We are all guilty of procrastination at one time or another or are at least self-aware that a certain set of tasks is bound to push us into the procrastination zone. Like with a majority of coping mechanisms in life, procrastination is anchored around a mindset. You can increase your resistance to dragging your heels by adopting a few simple strategies that you can customize and adjust in a situation-specific way.
Know Thyself. We all think we know ourselves pretty darn well, until we are scrambling to explain why our work isn’t quite done and we need more time or a decision needs to be made and another day goes by without one. Yes, in part, our varying strengths and weaknesses makes the world tick, however, analyzing both what you bring to the table and where you fall short are always going to be helpful in finding best practices to manage both. Do a quick exercise and jot down what you believe your top 5 strengths and weaknesses are. Be honest and if procrastination is one in the latter column, accept it but double down and attempt to mitigate it.
Pull the Tooth. The best way to start the day off on the right foot is to pull the tooth. Say what? Of course it is an analogy. If you can complete your most daunting task right off the bat, it will make all successive to-do’s far less painful. If you have already “pulled the tooth” on the one thing that you most likely would procrastinate on, it sets the tone for the remainder of the day because you have gotten the most difficult thing checked off. Woo-hoo.
Do Like Jerry. Here is a technique architected by Jerry Seinfeld called not surprisingly, The Seinfeld Method. The Seinfeld Method is useful for those establishing a new habit (or trying to break a bad one) and have been known to self-sabotage by not staying consistent long enough to give a new habit a fighting chance to win over the old one. In an interview, Seinfeld “revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” “Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.”
A big wall calendar, a journal or a notebook would all work for this as it really is just the visual inspiration that should motivate you to keep at it. Since procrastination is largely internally driven, if you know that particular tasks drive you in that direction, utilize The Seinfeld Method to counter that tendency and over time, the hope is that task that drove you to dilly-dally doesn’t have the overwhelming trigger that it once did. It desensitizes in a sense and keeps procrastination at bay.
Strengthsfinders 2.0 is my go-to with new hires. It provides insight to our management on the personalities amongst our team members, how those personalities are best utilized for specific roles or projects and Strengthsfinders 2.0 offers a detailed summary that assists in honing in on how particular character traits can be optimized as well as references growth areas. If you can focus your energies on what you are best at, you can learn to delegate your weaknesses while you work on improving them, LOL. Procrastination, at its heart, is often a by-product of what you innately already know you aren’t the strongest at.
Mindfulness. The most powerful resource you have to conquer procrastination is present with you at all times. Your mindset. Emotions tend to play a factor that can derail us from our best intentions. We all know what it feels like to be reactive rather than mindful. It is easier to give in when we don’t feel like doing something even though we know intellectually that doing whatever it is IS the right thing to do. If you can cultivate a new habit of paying attention without overthinking (or second guessing), that mental muscle will strengthen and issue you more control over what you can and desire to get done.
Procrastination is not an untamable beast. There are no quick fixes and of course, you won’t read this blog and never procrastinate again but maybe doing one or two of the things mentioned above will resonate with you and if it helps you finish a task that has been looming over you, well, wouldn’t that be fabulously awesome?