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Mark Twain once said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
But is that good advice for career-minded professionals? With respect to Mr. Twain, no—not even close.
It’s not exactly a secret that employers don’t appreciate procrastination—or procrastinators. Putting things off crimps productivity, delays products and services from rolling out and ultimately hurts businesses where it hurts most: the bottom line.
If you’re turning in work late or dragging your heels on a big workplace project, don’t kid yourself. That gets noticed by the decision-makers who control your pay, your promotions and your bonuses, and not in a good way.
How can you stop procrastinating and take that big target off your back?
Jude Bijou, a psychotherapist, professional educator and workshop leader, has a few ideas that may light a fire under the biggest workplace slackers. “Everyone procrastinates,” Bijou says, but the risk of staying in the “quicksand” at work is too great not to take some aggressive steps to alleviate the problem:
- Write it down: Once you’re tasked with a project, write it down. That will help you “dial in” on the problem, Bijou says.
- Pinpoint it: What’s keeping you from tackling a project at work? Bijou says it’s likely one of three key issues: fear, anger or sadness. “Perhaps, you’re intimidated by all the new bells and whistles you’ll have to learn—fear,” she says. “Or you’re resentful about having to do this when the old system worked perfectly well—anger. Or you’re bummed that you’re just not tech-savvy—sadness.” To address the problem, pinpoint what is holding you back. “That helps you see the act of dragging your heels for what it truly is: an emotional reaction,” she adds.
- Let it go: Address those emotional issues in a reasonable manner. Talk it out with friends or family, “stomp around” and release anger or simply take a minute to meditate and clear your head to see the problem for what it really is. Bijou says “letting go” is like “letting steam out of a pressure cooker.”
- Plan it out: To tackle a project and get some momentum, establish a goal. “For example, “I want to be facile with this new software so it’s a useful tool, not an impediment to my progress,” Bijou says. “Having a clear and precise idea of your goal will keep you oriented and stay motivated.”
- Break it down: OK, you’ve identified your issues, put the project in writing and established a “target.” What’s next? Bijou says breaking the project down into doable steps is a vital cog in your fight against procrastination. “Write it down, schedule it and commit to it,” she says. “Then go on a mental journey, plotting out each part of the task, including details such as whom you will talk with and what about, where and when you’ll be working and how long you expect each part to take.”
Bijou says to be realistic and expect “roadblocks.” She says to battle through obstacles by being tenacious and stubborn and to “focus on the upside” by acknowledging accomplishments you’ve achieved along the way.
It’s “doers” that get the fatter paychecks and bigger promotions. It’s not healthy to kick back and wait for those perks to come to you.