There has been a lot of talk this week around procrastination. This is a clear sign that that which you are putting off is the most important thing to focus on at this moment. It could be writing that book, or what I often come across, re-writing your CV for that all- important career change.
Frequently the reasons we put doing something off is that classic fear of failure. The notion that, if- I- do- this- and-it -turns- out- not-to- be-perfect keeps many of us from trying at all. The trouble is, this keeps us from taking those vital steps to move forward, so we stay stagnant. Hanging in our comfort zone, dissatisfied with our lives.
Perfectionism is another reason many use as an excuse for a delay tactic. I’m certainly guilty of this. Striving for that ‘perfect’ can keep us from achieving anything at all. As with fear of failure, it ensures that we in fact stay in exactly the same place.
We tend to see procrastination in a negative light. Rory Vaden, author of Procrastinate on Purpose, invites us to look at this strategically. He says, “ Procrastinating on purpose is a strategic advantage because it allows for a fast-moving ever-dynamic world,” and he adds, “….it’s important to understand the distinction between important, urgent, and significant: Important is how much it matters, urgent is how soon it matters, and significant is how long it matters.”
While Danielle La Porte thinks this cunctation may be our intuition speaking to us. She says, ‘Hesitation can be a form of wisdom. Motives become clearer, new information shows up.” She encourages us to choose, “..inner wisdom over external pressure.”
Procrastination is often the tool of the creative. When writing up research at university or writing the blog or talks that I do, there is a certain amount of time my brain takes to ‘settle down’, before the writing in fact begins. Most common form it takes if I’m working from home is that laundry somehow takes priority. Though checking emails, reading articles, making a cup of tea all rank highly in there. Stephen Pressfield in his book The War of Art suggests that his being at his desk each day at the same time allowed for creativity to flow. There is something to discipline after all.
Whatever your reasons may be, there are ways to get around this, and here are 3.
1) Have a clear set of goals or a task list for the day. If you can write it the day before even better. Having this list will mean that you don’t need to spend time considering what it is you need to do. You can just get on with it. Some suggest doing the hardest, most involved one first, instead of the easiest ones.
2) Analyse whether the procrastination is strategic or not. As Vaden says, ““But if it can wait, I challenge people to procrastinate on purpose. Doing something early isn’t creating more time; it’s taking something from tomorrow and bringing it into today.”
3) Divide your task up into bits, and tackle each bit keeping the overarching goal in mind. The old joke about the elephant and the refrigerator comes to mind, though being a vegetarian and caring about elephants I couldn’t possibly write it out. I’m sure you know what I mean.
It is never as bad as you think it will be. The cost of not doing something is often higher than the rewards of doing it. In this day and age, we keep trying until we get it right.
Be ambitious in your expectations, yet kind and realistic.
I hope this helps. How does your procrastination manifest? I’d love to hear from you, just hit reply to this email and let me know.
To speak to me in greater detail about this, or any other leadership related matter please email firstname.lastname@example.org.