“Someday is not a day of the week.” – Janet Dailey
Procrastination … we’ve all done it. Instead of making the difficult phone call, we re-organize the files on our desk. Instead of working on next year’s budget, we plan the office holiday party. Instead of hitting send on the email that could get us our dream job, we look over the cover letter and resume just one more time.
Putting something off doesn’t make it go away. The responsibility is still there tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. The longer we put something off, the bigger it grows in our minds and it gets harder and harder to find something else, anything else, to do other than what we know we need to be acting on.
Knowing all of this, what are some of the reasons we procrastinate and just what can we do to stop it?
- No clear deadline. If we give ourselves until whenever to get something done, that’s exactly how long it’s going to take. Set a deadline for each activity and write it down where you (and perhaps others) can see it. This holds you accountable to yourself and others.
- Task feels overwhelming. Getting next year’s marketing plan done is a big, big job. Looking at the job in its entirety can be overwhelming. So don’t look at it in its entirety. Break the big job down into small, actionable steps. Spending 30 minutes conducting market research doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Be sure to set timelines around the small, actionable steps.
- Instructions aren’t clear. If you’re not sure what is expected, ask. If you’re not sure where to start, ask. Sometimes we fear that by asking, we demonstrate lack of expertise or understanding. When you think about it, your question will be forgotten much sooner than a missed deadline.
- Fear of failure. The danger with taking on a big challenge is that we may not successfully complete it. The danger with applying for our dream job is we may not get it. It’s much safer to stick with the status quo. It’s safer to stay exactly where we are but if where you are is not where you want to be, that’s not a good thing. When we realize that failure is just another step to success, it becomes a little easier to take the step.
- Fear of success. The problem with success is that then people expect more from us, or at the very least, expect us to repeat our current success. That could mean more work and more responsibility and that can be scary too. What if we can’t repeat the success? What if we don’t like the responsibility? What if’s stall progress and promise.
- Don’t want to do it. There are some things we need to do that we simply don’t want to do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that account reconciliation needs to be done or difficult meetings held. Where possible look for ways to make unpleasant tasks more fun. If you can’t make them fun, focus on the sense of relief and accomplishment you’ll feel when you can cross that item off your to do list.
What are some of the reasons you procrastinate? And what have you done to stop procrastination in its tracks?