Are you a Professional Procrastinator?

Be honest with yourself. Do you put off difficult tasks? Have a little conversation with yourself about why something can wait? We all procrastinate at times, and more so when something is perceived as unpleasant to do. It’s normal to procrastinate, but every action has a consequence. What’s the impact of procrastinating?

How does that saying go? Put off today what you can do tomorrow? No, I think it actually goes like this:

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”       Benjamin Franklin

When it comes to high priority, high importance tasks, this isn’t just good advice. It’s critical advice.

Why do we Procrastinate?

I used to stick little notes all over the place and get great satisfaction pulling them down and tossing them in the garbage upon completion.  I started running out of room for notes so then I’d make a huge “to do” list and I would slowly tick items off to make myself feel like I’ve accomplished a lot at the end of the day. Get the little things done, then I can tackle the big things, right?  Somehow there were always lots of little things to fill the day.

But there always seemed to be some big monster tasks left on that list day after day. Those were the tasks that were the tough ones, the ones I didn’t really want to deal with. Often those were the ones that were the most important to deal with, like the customer problem I wasn’t sure how to handle or the employee performance issue.

I consider myself to be an intelligent person. I was completely aware of what was a priority. So why did I put it off?

The answer to this is going to be different for everyone. We are all very individual, with brains that are wired differently, and it is far above my expertise to delve into this. For me, I believe it is typically because I do not like conflict. So a task such as calling an angry customer or dealing with an employee situation is perceived as difficult. Fear of failure is another factor, if you don’t do something, you won’t fail at it.

There’s a multitude of reasons why we procrastinate. A little self-reflection or talking it through with a mentor will help you quickly identify why you’re avoiding something. There’s a few resources listed below to help further.

The Impact of Procrastinating

What I found was that by not dealing with the important stuff in a reasonable amount of time I was creating more problems and creating a lot of stress for myself.

What happened when I didn’t call the unhappy customer until tomorrow? Because I didn’t reach out to them, their anger increased and they took action. Now they’ve elevated their complaint to my boss and I not only have to deal with the customer but the angry boss as well. What was the impact of procrastination? More stress! I now had another conflict to deal with – my boss. And I created more work for myself.

What about your precious sleep? Anytime I had a sleepless night, it was typically because I was thinking about all those things I haven’t done. Bad for the bags under my eyes and bad for my disposition. Waking up grouchy made it that much harder to put on my Managers Face.

Another big reason that you don’t want to be a Professional Procrastinator is that as a leader your actions have a significant impact on everyone around you. When you don’t deal with an employee performance issue, it impacts the whole team. Or if you put off a task, your employees may be waiting on you to get their work done.  It also sends a message to your employees about expectations.  Remember that Everyone is Watching You, and taking their lead from you.  If you expect employees to meet deadlines and you’re not very good at meeting them it speaks volumes.

Tips to Stop Procrastinating

A mentor of mine gave me some good advice on how to stop procrastinating.  If you’re going to have a list, she said to just have a Top 3. These were the 3 most important, high impact, time sensitive things I needed to accomplish by the end of the day/week. This way I didn’t make myself busy doing all kinds of other things that could clearly wait.  No more, check, check, check, done…. those Top 3 stayed on the list until complete and nothing else was allowed to make its way on that list until I took an item off. If I was struggling with a particular task I made myself answer a few questions.

  • Why did I put this on my top priority list?
  • What’s preventing me from getting at it?
  • What is the impact if I complete/don’t complete this?

Then just rip off the Band-Aid! When you just start doing something and do it right away, it’s amazing what happens. You’ll feel relief and realize most times that it wasn’t that difficult to begin with.

I also found tackling the tough things first thing in the morning was the best way to get rid of them and move on. This helped for a number of reasons. First, my brain was always a lot fresher in the morning and what may have seemed daunting the day before didn’t look so bad today. Second, I now had that off my plate and it just made for a better day knowing that I had truly accomplished something important. And third, I found that if I didn’t get the big things done at the beginning of the day they often never got done at all. 

A Few Resources

Everyone procrastinates a bit and that’s not a bad thing; we all need some down time and need to be able to forgive ourselves if we don’t change the world in a day. But it’s important to take a good look around the workplace. How is procrastination impacting productivity? Is it creating more stress? More work?

If you need help with how to stop procrastinating, there’s some good self help books out there.  One I recommend is The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins

There’s some great videos that you can listen to as well. Again, Mel Robbins is one of my favorites. Here’s a quick, insightful video on YouTube .

And if you haven’t yet watched Tim Urban’s Ted Talk on procrastination, it’s well worth the 15 minutes.

Do you procrastinate? Have you found helpful tips to stop procrastinating?

If you’re thinking about commenting, do it now – don’t put it off for later!

2 thoughts on “Are you a Professional Procrastinator?”

  1. This post is so useful, I really love the 3 tips to stop procrastinating. I will use them to better organize my top priorities. 2 years ago I had a student that was extremely bad at procrastinating so I played this exact ted talk to her and we kind of went deep into analyzing it. I am proud to say that now she is flourishing in her studies, way more organized, and rarely procrastinates.
    Thank you for sharing

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