Procrastination is often seen as the enemy of productivity. But you know what? It’s time to stop viewing procrastination as negative. And once you understand what procrastination really is, you’ll begin to view it in a more positive light and have a healthier relationship with your productivity. 

So, what is procrastination? First, it isn’t a sign of laziness. It’s a self-defense strategy, often for people who are afraid of failure or disappointment. Think about what you’re putting off, and chances are it’s a huge, important project (or multiple projects), and you’re overwhelmed.

But procrastination is also your brain’s way of telling you to take a break. If you’re tired, physically or emotionally, you don’t have the energy or motivation to start working or studying.

So next time you find yourself putting off that big paper, don’t stress yourself thinking about the work you’re not accomplishing. Reframe it as taking a breather, and follow these tips.

Take a break.

Only robots can work continuously without pause. Try to work for 30 to 45 minutes straight then take a 10 to 15 minute break. Use a timer on your phone or computer to notify you when it’s break time and when it’s time to get back to work. If your work involves sitting at a desk staring at a screen, make sure your break involves no screen time and taking a short walk.

Write out a to-do list.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, everything you need to do is cluttering your brain, so clear out your thoughts by writing a to-do list. Put down everything, however small or big. If you have a complex item, like “Write Canadian history essay,” break that into smaller chunks: “Do initial research to figure out thesis,” “Finalize thesis,” “Research for essay,” “Outline essay,” and “Draft essay.” Then prioritize the items.

Give yourself deadlines.

Write out a contract in which you specify what you will do and when each task will be due — then sign it. This is important to give yourself a feeling of responsibility. Post this somewhere prominent, like over your desk. Over time, you will accumulate these contracts as evidence that you can accomplish what you set out to do.