OK, tell me that you don’t procrastinate even just some of the time… I don’t know anyone that doesn’t fall victim of this nasty problem – even the most senior CEO. So, given it is so rife across our businesses I thought I would offer some thoughts on how to manage procrastination in order to assist you in getting the results you are aiming for. Firstly, how do we know when procrastination is in the way?
Often we think we have ‘reasons’ why we can’t do something when in fact they’re simply excuses dressed up. What excuses sound like is:
“I don’t have time.”?”I can’t decide”?”If I do it I’ll wreck it”,?”When I have completed my [insert training course here] I’ll know enough and then I’ll do it”,?”It’s not creative enough”?”Only I can do it”?”I want it to be right”,?”What will “they” think of me”,?”It’s not good enough”,?”I’m not good enough”,?”It needs to be perfect”,?”The timing is not quite right”,
The real challenge is to determine the difference between your emotions and what makes a sound choice.
1. Is there emotion involved??A simple way to tell the difference is to firstly be aware if there is an emotion behind your thinking. Tapping back into that emotion and asking yourself where that could have come from and be objective about the actions as if the emotion was not a factor to drive you. Ask yourself ‘If the emotion wasn’t there what would I do?
2. Is it closest to ‘the money?’?Excuse the expression, it simply says to me what is going to get you closest to the result you need right now. Sometimes it is urgent and sometimes it is important. Helping know where you need to go in the bigger picture helps you prioritise even when others make an awful lot of noise.
3. Are there beliefs in the way??A hint that a belief is involved is when the words ‘too’, ‘always’, ‘can’t’, ‘wont’, ‘must’, ‘never’ and other definitive descriptors. Defining others or situations as if they are a certain way is another clue. The way we see the world is in reality only the way we have experienced it and not a fact. We’re getting into esoteric territory here, I know, but the question is whether what we believe is influencing us is working well for us or limiting us. I can have a belief that hard work pays off however that’s not actually true in reality, its just enough of my experience to allow me to make the generalisation that this is so. The situation for someone else is that life is easy and they do not have to work hard to achieve. If the belief that hard work pays off actually pays off for me then it is a healthy belief to keep. If it doesn’t and I just end up working harder and harder with no return for it at the cost of other important factors in my life then it is unresourceful and time to let that go. So, ask yourself where you came to believe that the ‘reason’ at play became real. For many of us it is engrained beliefs handed down to us by our parents and we have never actually re-qualified them for ourselves.
4. Are we overwhelmed??Overwhelm can be a procrastination strategy in itself for some however some times we just need to step back, take stock of what has to be done and clear the way to get the tasks done. I call it ‘re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ because essentially it is not useful to the final outcome however some times it helps us clear the emotional path to something else.
5. What are your strategies??Strategies are actions that we take in certain circumstances on a recurring basis. In fact a lot of people with depression get depressed because of their choices in actions that create a strategy of depression. They do one thing that leads to another, that leads to another, that finally leads to feeling depressed. If we can go back to the very first action that sets off or triggers the strategy, including procrastination strategies, we have more chance of undoing them. Even my son who has Asperger Syndrome has learned that his dysfunctional behaviours that (others attribute to the disorder) is part of an ‘Asperger strategy’. Knowing this he has been far more successful at keeping the condition at bay and has gone from nearly being thrown out of mainstream schooling to becoming school vice captain. So, if someone like this can manage their behaviour against popular beliefs then all of us can take responsibility for our procrastination strategies – starting at the very first step. Look closely at what you do before you decide to procrastinate – is it to pile up the work in a messy pile on your desk? If so, then do something else. Is it to do something unimportant first just because it is urgent or do we leave our office door open? If so, then do something else in that moment. It can be a very simple step.
6. Is it on brand? (Even your own personal brand!)?We all have a brand even if it is not just about our business presentation or representation. Is it aligned with our values and our guiding principles that steer us in the right direction. Stepping back and taking check of where our brand sits in relation to the tasks at hand helps us determine if the hesitation is warranted or not.
7. Is it on balance with what the client expects?? Often I see creatives that are stuck at resolving something because they have high expectations about the standard of delivery. Of course we need to seek excellence, my point is about what is beyond that. I’m talking about those parts that head for perfection rather than excellence. Be sure to measure what the client’s expectations are, whether the work fits your brand well enough for what it is, if it fits in the budget parameters and if it can be done in time for the schedule, will it harm the parties involved, and weigh all that up to determine if that little bit of extra delay or work is actually required.