"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." Hebrews 3:7
I’ve put off writing this for too long.
I was visiting with a friend recently. He brought up the issue of procrastination. It was not his procrastination but that of a coworker. This coworker’s ongoing procrastination was affecting major parts of the organization. That got me thinking.
What about my personal issue with procrastination? I’m a very busy person and I pride myself on getting a lot of things done. So why write on the issue of procrastination? It’s because I make myself busy on other things to avoid the thing I really need to deal with. Procrastinators can be very busy people; they are just not busy doing what is most needed.
There are several reasons for procrastination. One is that what needs to be dealt with is just unpleasant. We may avoid doing something until it just must be dealt with. Another reason is that we think something is not as important as other things. We may even think that it will just take care of itself if we leave it alone. Leave it alone and it will go away. Really?
Fear is another reason for procrastination. We are afraid of failure. Maybe you put off finishing your degree or starting that business or having that serious conversation.
Procrastination has been called the mother of all demons and can literally stop you in your tracks from achieving all that you desire.
Here are four suggestions I and others have found helpful in slaying this intimidating giant.
1. Do it now
Hold your breath and jump right in! Putting things off until the last minute is a bad habit and like all habits is ingrained in our subconscious mind and hard to break. It feels like the normal thing to do, and we simply continue along our path. To complete a task immediately may even feel strange or like a forced action.
2. Take baby steps
Sometimes we procrastinate because the task may be intimidating to us. Perhaps we have no possible inkling on where to start. In these cases, it is quite fine to take it one step at a time. Say you are preparing a business plan and for the 5th time this week, you’ve turned on the PC and looked at the blank screen. Or you’ve just remembered you need to do some more research before you begin…you’re still not ready. You simply need to break down the project into smaller pieces and tackle each bit separately. Make each task an individual project and after completion of each one, celebrate and acknowledge your achievement.
I like to make a list every day. I try to create the list the night before. I break the action items down to their simplest form. For example, If I’m hosting a meeting, I don’t just write down “Host meeting.” That is too just too big a thing to make it one step. Break it down into several. I write down:
1. Confirm date and time.
2. Secure a location.
3. Determine program
4. Create guest list
You get the idea. What I don’t get done that day, I move it to my list for tomorrow. I very rarely get all my “to dos” done every day, but I get a lot more done than if I didn’t have a list. I also get the endorphin pleasure of scratching off items that are completed!
3. Drop it
Why force the issue? Perhaps your procrastination is over just one thing. It may be time to ask yourself what is really going on here. If you have been ‘dragging your feet’ on something for a very long time, just dropping it may all be for the best. Something somewhere is trying to tell you something (that’s a lot of “some’s”). That something could be your intuition or a touch from God.
Years ago, I was in a leadership position to hire a new team member. Hiring a person to fill the vacancy in my team would make my life a lot easier, so I was very motivated to find the right person. I thought I had, but I just couldn’t make the hire. His resume was impressive. His references were great. We got along. There was just something there. I eventually had to pass on offering the position to him. That cost me an extra six months. But in the end, I was glad I didn’t offer him the position. I ended up hiring the perfect person for that position and there was no check whatsoever in my gut out him.
Think about something that you have been putting off again and again and again. What are the reasons that you need to complete this task in the first place? Does someone want you to do this? What is THEIR agenda? What are YOUR reasons for this lengthy delay? I find it amazing that 99% of the time I put off doing something, I am thankful that I did! I must admit that this a solution to procrastination by eliminating the thing you need to do, or in my case, the person you are considering. You could say it is procrastination in the negative. With that said, this kind of action should be a last resort.
4. Support team
Do you put off tasks because you feel that they are too big and complex for you to handle alone? Or because you need assistance? Be honest with yourself. “No man is an island”. Ask for help! There are many resources out there that can provide you with all you need to carry out your job. If you’re a solo-professional and you put off answering emails, then don’t answer them yourself. Hire an assistant, find some college students that want experience, get a family member to help.
Procrastinating on life changing activities can be overwhelming. Get a mastermind group together, find a mentor, join a support group. Hire a leadership coach. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Just ensure that to kick this habit; you do what feels good to you in whatever method you choose. You’ll surely postpone procrastination at least for today.