Procrastination is a subject of extremes. Many people will tell us that their work is suffering because of their procrastination. Others say that putting work off to the last minute is a strategy for building adrenalin to do their best work.
I used to be a part of the second group, Team Crunch. I would tell you that I do my best work under extreme deadlines. That is when my creative juices flow and great ideas pop up. I still think that is partly true; I do get most energized during crunch time, but it is not when I do my highest quality work, and it is not fair to my team.
I have learned over the years that I need to deliver my work at a measured pace that allows time for me to double check my work and let others question my work. These are not innate skills for me; I have had to learn strategies for pacing my work. Here are a five of my favorite strategies help me squash procrastination.
Tip #1: Triage and Organize
Triage your tasks into the following three categories.
1. Do it now: Tackle your urgent tasks that need immediate attention right away. These tasks immediately go into your to-do list within a short period. For example, complete this task within one hour.
2. Defer to a scheduled time/date: For tasks that require more time, schedule them on your calendar or they will be deferred forever (a.k.a. procrastination pit). One of our favorite work schedulers is Asana. Asana is a web based tool that allows our entire team to schedule work for one another, set due dates, and check off things when they are completed. We can even have a conversation about the project in real time.
3. Someday/Maybe: Make a list of tasks that are not urgent or a high priority. Set a date to review these items every 30 days and see if they make it to your schedule list.
Tip #2: Break It Down and Measure Progress
How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time. That is the same way you tackle a big project. Break a big project down into monthly tasks, weekly tasks, and daily tasks. The progress will be motivating, and before you know it, you will have that big project completed. Seeing progress is a major motivator to people. In a Harvard Business Review article titled, The Power of Small Wins, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer write “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important are making progress on meaningful work.” The two key items here are progress and meaningful work. You must find a personal connection to the importance of any project you are working on. And, find ways to see incremental progress as you tackle each step in the journey.
Tip #3: Stop Playing Kick the Can
When I was young, my friends and I used to walk down the street, and we would kick a can all the way home. Why were we kicking the can? We did not want to pick it up and throw it away, so, we would just keep kicking the can as if it would magically throw itself away. And as you may guess, the can was always there when we got home, and we eventually had to pick it up to throw it away. Most of the time I am quite motivated to accomplish things, but sometimes I need a boost. So, I practice self-talk and say a mantra out loud to get myself going. My mantra is, “Now is always better than later, today is always better than tomorrow.” If that does not work, I remind myself that if I don’t tackle this task now, it will only become a bigger, more urgent problem tomorrow. And, I tell myself to stop kicking the can down the road.
Tip #4: Cramming Does Not Create Quality Work
I know many of you say you do your best work at the last minute. Speaking from personal experience, that is not true. You may be more energized because you have the pressure of time. You may even be creative. But, you cannot do your best work since you will eventually run out of time. You will not have a chance to ask for other’s input or test your assumptions. Not to mention, you will eventually drive all the people who like to work in a measured, planned approach in your office crazy.
Tip #5: Know How Your Behavioral Style Drives Your Interests
Take a DISC Survey to find out more about your natural tendencies. Certain tasks are aligned with your natural behavior style and will most likely be the items that you prioritize and are excited to tackle first. On the opposite spectrum, the tasks that fall outside of your natural behavior style could be the work that you procrastinate because it takes more energy from you. We recommend taking an Everything DiSC® Workplace Profile to help you gain more insight on some of your natural tendencies. The Everything DiSC® Workplace Profile will help provide you insight on stressors and motivators at work, which can be connected to why you procrastinate some things and others you cannot wait to get started. If you want to get started with taking an Everything DiSC® profile, you can buy one from our TH!NK store.
This article has required me to use all of my procrastination strategies. We have struggled with blogging consistently for our business. In fact, it was my desire to do tip #3, kick the can, on this article that made me write an article on procrastination. I must admit that I am stoked to tell you that the goal was to publish this by August 16th and I am putting the final touches to it on August 13. Whoot whooo!!! I hope these tips help you, too!
If you have any questions about these tips, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.