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Avoiding Procrastination in the Workplace

I’m putting off finishing another article as I’m writing this. Maybe I should follow my own advice?

Part of procrastination is avoiding the thing/task that you could fail at, thereby protecting yourself. It’s the act of not acting at all. Why bother if you’re going to do poorly anyway, right? But this is a terrible idea! By focusing on anything except the task at hand, you’re forcing yourself to rush a project, instead of showcasing your expertise. You’re hurting yourself far more than initially failing ever could. How is this possible, you might be asking yourself. If you fail, that failure is coming from a mostly external place. But when procrastination is part of the equation, you’re getting a sense of failure from internal sources, as well as external. Twice the punishment for the same amount of work.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few tactics that help keep my procrastination at bay. They may not work for everyone, so if you try something without success, don’t give up just yet. Something else will work for you, but you need to experiment to discover what that trick is. Learning how to not procrastinate is a journey, and we’re all along for the ride.

What Type of Procrastinator are You?

We’re complex creatures, which makes our procrastination equally complex. There’s no one way to put things off. However, it helps to know what type of procrastinator you are, so you can learn how to work with it and accomplish necessary tasks. So, what type of procrastinator are you?

There are four type of procrastinators. The Performer, the Self-Deprecator, the Overbooker, and the Idea Seeker. I’ll keep it brief here. The Performer puts off tasks until the last minute and then scrambles to finish. “I work well under pressure,” they say. The Self-Deprecator self inflicts punishment when they don’t begin a task, or if they fall behind. “I’m super lazy and unmotivated and can’t get anything done, so why should I try,” is their response. The Overbooker fills their calendar with tasks, appointments, events, things to do and places to see, and then becomes overwhelmed at the idea of having to do it all. And finally, the Idea Seeker always starts something new, and then finds something else even more interesting to do, leaving tasks unfinished. You’ll hear an awful lot of, “check out this new idea!” Are you more one than the other? Or are you a combination?

Avoid Procrastinating

It’s much easier to write about than actually do, isn’t it? I struggle daily with keeping myself on task. But there are ways to set yourself up to accomplish everything without struggling.

My most urgent and important tasks are usually client communications, and relaying any information to our developers. Every morning, these are the tasks I prioritize. That, and making coffee for everyone.

What’s the Takeaway?

If you’d like to hear a little bit more about procrastination, there’s an excellent podcast, Ologies, with one episode featuring a psychologist, Dr. Joseph R. Ferrari, about the art of procrastination. Dr. Ferrari is famous for the phrase, “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” I highly recommend you give it a listen, if you can. It helped me learn a few of the tips above and, if nothing else, it’s a very entertaining listen.

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with procrastination is to first recognize it. Next, figure out why. Finally, find the best strategies to avoid procrastinating. There will always be moments when you put something off, of course. No one is perfect. But, if you find tactics that help you minimize its negative effects, and make those tactics part of your normal routine, you’ll find that you procrastinate less, and that looming feeling of “I have to get this done right now,” stops looming over your day.

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