Everyone suffers procrastination from time to time. Some of us get to be masters at it! However, unless you recognise it and knock it on the head, it’s going to seriously ruin your professional career. In this article, extracted from my new book, Poised For Partnership, I suggest ten ways in which to stop procrastinating.
What type of procrastinator are you?
There are three types.
- Avoiders – people who are afraid of failure, or even of success, or who worry what other people think.
- Deciders – people who have no responsibility for the outcome, and so struggle to make a decision.
- Thrill-seekers – people who just get a kick out of last minute panics!
I know I am an avoider with a touch of thrill seeking. Recognising my types of procrastination has been really helpful for dealing with it.
Ten tricks to help you deal with procrastination
- Why are you procrastinating? What are you trying to protect yourself from? What can you do to protect yourself without coming to a standstill?
- Just do it – be brave and take the decision. It’s easy – far too easy – to get so caught up with thinking through a decision that you never actually make it. Stop thinking and decide!
- Make bite sized chunks. If the task seems so huge that you can’t think where to begin, try breaking it down into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Then get one done. Then another, and another.
- Talk to your coach or mentor. An experienced outside perspective may be really helpful in getting you to understand why you are procrastinating. Something at the subconscious level may be stopping you, and your coach and/or mentor will be able to help you understand this.
- Use your weekly task list. Rather like the advice on breaking the task into smaller ones, using a weekly To Do List gives you a motivational check of what you need to achieve. Ticking off each point is a real energiser!
- Set deadlines and rewards. You’d use these to motivate your team, so use them on yourself. Set yourself a deadline to have the task completed, and if you reach it, promise yourself a reward.
- Get the difficult stuff out of the way first. It’s tempting to fiddle around at the edges, doing all the small, easy, parts of a task. But that just leaves the daunting part looming over you. We all have times of the day when we are more energised and productive. I do better early in the morning than in the mid-afternoon slump. Identify your best time of day and tackle the hard things then.
- Accept when it’s good enough. Your client wants the job done, and is extremely unlikely to be looking for 100% perfection – even though you want to deliver it. They probably won’t even notice the less-than-perfect parts that are holding you up. 90/10 or even 80/20 is often enough. The longer you spend on that final 10% or 20% is bringing diminishing returns.
- Use your team. You have a team, they want challenges. So use them! Find things you can delegate to them.
- Give yourself a Power Hour. Switch off all distractions and devote an hour to really powering through your To Do list. You’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve!
Procrastination happens to us all, but unless we deal with it, it can become crippling to our careers. Learn to recognise the type of procrastination you use, and what triggers it. Then you can give yourself strategies to overcome it and move forward.
What tips do you have to share for ways to overcome procrastination?
This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the How To Make Partner website.
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the The Go-To Expert. She is the author of the award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’, Poised for partnership and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, and ‘The Go-To Expert’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices.