Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and downright tired? Yep, it is an experience we’ve all had as leaders that can easily lead to us putting off important goals for a later date. Procrastination is a bad leadership habit that we’ve all been guilty of at some point or another. We’ve all failed to act, missed a deadline, and fell short of reaching a goal or achieving a milestone.
There is a myriad of reasons why we procrastinate. Outside of not having enough willpower or being mentally exhausted, the motivation may simply be we aren’t strong enough to push ourselves to act when we should. Interestingly, even with a strong motivation, anxiety brought on by a fear of failure could deter us from taking action.
As it turns out, there is more to this dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying than just a bad habit that provides a sense of immediate gratification. In the study, I’ll Go to Therapy, Eventually, featured by Psychology Today, a connection was identified between procrastination, mental health and stress. Are we left squarely at the mercy of our procrastinative tendencies? Absolutely not! There is a vast array of actions we can take to rid ourselves of the procrastination monster:
1. Commit to taking bite-sized actions toward the goal.
For example, decide to do one thing toward the long-term project you’re working on every day for 30 days. It only takes 21 days to form a new habit. When you break up a goal in bite-sized pieces, the pressure of having to complete the task in a big chunk is eliminated.
2. Practice the five-second rule.
I am sure I have mentioned this principle here before. The five-second rule is a strategy for action posited by Mel Robbins. It simply states, “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill it.”
3. Avoid the tendency to self-sabotage.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying negative things like, “My writing won’t be interesting to any reader.” If you do that you will want to delay completing your writing project for fear of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. That kind of negative energy manifests in your thoughts.
4. Develop an attitude of focus.
If you are like me, you get distracted easily. Staying focused takes intense discipline and an intentional decision to concentrate on one thing at any given time. Focusing allows your brain to save energy that is needed for other tasks or projects, reducing the need to delay because of exhaustion.
5. Embrace feedback.
One of the reasons for procrastination may be a result of a fear of receiving negative feedback if the outcome is not as great as intended. Embracing feedback, both negative and positive, should be leveraged as a learning tool.
6. Do the thing you tend to delay first.
We can often identify those aspects of our day-to-day activities that we don’t care much for. Opt to do them first: that way we don’t waste brain space worrying and feeling guilty about not completing them.
7. Set clearly defined goals.
More often than not a delay in executing a task results from a lack of a clearly defined and strong why. When you know exactly why you need to do something, and that it has a significant impact, it serves as a motivator to get the job done quicker.
8. Develop a desire to invest in the future by delaying gratification.
Our brains are wired for instant gratification, especially in this digital age where everything must happen now. Completing those tasks now with low immediate gratification but high impact in the future can be looked at as an investment in the future. When viewed from that perspective, the motivation becomes higher.
9. Establish a connection between your current and future self.
Your current self somehow doesn’t believe that it should be held accountable for who you are in the future. When you recognize that this isn’t quite true, you will appreciate that your current actions have implications for your future self. This will inspire action.
10. Be intentional about being decisive.
Procrastination is often aided and abetted by indecision. Be intentional about making decisions. Any decision is better than no decision at all.
11. Get enough rest.
When you don’t get enough rest, you become restless during the day. You are less productive when this happens and even more easily distracted. When you are fully rested you get the sense that you can conquer the world and are less likely to put off projects that need to get done.
12. Understand your reason for procrastination.
You can’t manage what you don’t understand. Do a self-examination to recognize why you are actually procrastinating. Whatever the reason, look for a way to replace a negative habit with a positive one.
13. Develop your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.
You are more likely to procrastinate when you have tasks to do that you are not good at. For example, as the leader of your organization, you may be great at marketing but hate doing your accounting because you are not very good at it. The simple solution is to identify a suitably qualified accountant to take this task out of your hands.
14. Avoid being a perfectionist.
Let’s be real: We would like everything we create to be perfect. But here’s the reality: Utopia is unattainable. Accept that there will always be room for improvement. Don’t allow perfectionism to paralyze you and prevent action.
15. Utilize the Pomodoro technique.
I identified that one of my reasons for procrastination was that I was easily distracted and wasn’t managing my time well. Then came my discovery of the Pomodoro technique. Choosing tasks and allocating time to them and taking breaks at intervals is a great way to avoid being bitten by the procrastination bug. This process helped tremendously when I worked to launch The Entrepreneurial You podcast.
Do you have any suggestions on how you fight procrastination? Share them with us.
***This post first appeared on the Leadercast Blog.