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The Purposeful Workday

Battling Procrastination

We all procrastinate in one way or another. Just because something is worth doing doesn't mean it's easy to get started. Even at work, we're constantly tempted by activities that are more fun and take less effort, such as chatting with a coworker or text messaging a friend. However, when you're trying to stick to a schedule of prioritized tasks, repeated procrastination can wreak havoc on your master plan. It may start with a simple decision to take a longer lunch instead of making headway on your first business plan, and, next thing you know, your goals are taking longer to achieve and your upward mobility has slowed to a crawl.

To fight this battle and win, you first must acknowledge that you are procrastinating. Did you actually schedule time to play Solitaire, or are you just putting off doing work? Confront the procrastination demon head-on and ask yourself why you're avoiding the task. Could it be that the task isn't worth the effort? Maybe the benefits of completing the task don't outweigh the time and energy you'll spend on it. If this is the case, reconsider whether it's a priority. Should you decide that the task is important, however, now is the time to rally your sense of discipline and get moving. The following are reasons you might use to put off work. Arm yourself with the following motivational arguments I have provided, and begin the battle against procrastination:

  1. You can do it later. Think about whether a momentary reprieve is worth having to overhaul your whole calendar to reschedule a particular task. Do you want to repeat this same dance again later, or would you rather just get the task over with now?
  2. The task is boring and you'd rather do something fun. Think about the big picture. Sometimes the most worthwhile activities require the most effort and, in turn, produce the greatest rewards. Besides, how can you really have fun when you're feeling guilty about blowing off your work?
  3. You're afraid the task will be too hard or take too long. Consider that every minute you spend procrastinating is one minute you could be using to complete the task at hand. Instead of looking at the task as a neverending dark tunnel, break it up into a series of short, manageable assignments, and think about resources you could call on for help at each stage.
  4. You don't know where to start. Choose the least complicated part of the task, and work at completing it as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Once you've successfully finished one component, you'll gain momentum. The task will no longer seem like such a bear, and it will be much easier to move to the next component.

Don't forget to reward yourself for beating procrastination and finishing a task. Instead of moving on to the next assignment right away, block out time to do something you enjoy. Long hours of hard work will pass by much more easily when you can anticipate a fun activity at the end of the process. As I was writing this book, for example, I'd tell myself that each time I finished a section, I would spend a few hours watching a cable movie or playing a computer game. We all have our mindless vices. Remember Jack Nicholson in The Shining? All work and no play makes Jack a dull (not to mention psychotic) boy. So if you've earned it, go ahead and indulge!

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareer Advice: Career 101 for Recent Graduates, New Hires, and Would-be Corporate ClimbersThe Purposeful Workday - Where Has All The Time Gone?, Saying No, Battling Procrastination, You, Too, Can Be The “organized One”