Procrastination – putting off until tomorrow what can be done today – affects us all at some point in our careers and lives. Do you get stressed at thinking about what you aim to achieve on your to do list and instead put them off until tomorrow? Or do you wait until a critical point, the last possible moment, before you start getting things done?
Surprisingly, procrastination is not due to laziness. Most procrastinators actively look for something else to do. It is simply a flaw in your time management thinking; you can plan out, time it and strategise a job, but then put it off for another time.
Some have an in-built excuse: their talent is better used at the cutting edge of a deadline, when time is against them. They like the euphoric adrenaline surge that comes with trying to achieve a very tight deadline.
There are those that procrastinate out of fear: they are afraid of making a decision. They fear failure and would rather have others think that they lacked the effort rather than the ability to do a task. This is true with perfectionists: they grew up under high expectations and now expect high expectations from themselves and fear falling short.
It can also be a form of rebellion in putting off executing a job, you let it linger before external pressures – such as a deadline – force you to.
The price you paid for Procrastination
Procrastination is a thief – it steals your time. Time is an irreplaceable resource, but the cost can be irreparable: missed deadlines, career stiffener, shoddy work, wasted opportunities; affect your health and impact on your personal life.
If you procrastinate in work, then the effect on your private life can be devastating as a partner, family and friends become impatient at your lack of energy, lack or urgency.
In work, procrastination can result in unnecessary tensions, disturb team dynamics and potentially fuels failure. It also brings added pressure to beating deadlines and those that are efficient will come to reflect that they are ‘carrying people’.
Overcome the procrastination
You can crack procrastination, so here some tips to beat it:
Make tomorrow today: Do it now! If you’re waiting for the perfect moment realise that such a time will never come. Do the best you can at that moment. Things are more rewarding when it’s less pressured. If you finish your task early, you’ll have time to fine-tune and your work will be more polished.
Don’t over think: ‘Analysis by paralysis’ has become a cliche for a good reason. Most people fail to act because they are afraid that things could go wrong or that they may fail. Successful people have a bias for action and not afraid to fail. Failing is part of the learning process, it’s not final. It’s a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.
Accountability: Tell someone who cares about you what your goals are and ask them to check on your progress. As business coaches we hold our clients accountable so we have regular sessions to help them to hit their goals. If you are like me and bolded enough, make your goals public. I often do this, telling all my friends what I want to achieve. This is not to seek their approval or show off, but my direct commitment to those goals.
Outsource tasks: If there are tasks that someone else can do for you and do it better, ask for their help. If something is beyond your skill set, outsource it. By outsourcing you will not feel overwhelmed and you will accomplish your goal with less effort. Outsourcing will minimise and, in some cases, eliminate your aversion to doing what you need to do.
Few people are willing to admit to procrastination, but it is one of the worst habits to have: it never allows you to be the master of your own destiny, never allows you to achieve your goals, feel the joy of success and never allows you to recoup that lost time.
So kick the habit and take back your life. And do it now.