Busy Procrastination: The Sneaky Distraction – S2E3

In this episode of “Be Better Tomorrow,” Jason Fisher delves into the concept of “busy procrastination,” a phenomenon where individuals engage in less important tasks under the guise of being productive, thus avoiding the more impactful actions that could drive them towards their goals. He contrasts this with traditional views of procrastination, highlighting the deceptive nature of busy work that feels productive but doesn’t contribute significantly to goal achievement. Jason discusses strategies to overcome busy procrastination, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing tasks that deliver the most value and utilizing tools like the Eisenhower Quadrant to distinguish between urgent and important tasks. He also touches on psychological aspects, suggesting that avoidance of discomfort and fear of failure often underlie this form of procrastination. By focusing on actions that align with one’s goals and embracing the discomfort of challenging tasks, individuals can better manage their priorities and make meaningful progress in their personal and professional lives.

Check out a previous episodes on time management:
5: Randy Fisher – Making The Most of Your Time and Goals

Overcoming Busy Procrastination: A Guide to True Productivity

In the fast-paced world we live in, being “busy” has become a badge of honor. However, not all forms of busyness lead to productivity. The phenomenon of “busy procrastination” encapsulates this paradox, where individuals fill their time with lesser tasks, avoiding the ones that truly matter. This article delves into understanding busy procrastination and provides strategies to combat it, ensuring that your busyness translates into meaningful progress.

Understanding Busy Procrastination

Busy procrastination is the act of filling one’s schedule with tasks that, while seemingly urgent, do not significantly contribute to one’s overarching goals. It’s a form of avoidance where the easier, less impactful tasks are prioritized over the challenging, yet valuable ones. This behavior often stems from a desire to avoid discomfort or fear of failure associated with more significant tasks.

Recognizing the Signs

  • Focusing on Minor Tasks: You prioritize small, easy tasks over more significant, impactful ones.
  • Feeling Productive, but Not Progressive: Despite a full to-do list, you’re not making progress towards your main goals.
  • Avoidance of Challenging Tasks: There’s a tendency to shy away from tasks that are outside your comfort zone.

Strategies to Overcome Busy Procrastination

  1. Prioritize Value-Driven Tasks: Identify the tasks that contribute most significantly to your goals. Utilize the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) to focus on actions that offer the most value.
  2. Embrace Discomfort: Recognize that growth and progress often come from stepping out of your comfort zone. The tasks you avoid are likely the ones that will drive the most significant growth.
  3. Use the Eisenhower Quadrant: Categorize your tasks into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. Focus on tasks that are important but not necessarily urgent to ensure that you’re working on your goals.
  4. Set Clear Goals and Break Them Down: Define your main objectives and break them down into smaller, manageable tasks. This helps to avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensures that each action contributes to your larger goal.
  5. Implement Systems Over Goals: Develop systems and habits that naturally lead to achieving your goals. For example, if writing a book is a goal, establish a daily writing habit.
  6. Seek Accountability: Share your goals with someone who can hold you accountable. Regular check-ins can motivate you to focus on the tasks that matter.
  7. Reflect and Adjust: Regularly review your tasks and progress. Be honest about what’s working and what’s not, and be willing to adjust your approach.


Busy procrastination is a subtle but pervasive barrier to achieving our goals. By understanding its mechanisms and implementing strategies to focus on what truly matters, we can transform our busyness into a productive force that propels us forward. Remember, true productivity isn’t about how much you do, but about the significance of what you accomplish.


If you’re joining us for the first time, I just want to let you know this show is about getting better every day. It’s about how to be better tomorrow than you are today, hence the name, Be Better Tomorrow. I’m not super clever, I’m just really accurate. If you’re the kind of person who’s looking to improve, looking to start something new, looking to make a change in your life, then this show will have something for you. I ask that you listen to a few episodes to get a feel for it. Send me feedback if you want. I’m always open to hear from people about what I’m doing well, what I’m not doing well. You can send an email to me at jason at bebettertomorrow.com.

One listener from the first show did exactly that. I’m going to go ahead and read it to you.

Hey Jason, love the latest Be Better Tomorrow episode on setting new year’s goals. Your story about battling depression and adjusting during COVID hit close to home. I think it did for all of us, but I’m glad it could be of help to you. I’m curious about something you mentioned, finding the right balance between ambitious goals and real life stuff that can slow us down. Any tips for setting goals that are big, but not so big they end up being just another source of stress? Thanks for keeping it real on the podcast, can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Cheers, Bill.

Hey Bill, thanks for writing in. If you’re worried about balancing goals that are too big that they might be stressful with actually making a difference, I’m going to suggest you focus more on the small things and the systems than the goals. James Clear talks about it in his book, Atomic Habits. The winning and losing teams have the same goal in mind. It’s not the goal that makes the difference, although I think they’re important. You have to know where you’re going to make a plan on how to get there, but if you don’t have good systems in place, if you’re not creating habits that will drive towards that goal, you’re probably going to fail.

What I suggest is finding small habits that you can build that will compound over time so that you start to identify as the person you want to be and you start making small changes to drive you to your goal. Let me make that clear.

I’m trying to relaunch my podcast, obviously, that’s what you’re listening to. I can have a goal of releasing X number of podcasts in a year, and I do, and I can have a goal of having so many listeners subscribed, and I do, but having those goals isn’t nearly as important as creating a system that will drive me to be successful. So I have to create a plan for what I’m going to do week by week that’s going to help me create content and it’s going to help me produce and it’s going to help me promote. All of those things in the system I create will drive me towards that goal.

So if you were a coach, you wanted to coach a championship team, yes, you’re going to have a goal, win the championship, go to the Super Bowl, whatever it is, but what’s more important and what drives you there, because a lot of the teams have the same goals, what makes the difference between the losing teams and the winning teams is the systems they put in place in order to succeed. Your recruiting, your practices, how you watch games, how you take care of the physical training of your team, it’s those individual pieces that make up the system that will make the difference between winning or losing. And it’s the habits that you’re going to build and the systems you’re going to create for yourself that’s going to help you reach your goal.

So if you’re worried about making this big goal that’s going to stress you out, don’t. Make a small goal and start changing your identity that way. I don’t know what your goal is, you weren’t specific, so I’ve given a few ideas, but one more that’s pretty common this time of year is getting in shape. If your goal is to get in shape in some way, whether it’s lose weight, build muscle, eat more healthily, then start small with those things. Pick one thing. You’re going to not snack after dinner time, and you’re not a person who snacks. You start to make that change and wait 10 days. Why 10 days? Because my buddy said 10 days is a good number to change. I don’t know if there’s any psychological significance to it, but it’s better, I think, than every week. So do it every 10 days. Hey, 10 days, you go not eating at night? Well then, maybe you’re going to do full intermittent fasting. So now from dinner time until 15 or 16 hours from then, you don’t eat again. Now you’ve started to build this system in place that’s going to help you do things that are more healthy. Now you’re going to go to the gym. You’re going to go to the gym. Pick once a week. Pick a time where it’s going to be convenient for you. Do it on the way home from work if you commute. Do it at your lunch hour if you need a break in the middle of the day, but do it one thing at a time. Maybe you’re just getting out and taking a walk. Maybe you live in a climate where that’s possible. It’s not possible here in Ohio a lot of days. But start making those small commitments, those small habits that will make the change that will eventually get you to the goal you want to get to. That’s a much easier way to accomplish it than trying to set up a huge goal that may feel overwhelming. And even if you do have a large goal, you still have to break it down in incremental steps that will build the system to help you get there.

Bill, thanks so much for your letter. I hope this was helpful. And if not, send another one in. I’ll try to answer it more effectively. All right. So this week I wanted to talk about a concept I’ve been studying that I know I’m impacted by. I know other people who are impacted by it. So hopefully this is something that helps you as well. And it’s busy procrastination. Now this sounds like something different if you’ve never heard the concept before. If you’ve heard it, you probably… If you’ve heard it before, then you know what I’m talking about. Just listen along and have a good time and nod your head because you’re in the know and other people aren’t.

A lot of times we think of procrastination as being lazy, you know, playing video games and you ought to be doing your chores or watching TV instead of tackling the task. A lot of us, however, procrastinate in a different way. We procrastinate by keeping ourselves busy. We’re doing the things that are less important to our overall task and goal, but we can feel more accomplished by working on them. Let me explain. Instead of sitting down and recording this podcast, instead of making plans for scripting and doing the work of the work to help to put out a podcast, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the development side of how I’m going to produce a podcast using Python and OpenAI and playing with AI tools that will help me edit more effectively and things like that. They’re fun, but they’re not the work that’s really going to get me towards my goal. So you’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule where 80% of your value is derived from 20% of your actions or 20% of the people do 80% of the work. What we end up doing when we busy procrastinate is spending all of our time in that 80% of work that only delivers 20% of value. What we need to do is understand what are the actions that we can take that will deliver the 80% of the value and focus on those things. What are those things that only you can do? What are those things that really drive value from what you’re trying to accomplish?

Maybe you spend a lot of time cleaning your house when your goal is to be more physically fit because you don’t want to go to the gym and you can’t go to the gym until you do the dishes because you don’t want to come home to dirty dishes, right? Not saying dishes shouldn’t be done, but maybe they don’t fit in the area of your goal like you think they do. So leave the dishes for a second or reward yourself with a trip to the gym. Hopefully you consider that a reward. If not, keep going. It’ll eventually feel like a reward.

In the research I’ve done on this, it seems to be that what we’re doing psychologically is trying to avoid discomfort. There’s something about the actions we need to take that make us fear taking them. There’s a great quote, and I’m blanking on who it’s from. I should probably look this up and maybe I’ll put it in the show notes, but that which we fear is what we are truly called to do. That that we fear is what we’re truly called to do. Now I’m not talking about a great, deep, massive calling, but the thing that you’re putting off, the thing that you’re struggling with, the thing you don’t want to do. Maybe it’s because it’s hard, right? Going to the gym if you’re not used to it is hard. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to find out your baby is ugly. That’s what I’m dealing with. I fear failure in my creative endeavors. I’m worried that someone’s going to write in a letter to me that says my podcast sucks. I’m not helpful. Who am I to be talking about these things? I don’t have a degree. Just a coach that’s been doing this for a lot of years. So why would anyone listen to me? That’s the kind of stuff that plays in my head. It makes me not want to press publish and put myself out there, but my motto this year is prolific is better than perfect. I want to put content out. I want to get better at it, and I think we’ll get better by actually doing the work.

You may have heard me talk about Toastmasters. It’s an organization I’ve been a part of for a lot of years. It’s where people come to learn how to be better public speakers, and I have seen so many times people come in, they try once, they’re not great, they get too nervous, and they leave. Most things you don’t get better at by reading about, you don’t get better at by thinking about, or even doing them in your house by yourself. You get better by getting in front of people and performing, and then getting good feedback. That’s the secret to Toastmasters is you’re never going to part. Each time you speak, you are given a particular evaluator who evaluates your performance at your skill level. They compare you to you as much as possible, and they let you know where you can improve, and then you come back and you hit it again, and you hit it again, and you hit it again until you’re improving and you’re getting better. That’s kind of the theme of this show, how we improve and get better.

If you deal with busy procrastination, what are you supposed to do about it? Let’s get back to the topic at hand. There’s a few things you can do. One is evaluate all the work that you’re doing. I use the Eisenhower Quadrant. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll share it in the show notes. It’s just a quadrant, and on one axis it’s important and unimportant, and on the other axis it’s urgent and not urgent, so that quadrant one is
important and urgent. Quadrant two is important but not urgent. Three is not important and urgent, and number four is not important and not urgent, so number four you just ignore completely as far as I’m concerned. Number one are things like fire drills, figuratively speaking. Your parents call, you’ve got to answer the phone, maybe your kid has to be dropped off at school. They’re things that are urgent and they’re also important, so you have to get them done. You want to have as few things in that quadrant as possible, and where you want to spend your time is in quadrant two. It’s in those areas that are important but not urgent. That’s where you’re spending your time thinking and developing and planning ahead and getting things done. So I try to eliminate the quadrant one issues, the things that are urgent and important, at least isolate myself away from them for a period of time so that I can concentrate on the things that I find in the quadrant two that are urgent, or sorry, not urgent but important, like writing for the podcast, like sitting down and recording the podcast, like doing all the work on the back end of the website that has to be done for the podcast to work. All these things that are the focus of the effort that I’m pushing toward when it comes to my health. I’m getting to the gym. I go first thing in the morning because I believe, and I think Brian Tracy coined the phrase in swallowing the frog, obviously not literally, but if you swallow a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day is great from there. So the first thing I do in the morning, I get up, my daughter and I go to the gym and we lift. Well, I lift and then I get on cardio for 30 minutes and I try to get in shape. But I do that first thing in the morning when I’m not going to be distracted by something.

So listen, check yourself. If you’re not meeting your goals and you feel like you don’t have enough time, busyness is almost like a badge of honor in our culture, but it’s really wasting time in a lot of cases. What are things that you don’t have to do? What are things that you could delegate to kids, to spouses, to a virtual assistant if you’ve got the money? There’s people out there looking for stuff. There’s TaskRabbit and websites that will help you do these things. What can you learn how to automate with AI? I love chat GPT for stuff that I can outsource to. I’ve had it kick off and write documents for me from the beginning so then I can go through and proof it and really tweak it and get it where I need it to be. I’m using it now, like I said, to edit the podcast, to write summaries for me, that sort of thing. Just playing around with it, trying to understand how it can be useful, how it can save me time. I’ll be honest, right now it might be wasting me more time than saving, but eventually I’m hoping to get to the point where I’ve got code written that does a lot of the podcast production work that’s going to save me time in the long run. And then maybe that becomes a business that I can sell to other people, who knows? But if you’re suffering from not enough time to accomplish your goals, try the quadrant. Lay out what you’re doing and where things fit and see if you can eliminate some of those items in four and then do the things in one so they’re out of your way so you can spend all your time in two. Now, what do you do with three? Three are the things that are urgent but not important. So sometimes that’s your boss calling. They don’t really have anything that’s going to make your day better, but you have to take your boss’s call. So it’s that kind of stuff that kind of comes in and it can be a drag, but it’s urgent. It’s something that’s pressing on your time. Again, I try to get rid of as many of those things as possible, but I know it’s not always possible depending on your situation. What about you? What do you do to deal with the busyness of the day? How do we focus in so we can accomplish our goals? I’d love to hear what you have to say. I’d love to hear your stories of success in that. And if you have questions, I’d love to try to direct those as well, like I did with Bill’s questions at the beginning of the episode. Anyway, you can get a hold of me any way you want. Everything’s sourced at BeBetterTomorrow.com. You can find this podcast where all great podcasts are, Spotify, iTunes on the RSS feed if you know how to use it, Stitcher, I don’t know, I keep it published wherever what’s ever accurate. Depending on when you’re listening to this, all those things may be gone. It’s hard to tell because things are changing so fast. But until next time, I hope you’ll find something in this show that will help you be better tomorrow.

Be Better Tomorrow is released under a Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike attribution license, which means you can use this show or clips of it for anything you like as long as you give us credit and you aren’t doing it for commercial purposes. The news that you’re hearing now is by Kevin MacLeod of IncomTech, also released under a Creative Commons share-alike license. All the information about this show and others can be found at BeBetterTomorrow.com. And I hope, as always, you’ll find something to help you be better tomorrow.

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