Blog (filtered)

Being a leader takes practice. We’re excited to share our latest experiments and lessons learned.

Tonia Duncan-Rivers
Friday, March 24, 2017

Recently I was thinking about how quickly time is passing. It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching the end of March. Lamenting over this made me think of all the things I would like to do but never get the chance to do. When I get in this mindset, all bets are off. I put off doing what I need to do and do what I want to do instead! Let’s just say I put the “Pro” in Procrastination! There, I said it! I know what some of you are thinking, especially those of you who have taken my Time Management class. In full disclosure, I always admit that I, too, have time management challenges!

You would probably agree that when we procrastinate, the pressure of completing our task mounts, and we often find ourselves stressed, feeling guilty and mad at ourselves for procrastinating in the first place. Procrastination is more than not doing something; it’s not doing something and feeling bad about it.

There are numerous reasons we procrastinate, but a few that come to mind are lack of interest or time, poor work habits, unclear guidelines, fear of the unknown, and the desire for perfection. If you have no interest in what you are doing, then it’s going to be hard to get started. As for lack of time, we often start a task and realize it’s going to take longer than expected, and then we procrastinate completing it. When it comes to poor work habits we must remove anything that distracts us. Unclear guidelines and not being certain of expectations can lead to procrastination too; always seek clarification so everyone is on the same page. Fear of the unknown is another reason we procrastinate. It causes avoidance. It can be scary to try something new, but if we try to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it becomes a little easier. Finally, there is the desire for perfection. Sometimes we delay starting something because we want a perfect result. We may even find ourselves using “what if” scenarios. And of course, there are times when we just don’t want to do what we need to do. Guilty as charged!

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 20% of the population suffers from chronic procrastination. While most of us are not chronic procrastinators, we pay a stiff price on occasion - - think late tax returns! So what can we do to squash procrastinating?

Tip #1.   Just Do It! 
Easier said than done, I know. We all recognize the Nike catch phrase Just Do It! What’s interesting is the Nike symbol appeals to many generations; it speaks not only to our desire to succeed but also to our inclination to procrastinate. Try to pick one thing that you need to do and do it! Envision yourself as a strong, well-trained athlete if you have to. Be disciplined! Focused! Think Nike!  Just do it!

Tip #2.   Reframe the Task
Sometimes we have to get in the “right” frame of mind to tackle a task. Try reframing the situation - view it as a challenge, a chance to learn something new or a chance to do something different.

Tip #3.  Practice the Swiss Cheese Method
Whenever you have a project or many tasks to do - - think bite sized pieces! Break down larger tasks into smaller tasks, set deadlines, and reward yourself when tasks are completed. Remember, a bite or two a day equals several bites a week and eventually equals a completed project or task!

Tip #4.  The 10-Minute Rule
If you commit to working on something for just 10 minutes, you may find that the task is not that bad, and 10 minutes may lead to 20 minutes, then 30 and perhaps even finishing the task. The objective is to start and commit to 10 minutes - - The result may surprise you!

Tip #5.  Eat a Frog First Thing Every Morning!
If you eat a frog first thing every morning, then you’ll be more productive. Eating a frog refers to doing the worst thing first. Think about it, you do many smaller tasks first, but you have the dreaded huge task looming in the back of your mind. It can be exhausting just thinking about it. By the way, what happens when you’re facing two frogs first thing in the morning? You eat the ugliest one first! In other words, you do the most dreaded task of the two! For more ideas, you may want to read Brian Tracey’s book, Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ideas to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Tip #6.  Create an audience
Select an accountability partner to keep you on track; ask your partner to check in with you on your progress. If you want to make it fun, make a bet that you will complete your task or project by a certain date and time. Offer a free lunch if and only if he/she checks on your progress along the way.

Tip #7.  Good Enough is Good Enough
Do not try to do everything perfectly; aim for progress not perfection. It’s okay if you don’t have what you need from others to start a project - - work on your part now and add the other pieces later. It is so easy to think everything needs to be a certain way before starting, but that’s just not true.

Tip #8.  When all else fails . . .  Take a Deeper Dive
Sometimes there is an underlying root cause as to why we procrastinate. Ask yourself if you feel overwhelmed or afraid of something. Think carefully about your situation and be honest with yourself.

I don’t want to leave you thinking that procrastination is all bad. Did you know that you could procrastinate responsibly? Responsible procrastination is delaying the start of your task and returning to it later. Returning is the operative word here! I’ll be honest; it’s tough, especially if you’re having fun, so discipline is necessary. If you try this, you’ll likely find that you’re more productive and focused. Try it! You may be surprised!