Stop Procrastinating Today (Instead of Tomorrow)
All of us, no matter how accomplished and successful, sometimes put off doing things as long as possible. It may be having to make a call to a difficult client, conducting a performance review with an executive team member or cleaning leaves out of the gutter. And while we procrastinate in completing these unpleasant but necessary tasks, other obligations and activities continue to pile up.
The result is the mental equivalent of one of those mile-long traffic jams caused by an accident far up ahead. Only after the unfortunate victims have been airlifted to the hospital and the wreckage of their vehicles hauled off to the scrap-yard, can traffic get moving again.
I’m not immune to the quagmire of procrastination, but I’ve learned a few tricks in my time that help me get done what needs to get done. Here are some suggestions that might get you moving again:
Look for root causes. If you keep putting off a specific obligation, take a few minutes to ask yourself, Why this? Understanding what lies behind your reluctance may provide clues that make you more aware of what’s going on your head each time this particular task rolls around.
Set priorities. Some tasks are always more important than others. If you leave the most difficult task to the end, it might never get done. Try putting this task first. All the other things you’ve been avoiding will pale by comparison.
Tackle the activity in parts. A big item on your to-do list probably has several moving parts. It may help to break it down, assign an order to those parts, and complete them one at a time.
Give yourself a break. Regardless of the task involved, it’s necessary to take a break at least once every hour or so. Get up from your desk, move around, have a snack. Do something to re-energize you.
Nothing’s perfect. Let’s say you’re charged with compiling a monthly report for your board of directors, and you’re unconsciously treating it as if you were painting the Sistine Chapel. Until every detail is perfect, it’s not ready to go. But chasing after perfection always comes with built-in delays. Your board report has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be perfect—especially if you’re facing a deadline. Do the best you can and move on.
Where do you work most efficiently? It may be the setting that’s aiding and abetting your worst procrastination habits. Working in the office is often very distracting (unless you’ve got the door closed, phone turned off, etc.). An empty conference room with blinds on the windows might help you focus more. Explore different work-setting options.
Use goals to keep moving forward. When you get in your car, you generally know where you’re headed. Setting goals offers a similar “destination” for the various tasks awaiting your attention. Jot down specific goals (both major and minor) and check them off as they’re addressed and completed.
Procrastination has very little going for it—except that it’s easy and takes no effort—while completing tasks and achieving goals brings a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment. The momentum you get from tackling what must be done enables you to end your day feeling like you’re one step ahead of the game, rather than two steps behind.
If you’re ready to move past procrastination and reach the next level of success, we invite you to join other CEOs, managers and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.