Self-awareness is important in life, but one of the hardest things I find to admit about myself is that I procrastinate. It feels so negative. But, if I’m being honest with myself (and through this blog also honest with you) then I am here to profess, “I procrastinate!” My challenge is overcoming procrastination. My goal in this blog is to throw some tips your way on overcoming procrastination with the hope that you’ll throw some tips in our direction to help our LIA readers. Sounds like we all win in that scenario!
I have been throwing around the idea of writing about procrastination for several months now. What has stopped me up until now has been that overcoming procrastination is not always as easy as the common advice issued:
1. Break the task into smaller pieces and tackle one small piece at a time.
2. Schedule the task.
3. Do what you least like doing first, then move onto the things you like to do.
Blah, blah, blah, right?
And, the most common excuse for procrastination? The one that we all use:
1. I have time.
Until we don’t have time.
In life and in leadership we have to be true to our word. We have to do what we say we are going to do (or what we are charged with doing). And we have to do it by the time we say we will have it done. We have to finish what we start - by the time we say we will have it finished. We must be known as a finisher. We must be known as someone who can be counted on. Those attributes will take you further in life and in your career than most other attributes a person has. So, let’s get to work!
BREAKING DOWN THE FIRST THREE STEPS IN OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION
First, you have to recognize and admit you are procrastinating. We hide procrastination in statements like: “I’ve got too much on my plate.” “This or that was more pressing.” “As soon as this is done I can work on that.” “I can’t get started until so and so gives me this or that.” There are too many excuses we give ourselves. Be self-aware enough and be honest enough with yourself to recognize your procrastination, then care enough about yourself to commit to pushing yourself when you see you are procrastinating.
Second, determine why you procrastinate. Procrastination can feel like a negative term, because it oftentimes is mistaken for laziness. The very definition of laziness is idleness or an unwillingness to act. If in your self-awareness stage you find that you are truly falling into the definition of laziness, then you have bigger problems than procrastination. (You can stop reading here if you are in this “laziness” category – give us a call. You have other fish to fry before you focus on procrastination.)
Procrastination is generally an active process. You are putting off one task in order to do (active) another task. The real question is why? Do you find it boring? Is this something you need additional training on? Is it intimidating? Do you not fully understand what is required in the task? Once you can answer the “why” in procrastination you can begin the process of overcoming procrastination. Second step again: Find the why.
The third step is to develop a plan to overcome procrastination. That plan will be different for each person, and probably different for each reason we procrastinate.
TIPS FOR OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION
Remember, what works for one person or situation may not work for all people or situations. Here are seven (lucky seven) strategies for overcoming procrastination.
1. Disengage your emotional “but I don’t want to” brain and engage your logical brain. Take the first step of getting the task started (force yourself if you must). Oftentimes once you get started you will see some progress and be motivated to finish the task.
2. Instead of focusing on the negative of the task (boring, intimidation, lack of knowledge) focus on the positive – what you are learning through the process, your increased skill level, or your contribution to team. Find the value in what you are doing.
3. Disconnect from all things electronic. Electronic devices, email, social media, or telephone calls are all interruptions and all fall into the category of excuses we give ourselves to not finish a task, especially a task we don’t particularly enjoy. Disconnect and get to work.
4. Find an accountability partner. Ask someone to check in on you. If someone is checking in you’ll want to report progress.
5. Change your internal rhetoric. Too often we internally build something up bigger than it really is. Watch your self-talk. Keep it positive (refer back to #2) – find the good and build on that.
6. Once you have finished the task – because there’s never really an excuse not to finish something you say you will do – so, again, once you finish the task consider whether this is something that can be delegated in the future. Is this a task that can grow someone else? Is this something that would be an energizing task for someone else? If the answer is yes, then you might want to consider delegation in the future.
7. Don’t make excuses for yourself. If you are charged with a task then do the task. Decide what you want to be known for. Someone that can be counted on or someone that drops the ball?
Every task isn’t the dream task. Every work day isn’t fun-filled. But, each day we decide who we want to be and what we want to be known for. Be the person that does what you say you will do (or at the very least accomplishes what you have been charged to do) – and in a way that makes you proud.
Now it’s your turn. How do you get back on track when you find yourself procrastinating?