to dedicate more time and more energy. And, you know, not necessarily that hustle thing, but I’ve got to give it more in order to, you know, be able to accomplish what I need to. But the reality is even just being consistent on that one important task, and so this requires prioritization, can actually help you immensely in your business. And so allowing for that rest or that play, or, like I said, the self-care stuff can can actually give you the focus for when you’re doing the harder things. 


Amber Hawley  18:44  

And I always say, this could be like, vice versa, like, for some people focusing on the rest, and you know, maybe the self-care whether that’s like exercise or eating healthy or spending time with friends, maybe that needs to come first. And then you do your one thing for the day, you kind of have to know yourself and then know, kind of, you know, I think we all go through these moods, too, right? I’m typically not a morning person. So I would probably say that rest and self-care stuff comes in the morning, and I’m more productive at night. But then there are those times where I realized, like, I’m getting tired earlier, or I have this sense of urgency. And so I will actually get that thing done first thing in the morning, and then you know, it takes the weight off. And so you just kind of have to figure out like what works best for you. And you know, experiment. And that may vary. 


Amber Hawley  19:34  

And when I talk about this one thing, there are so many people I meet and they’re like, I have no idea. I’m usually not talking about showing up for clients or for your team because most of us are really great at showing up for appointments or showing up for the people we’ve made commitments to, it’s more about doing all of that, behind the scenes work or, you know, the foundational work of setting up our structures or the things that we need to do to get our bigger goals done. But prioritization is such a necessary skill. And I actually think it’s probably one of the most important skills to learn in having a business that brings you more joy, that sees success, so you’re reaching the goals that you’re setting, but you actually enjoy it more. Because when you’re really great at prioritization, it allows you to cut out so much of that busy work and just stuff that’s meant to, you know, overwhelm us. 


Amber Hawley  20:33  

So I think, you know, I hear a lot from people like having this master list of things to do can be really overwhelming. And so if you’re in that picture, if you’re in that place, too, I would say start small, look at the smaller picture, take one step in front of you, instead of looking at the big list. So instead of writing out that giant master list yet again, and having like 20 things on it, just right, like what is it that I need to get done this week. And sometimes you have to rewrite that list. Sometimes you write out the list, and it’s still like 15 things. And then you’re like, Okay, that’s way too much. Let me go back and look at it again, and prioritize and say, If I only got these things done, what what is the most important, and then focus from there. 


Amber Hawley  21:19  

So really narrowing it down and making it smaller, can be one of those things that help you because then that productive procrastination isn’t a negative, if you’ve already done the most important thing that you need to do, all of that extra stuff that you’re doing, and you’re kind of, you know, following your energy flow, it can be those things that that just like I said before, make your life a little bit easier. And, but it’s important to remember that every baby step keeps you moving forward. And I think the key is, though, focusing on the steps that help you accomplish your goals, not just on movement. 


Amber Hawley  21:56  

So that’s where that, you know, discernment process needs to come in between, is this something that I’m doing just to avoid what I know I need to get done? Or did I get done the most important thing I need to, and now I can do these other things that still make me feel like I have momentum, or that I find satisfying, or that are helping me kind of organize and help get rid of that mental clutter, or sometimes even that physical clutter that we’re dealing with. That’s, I think, the key. 


Amber Hawley  22:32  

Well, I hope this was helpful. And, you know, if you’re somebody who is thinking like, I need to have that bigger plan, I need help with creating those, that priority and that structure, you know, whether you’re an easily distracted entrepreneur or not, but especially for my ADHD peeps, there are so many things that come up and make it really hard for us to execute on those plans that we make. Well, you are in luck, I am offering an amazing Black Friday deal. It goes until the end of this month, but I do a yearly goal planning workshop, where we go through and kind of create the vision and the plan for the year. 


Amber Hawley  23:15  

But then we actually structure out the first quarter, the first 90 days. So I do quarterly workshops. But because this one, we’re going into a new year, I think it’s important to look at, you know the bigger picture of your, your goals for the year but then bring it down to, what are the things I need to be doing in the next 90 days. So each month and then each week, so that way you go into each week and each day already knowing what your one thing is, and making it so much more easy for you to prioritize and make those choices. If you would like more information head on over to And you can get all the information. Right now the workshop is 50% off and there’s some cool bonuses as well. So head on over there to get more information.


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