April 20, 2017
“Eh, I’ll Do It Tomorrow” – Ending the Cycle of Procrastination

Whether you are a die-hard procrastinator, or just put things off from time to time, procrastination is something many of us do. Regardless of the knowledge that to do so never ends well.

If we know this, why do we do it?  More importantly, how do we stop?! 

Read on for a handful of helpful hints to help you rethink your own strategy for how to stop putting off making a dent in your procrastination habits.

1. What’s with the Wait?

Sometimes, you need to understand what is causing a particular behavior before you can attempt to make progress on it.  Maybe you are intimidated because it’s new or hard? Maybe you don’t know how to ask for help or know where to start? Maybe it’s more fun to surf Instagram than do a seemingly not fun project.  Or maybe it’s just a ton of work?   By dissecting the root cause, you can face it head on.

2. Prioritize. 

There are things we must do, and there are things we want to do.  I must create slides for our quarterly board meetings, and ensure I provide my team with helpful and insightful feedback to keep them growing. I want to clean out my email inbox every night before going home.  Realistically, nothing dramatically bad happens if I fail to do this, so it falls lower on the priority list.  However, when I let that non-priority go for too long, ultimately becomes a necessity I must address.  When you look at all work in front of you, ask yourself about must vs. want.  Prioritize the must items, and plan out the time to power through them.  Then allocate a bit of time every few days to tackle the want items.  By not letting those get too unwieldly, you avoid the overwhelming feeling that often comes with procrastination.

3. Enlist Some Help

Over the years, my job has grown, as have my outside responsibilities.  I’m not going to sugar coat it; sometimes I completely blow off projects simply because I can’t find the mental or physical energy to tackle one more project at the end of a long day.  I was raised by a mom who had a wonderful home-cooked meal on the table every night, and kept the house in a Martha Stewart-like beauty herself.  When I became an adult and had a home of my own, I tried to follow her example.  I’d dread the thought of a busy week at work only to contemplate how I was going to grocery shop, clean, etc.  on my weekends.  I’d ultimately tackle the things that were urgent or high priority, but everything not time-sensitive always fell by the wayside. Until one day, I smartened up and thought to myself, “Why am I not outsourcing bits of my life?!”  One account with Peapod and a housecleaner later, and BOOM.  Instant order restored.  At work, I apply the same thought process.  While you can’t pawn off everything you don’t want to do/don’t have time to do, look to others who actually might relish the opportunity to take it on.  I’ve learned most of the projects that I tend to put off turn out to be amazing opportunities for others.  You never know unless you ask!

4. Baby Steps Can Lead to a Marathon

It’s unreasonable to think the most delinquent of procrastinators are going to completely change style and suddenly tackle each project proactively.  However, they don’t need to.  We aren’t going for perfection here; we are looking to make small adjustments to get your work done in both a less stressful, more productive manner.  If I have a giant new project on my plate that I have one quarter to accomplish, I might put it off for a period of time because I am feeling overwhelmed or just don’t know quite how to begin.  However, if I break that project into smaller, more manageable and measurable chunks, it becomes far less daunting.  Build on each of those smaller pieces and boom!  Chaos evolves into success.

Procrastination and productivity are competing opposites.  While procrastination isn’t always all bad (hey, sometimes that extra time allows us to think through an optimal solution!) it can still fill us with dread.  Productivity allows us to move things forward rather than hold them back. Which seems more appealing and impactful?  In today’s world, we have numerous competing priorities, and never enough time to accomplish it all.  However, with a little prioritization, a helping hand, and small new strategies, you may just be able to stop waiting and start producing. 

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.