Does this sound familiar? Your boss gives you an important assignment. It’s not due for 3 months but will take a bit of time to research and present a solution. Days pass, weeks pass…lots of urgent work to attend to. You haven’t forgotten about the assignment, but you keep putting it off and putting it off until you realize you only have a week left and haven’t even started to look at the assignment.
Procrastination happens to all of us. Before the time of electronic returns for your taxes, US Post Offices would be flooded with people on the evening of 4/15. There would be long lines of cars and the post office having postal workers out collecting the taxes to be mailed. It was an annual ritual.
Yes, procrastination happens to all of us.
It’s the act of putting things off for another time, not addressing the “important but not urgent” items.
There are several reasons for procrastinating:
Fear – fear of failure, fear of not being perfect, fear that you don’t know what you’re doing or fear of what happens when you do it (for example, I owe on my taxes!).
Lack of knowledge – You truly don’t know how to do it and don’t feel comfortable asking someone.
Perfectionism – You just know you can’t do this perfectly, so you don’t do it at all.
Lack of organization – This is just so big and complex. Where do I start?
Complexity – You don’t know how to plan out a complex project and task it out.
Busyness – You said “yes” to something when the reality is that you are over capacity and never should have agreed to it in the first place.
Rather than the address at the moment, it gets placed on a shelf, until there is just no choice but to move forward on it. And now, it’s a rush to get something done with a lot of guilt and bad feelings for not doing something earlier!
How to break the cycle:
1. Forgive yourself! Studies actually show that individuals are very hard on themselves during a procrastination event. “I should have been working on this earlier.” “I should have asked for help.” “I should have just said “NO.” This negativity spirals and can also keep you locked in procrastination.
2. Take some time to understand your procrastination style. Understanding what makes you procrastinate can help you address the situation when it arises. What makes you procrastinate? For myself, I know that it is complexity, busyness, and sometimes downright cold fear.
3. Write it all down. Capture all of those things that may not be written down, but keep you up at night. For example, I know there are a lot of house tasks we need to address in our home, but none of these are written down… reseal the deck, have a roofer out, blacktop the driveway. These things can gnaw on you until you address them and step one can be simply making a list.
4. Ask for help! There are so many ways to address what needs to be done…virtual assistants, handymen, your co-workers, someone you trust. Understand that the task won’t go away…hire someone to help or delegate it.
5. Ask yourself, what’s bothering me…what’s uncomfortable about this task? Is it something I don’t know how to handle or something so visible that if I make a mistake it will be huge? What is making you avoid this task? Doing this analysis can help you to decide on what you need to do to make this happen.
6. Plan it out. I like to keep lists on my Franklin Covey planner so that these kinds of efforts don’t fall to the wayside. Plan the smallest amount of work you can do each week.
7. Let someone hold you accountable. Share with a trusted friend, advisor, coach. Have them keep you accountable to keep moving forward, no matter what.
I laugh at the expression of getting “a round tuit”. There are a lot of “round tuits” out there. Decide that you will instead go for getting motivated…motivated to tackle those things that you have been procrastinating about.
Do you know your procrastination style? Take some time this week to break the cycle of procrastination and move forward.
Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a certified Career/Executive Coach. She coaches individuals and leaders to career fulfillment, transition, and advancement. She also consults for results with businesses and solopreneurs. Her background includes 12 years in senior leadership for a Fortune 100 corporation and 7 years as a coach, with a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Executive Coaching.
For more information, please visit my website at www.upcoached.com