Is Procrastination Killing Your Chances for Success?
In the words of Nike: JUST DO IT! Sounds so simple and yet, I bet you have found yourself putting off doing the very thing you think you SHOULD be doing to be more successful. We all do it sometimes. One of the most common reasons people hire me as a coach is because they know they will take more action when they are accountable to someone else. They usually think their procrastination is a matter of lack of self-discipline.
If you procrastinate about EVERYTHING, self discipline might be the problem, but, more likely, you are selective in the things that you put off. I have found it pays to dig deeper into the underlying reasons why you are putting those important things off. Consider that maybe there is some other dynamic you haven’t been conscious of and you aren’t just a lazy no-good after all.
The next time you are procrastinating, ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s the best thing that can happen if I do this? What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t?
These two questions will give you a clear awareness of the cost of procrastinating. That may be enough. If so, get on with it, because you are draining your energy by putting it off and more by feeling guilty about it. That is energy you could be using to make you successful. I remember what sales trainer Danny Cox taught me in the 80s: “If you have a toad to swallow, don’t look at it too long.” And the corollary: “If you have more than one toad to swallow, swallow the biggest first.” So, get over it and get on with it.
2. Am I overwhelmed and don’t know where to start on this project or don’t have the time to complete it?
Julie Morgenstern, in her book Time Management from the Inside Out adds another perspective to this by suggesting you containerize. She defines this as “keeping the tasks within the time you’ve allotted for them.” To help you move swiftly through your to-do list of items she suggests you must also minimize interruptions and conquer perfectionism. To minimize interruptions, set aside the first hour of the morning to swallow those toads and/or to move forward with your “non-urgent but important” items. Close your door and tell the secretary not to interrupt you unless it is an emergency. Perfectionism, while seeming good because of the high standards it would project, can stop you in you tracks. Go for excellent, not perfect. A good but not perfect marketing piece that is sent out will get you more results than the one you are trying to perfect in your mind!
3. Is what I am procrastinating about out of alignment with my style or values?
Perhaps this really is the first question to ask yourself. The source of procrastination in over 70% of the people I work with is because they are trying to make themselves do something they think (or someone has told them) they SHOULD do, but it feels uncomfortable to them.
Now, I am not talking about the normal fear that shows up in the pit of our stomachs when we are taking big actions and we’re scared of failing.
I am talking about a feeling of this action not fitting your style or values. For instance, cold calling would be difficult if your personality style is one that likes to build relationships slowly over time and you hate getting the telemarketing calls in your own home. If you authentically believe the action you think you should be taking is obnoxious or something you wouldn’t feel comfortable with, it is perfectly normal to hesitate. You won’t come across and authentic anyway. It is a matter of integrity.
Knowing your own style and the ways to prospect that are true to your own style is work that can be astoundingly impactful. When you stop trying to be someone you aren’t and start being yourself, people are naturally attracted to doing business with you because they don’t feel they are part of some manipulation.
When you are true to your own set of values, you have the keys that will motivate you naturally and you don’t have to push yourself to take action. You are actually pulled into action because you are excited about what you are doing and the value you are offering. Remember, Birds Gotta Fly and they don’t make good runners! Are you trying to be a runner when you really need to fly?
4. Is my inner self telling me to wait?
To hear and honor your inner self takes quieting the external chatter and trusting you internal guidance. I find a daily “quiet” time of 10 or 15 minutes or meditation time will sort things out. But sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason, but there is a body sensation of feeling that moving ahead isn’t right. Learn to trust this and honor it. Your body doesn’t lie to you. Usually some serendipitous event will allow you to see waiting did have a purpose. Or maybe you need some time to just align with yourself, some time to rejuvenate and get re-inspired.
Henry David Thoreau said, ”There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of head or hands. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my customary bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise to noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sung around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the light and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”
The worst thing you can do is to use your procrastination as a reason to indulge in negative self-talk. Take action, trust in the waiting or let it go, but don’t beat yourself up. If you need to get some support from others, do that, whether it means hiring a coach or asking someone else, like another agent you respect or your office manager, to be your accountability partner. You’ll feel a lot lighter even if you have swallowed toads!
In her book, The Architecture of All Abundance, Lenedra Carroll, has a wonderful chapter on time that suggests often there are times when our procrastination allows a better result than if we rushed ahead. Sometimes a situation will change for the better, or facts will be revealed that fundamentally change what the best course of action would be. Sometimes the issue is not having enough time to complete a big project…so you keep putting it off. Use the swiss cheese method of breaking the project down into smaller components and then scheduling time to work on just these. Perhaps you have a marketing piece you want to send out to your sphere. Make a list of all the actions that need to be taken: getting a new photo of yourself, updating your database, doing the layout, getting them printed, addressed, stamped and mailed, etc. Now, take each of the items and give it a “by when” date. You’ll now have just one item to take action on at a time and it will be manageable and go forward in small steps.
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