We’ve all been there. We’ve all said, “yeah I’ll get to it later” then suddenly it’s three hours before your term paper is due and you’ve only written your name and date in 16-point font, double-spaced.
In college, each professor says, “I’ll know if you wrote this last minute” and you’re thinking “ha, try me.” This behavior is unhealthy, a little insane, and can easily be ignored through your college years.
Then you get a job (hopefully) at a company you like (again, hopefully) and suddenly procrastinating seems awful and counterproductive.
As tasks pile up, and priorities get shifted you find yourself slipping into the same old habits.
For example, the ambitious sourcer says, “I’ll find ten people after lunch.” Or, “I’ll definitely write six blog posts by the end of the year.”
You can guess what happens next.
Hopefully, my experienced procrastinator insight will inspire you as we all work to meet our resolution’s expectations. Here are four small ways that helped me go from procrastinator extraordinaire to someone who can claim at least one award for work ethic.
4 tips to take you from procrastination problem child to productivity master
1. Baby Steps
My favorite Christmas movie growing up (said the Jewish person) was “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” For the month of December this 1970 masterpiece would be put on repeat and I’d sing along with the Stop Motion Puppets and cheer on Kris Kringle.
However, only one song stuck in my head.
The main reason I would have procrastinated is that a project can seem overwhelming. The fear of messing up can make it seem unwieldy and upsetting. The best way to conquer this is to put one foot in front of another, and just get started.
For example, if your task is to hire a Developer, and you’re overwhelmed with the massive amount of amazingly talented people in Chicago, create a few steps like this:
a. Create a solid search string.
b. Look through X number of candidates. I tend to break it down into fourths. If the search string returns 400 people, I’ll look through 100 at a time.
c. Do outreach in chunks. Divide the number of best candidates into groups of whatever number works for you (my goal number is 10) and take little breaks between each outreach batch.
You’ll have a solid pipeline in no time! Getting started is often the hardest part, once you’ve got one foot in front of the other soon you’ll be walking out the door… and finishing the task that you’re procrastinating on.
2. Competition Against Past Self
It’s not a secret that I’m insanely competitive. I once won an award for “weirdly competitive” and if you’re not competitive this might not help you. Competing against yourself is a widely accepted motivator. Here’s a Forbes article about if you don’t believe me.
“Well Robyn,” you say, “my past self would have procrastinated too.”
True, but here’s the solution to that; make your tasks the competition.
For achieving a set number of tasks, or reaching a goal you can reward yourself with something big. This requires a level of self-control, or maybe some outside influence. Every year I make a set of reasonable goals, and a set of “reach” goals. Both in my work and personal life, with something that I really want to do as a carrot at the end of the stick. This year Objective Paradigm made reaching my work goals easier for me, by wagging the carrot stick of a President’s Club in front of me. Warning: humblebrag ahead. I hit my ‘reasonable’ goals in the summer and my ‘reach’ goals in November.
Take THAT past Robyn!
3. It’s ok to mess up and it’s okay to be busy; forgiveness is key
So far, my procrastination suggestions assume that the problems are a lack of motivation or a fear of failure.
What if procrastination happens because you have too much on your plate?
Then forgive yourself.
There’s no point beating yourself up, you’re only human. We all have times when our plates are a bit too full and one or two cherry tomatoes fall off. Just make sure your main course stays on the plate. But hey, if it falls off;
Just do the best you can, and forgive yourself when you can’t hit some goals.
Some tips for “Full Plate” episodes
- After every “full plate” episode, I look at what happened and figure out what I could’ve done better beforehand or what I can do afterwards to fix it. Sometimes it can reveal what tasks you aren’t ready to do, or aren’t necessary. Treat it as a lesson to learn something from, and you’ll do better next time!
- When you have a lot on your plate, just keep the momentum going! If the desire to procrastinate is strong just procrastinate with other less intimidating tasks… like I’m doing right now as I write this blog.
4. Reframe your thinking and develop a new workflow
Shhhhhh, whatever you want to say, just try to think of it differently. Change your PARADIGM if you will (budumtsh).
It can really be hard to take a step back and look at your tasks with an objective eye. It can even be harder to say, “my workflow isn’t working, what am I doing wrong?” the desire to always be right is strong, but sometimes your workflow might need a little work.
Take a step back and see if your procrastination is because of internal reasons (motivation/fear of failure/etc.) or external reasons (unreasonable task load/team issues/etc.) and then figure out a plan and the best way to deal with it!
To say I’ve been 100% on the ball all the time would be a lie. I’m a human, I slip up. Sometimes priorities get shifted and sometimes there are tasks that I don’t feel like doing. Not procrastinating is a constant struggle against my desire to stay inert.
But remember, just put one step in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door!
Robyn Carney grew up in Rochester N.Y. before spending her college years in Syracuse, where she got her Bachelors in Social Studies education and traveled to Europe and the Middle East. Robyn attended the University of Chicago for her Masters before starting on a path in research, which led her to join Objective Paradigm’s Sourcing and Research team. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and publishing short stories.