It’s normal to procrastinate at work. Usually we do it because we’re avoiding a task that’s unpleasant or daunting.
And, in truth, procrastinating isn’t really a serious problem until it starts to interfere with your performance at work. If you’re feeling worried, fearful and stressed out, or your behavior is causing others to feel anxious because you’re holding up progress, then it’s time to take action!
The good news is that anyone can crawl out of the quicksand of procrastination and enjoy increased productivity, enhanced mood, less stress, better coworker relationships, a sense of accomplishment and a restored reputation at work as a “doer.”
Sound good? Here’s how.
1. Name the challenge and the goal
Writing down the specific task you’ve been putting off helps you get focused. For example, “I have to convert all of my client contacts and notes into the new CRM software system and learn how to navigate its tools and folders.”
Now, elaborate on that task. What’s your goal? For example, “I want to be familiar with this new software so it’s a useful tool, not an impediment to my progress.”
Having a precise goal will help you get motivated.
2. Pinpoint your emotions
This step helps you understand the act of procrastinating for what it truly is: an emotional reaction. What’s really preventing you from diving in to this task?
To use the above example, maybe you’re intimidated by all the new bells and whistles you’ll have to learn (fear). Or maybe you’re cranky about having to do this when the old system wasn’t broken and worked perfectly well (anger). Or perhaps you’re bummed that you’re just not tech savvy (sadness). The emotions behind procrastination usually fall into these three categories.
3. Let those emotions go
Okay, here’s the fun part. Many people don’t realize that emotion is merely a type of energy. Pent-up emotions and energy need to get released, like letting steam out of a pressure cooker. If you’re sad, go watch a sentimental movie and cry. If you’re angry, try stomping around the room and shaking your fists. If fear is your driving emotion, then do exaggerated shivering.
Believe it or not, giving yourself permission to let these emotions out will release that trapped energy, and you’ll instantly feel “unstuck.”
4. Counter defeating chatter with truths
When tackling a dreaded task, it’s common to have self-sabotaging thoughts like, “I’ll never be able to learn all of this.”
When chatter threatens to drown out your motivation, try this simple technique. Find a positive statement that is simple and true. For example, “If others can learn this, so can I.” To neutralize your frustration at having to do the task, you might say, “I’m doing this because I want to be a team player.” Say these truths over and over until they are louder than your negative internal chatter.
5. Break it into a small, doable steps
You’ve envisioned the task, dealt with what’s been holding you back and fixed your destructive thinking. The next step in completing the task is deciding when you’ll get started and figuring out a doable step-by-step game plan. Write it down, schedule it and commit to it.
Then go on a mental journey, plotting out each part of the task, including details such as where and when you’ll be working, who you will talk with and what you’ll talk about and how long you expect each part to take.
6. Anticipate roadblocks and plan tactics to deal with them
Imagine challenges and obstacles that are likely to pop up along the way. For example, other projects with shorter deadlines might land on your desk. How will you tackle such challenges in order to keep moving forward with the big task at hand?
For every such scenario, have a tactic ready for sticking to your original plan. You may also want to find someone to support your efforts or to mentor you on a regular basis.
7. Resist and be resilient
As you move through the task, you’re likely to meet with resistance in the form of excuses, bad moods and discouragement. Battle resistance with tenacity and stubbornness and continue to deal with any emotions that surface. Remind yourself that you can do this, and you’ll feel better once it’s handled.
Accomplishing what you’re avoiding will simplify your work life. You’ll feel more energetic. You’ll even sleep better at night!
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator and workshop leader. Her award-winning book is Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.