Proactive procrastination: how to slack off in a good way

As a business leader, are you 'on' the entire time you're in the office? Do you pride yourself on never wasting a moment during work hours? Do you feel guilty if you even reply to a personal message on Facebook?

Well, you could be doing yourself a disservice.

All good bosses need down moments – yes, even during the work day – and shouldn't apologise for it.

The trick is to 'proactively procrastinate': factor fun, fearless, frivolity into your timetable and really enjoy it without worrying that you're setting a bad example. Here's how:

Scheduled wall-gazing

In my Outlook calendar, there are blue boxes dotted through my daily schedule. This is dedicated downtime, whether it's walking around the block or just spinning in my chair for ten seconds.

Sometimes just calling a meeting something else ... can be enough to take the pressure off.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, schedules between 90 minutes and two hours of "buffers" into every work day, broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks. It's important to "catch your breath," he says, and "feel as though your day is your own."

A meeting that's not a meeting

I've noticed that my team and I come up with some of our best ideas when we're not in an official meeting; sitting on the balcony having a sunshine break, chatting as the kettle boils or waiting for the elevator.

Sometimes just calling a meeting something else – a 'catch up' or a 'quick coffee' – can be enough to take the pressure off. The formality of an official meeting with a strict agenda can stifle creativity. Trick your brain into thinking it's something else and watch the ideas flow.

Boost your dopamine levels

A 2008 survey found that 44 per cent of people have a shower when they're trying to solve a creative problem. One theory, according to American neuroscientist Alice Flaherty, is that activities like showering boost dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's pleasure centre.


According to Flaherty, people "vary in terms of their level of creative drive according to the activity of the dopamine pathways". Translation: pleasure makes us productive. Don't have a shower in your office building? Run your hands under warm water or cup your palms around a warm mug for a similar soothing effect.

Crunch some data

Poring over figures is a task that I weirdly enjoy. It is also an activity that can drop off my schedule when I'm particularly busy, especially considering I have a financial advisor to do this for me. But, I love spending the first half an hour of my morning crunching data, whether it's how my magazine is selling in different stores across different countries, or how our online sales compare to bricks and mortar.

It might not sound like fun, but I get a boost from knowing the intricate financial details of my company. Try it - you might uncover your inner geek.

Take time to 'CTFO'

This stands for 'Chill the F--- Out' and is one of my personal slogans. I'm not naturally good at resting, so I need this acronym to pull myself into line when I'm over-stretching myself. Everyone's method of chilling out will be different.

I might stay in bed until 9am. I'll still wake up at 6am, but spend the next three hours reading articles and replying to Instagram comments. To me, resting doesn't have to mean doing nothing. It could be any activity that loosens your frown lines. If you get to 'rest' and still tick something off your to-do list then, well, it's win-win.

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.

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