I admit it. Iâ€™m a procrastinator. As a knowledge worker or entrepreneur, I work like I did in high school, college, and graduate program, by completing projects right before they are due. My “creativity” never kicks into gear, until it absolutely has to. Doing things at the last minute works for me, especially when I was a VP. However, I know the difference between my routine procrastination and issues-related procrastination.
The later causes me underlying stress, since I know that I could or should be doing something on the project or task. Issues-related procrastination keeps me from being productive and effective. When I need to be productive like Brantley in The Secret of My Success, I use my eight steps to overcome procrastination.
All My Justifications
My justifications are legitimate most of time. For example, here’s a snapshot of one time periodÂ when I was bogged down my issues, causing my procrastination. Family was my top priority over my work. I’ll telling myself that itâ€™s Thanksgiving or Christmas, so family was more important. Intertwined with the holidays was a move to NYC, which was extremely inconvenient, labor intensive, and stressful, taking me away from work.
With speed shopping over and Christmas completed, and then came New Years Eve. I had just flown back from Seattle to NYC. I was meeting friends, hosting a get together at the new condo, so I didnâ€™t do anything over the weekend. I kept telling myself, â€œIâ€™ll work all day on New Yearâ€™s day.â€ And guess what? It didnâ€™t happen.
I was content to be a sloth by watching my new toy at the time, HDTV, so I watched everything from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to Star Wars: Return of the Sith, to Rumor has It. Still mentally and physically fatigued from Christmas and New Years. I kept telling myself, â€œitâ€™s okay. I need this rest. Iâ€™ll start tomorrow.â€
Eight Steps to Overcome Procrastination
So what do I do when procrastination hits me? I do have a formula for dealing with myself that may help you:
- Roadblocks, barriers, or problems: I determine why I donâ€™t want to do the task or project. Are there problems that I donâ€™t want to deal with, if so, then I better just jump right in and figure it out. It’s sort of a “come to Jesus” moment, when I finally admit to myself that I’m having issues, that are psyching me out. For example, I may not be up to speed on the research and this is preventing me from attacking the project. I’ll order up to five business books and any other research that forces me to educate myself on the problem.
- Project plan or action plan: do I have an action plan or project plan with due dates? If not, then this is a sure fire way for me to procrastinate. I love the act of planning. It gets me motivated. I sit down in front of my computer, firing up mindmapping software, Microsoft Project, or Microsoft Excel, and then just start planning. This is perfect, when I have too many ideas, so I can brainstorm, and make an action plan with the results that then motivate me to do the work.
- Come out of hiding: I come out of hiding from the person, who may be dependent on me. For example, dear friend was managing one of my website projects that was delayed. He knows exactly how to manage up and around me. When he gives me space, he knows Iâ€™m busy. But he also knows, when I need to be managed, so he’s persistent not letting me off the hook; itâ€™s time to get down to business.
- Watch movies that motivate me: when I work, I like having something on in the background. During times of procrastination, I start watching movies off my “Top 10 Business Movies” list to get motivated. If it’s not business movies, then I marathon one of all of the following: all six Star Wars movies, four Star Trek Next Generation movies, seven Star Trek Original movies, five Harry Potter movies, and three Lord of the Rings extended-version movies. I play them in the background, as I tackle busy work that leads to the work I’m supposed to be doing.
- Read blog posts about procrastination: this allows me to procrastinate more, but I get a little closer to my goal by reading blogs about procrastination. For example, I searched on one of my favorite blogs, Lifehack.org, and read â€œHow To Get Started On Anything.â€
- Do everything else, and then start: there are times, when I just have to clean my office before I can get started. If Iâ€™m feeling disorganized in my environment, then my thinking is a reflection of my environment. While it may sound like another justification, cleaning does help me overcome the mental blocks of starting my work. When my desk is cluttered, it makes me feel uncomfortable and chaotic, so cleaning it will be the next task before I start the object of my procrastination.
- Work on the smaller, easy tasks: if I am bogged down on the larger work blocks of activities, then I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I get started by working on the little things that are easy to do within a work block of activity. It’s like the forest is overwhelming me, so I go into the forest, pick one tree, then work on it. This tree leads to larger trees, which eventually leads me to complete the whole forest.
- Donâ€™t let the future overwhelm you: sometimes knowing that the projects are a big deal can be an issue for me. While this doesn’t happen very often; it still happens to me. To overcome this dread, I reframe the project, by staying in the moment, focusing on the task at hand. It’s like putting blinders, so I can’t see other things that could distract me from the work, and then “squinting,” as I look at the project or task again. By squinting, I’m able to reframe it into something that doesn’t psych me out, so the project or tasks feels less intimidating.
Perhaps these eight tips will help you out with your procrastination. Maybe it helped you avoid doing your work by killing time by reading this post. Be honest with yourself, what are your justifications saying about you? What work have you been avoiding? Not feeling up to being self-aware, then kick back and watch The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox. His energy is infectious that should kickstart you out of your funk. Or it lead to marathoning all your favorite 80s shows!