Sweating up to the last minute. An article on procrastination

Peggy Duncan
Duncan Resource Group, Inc.

Last month, Steven received an assignment to write a report on how his department could improve its customer service next year. Steven figured he had plenty of time to write the report, so he put it off until later. He left the project on top of one of the piles on his desk thinking that would motivate him to do the work. Steven would look at that project all day, every day, and every time he did, the thought of doing the work irritated him. Two weeks passed, and he figured he still had plenty of time. He'd concocted every conceivable reason he could think of not to start the report.

More days passed and the report is due tomorrow. For weeks, Steven had agonized over it, and now he'll be up all night working on it. He'll sweat right up to the last minute, and will hand in an inferior report.

Why We Procrastinate Procrastination is a habit that can be broken. We have to get out of the habit of procrastinating and get into the habit of doing the work. There are some things you can do right now to help you break this habit. Let's explore some different scenarios.

1. Was Steven the best person to do the work? Did he possess the right skills for the work? Steven might not be very confident about his writing abilities and the thought of having to write a report stressed him out. Steven also might not be the expert in his department on customer service or very creative when it comes to developing new ideas. We often procrastinate over things that we lack the confidence to do. Steven could have delegated this project to someone on his staff that was better suited to it.

2. Could Steven have looked at the task differently? Instead of looking at the project as one huge job, and being overwhelmed by it, he could have broken it down into smaller projects and set deadlines for each phase.

Setting deadlines, even when you're working on a project alone, gives you a goal to work toward. You could even tell a co-worker that you'd like to discuss each phase of the project and give specific dates you'd like to meet. Your co-worker might not know anything about what you're doing (or care), but your putting deadlines in place will help you get started and will keep you motivated.

3. Could technology make the job easier? Computer software has been written to perform absolute magic. If Steven knew how to use the software the right way, he could complete the work much faster. He could set up a template for the report that would make it easy to create and update. He could also import files from other departments that would help explain his ideas.

4. The scenario in this case could be that Steven just doesn't like doing reports. When it's something you don't like to do but have to do, don't spend your valuable time agonizing over it. Schedule time on your calendar to do the work so you can get it over with and off your mind.

5. Steven had been thinking all year about ways to improve customer service. He had jotted down ideas on sticky notes, various note pads, dinner napkins, and everything else that was nearby when he'd had a thought. If only he could find them now. He'd pulled some great articles together that would help spur his creativity, but he had no idea where they were. If Steven had set up a Customer Service Ideas file earlier in the year, he could have used it to collect all his data.

You can get out of the habit of procrastinating. You'll have to be just as creative in coming up with ideas of how to get the work done as you are in thinking of reasons not to.

*********************************** Peggy Duncan, CEO of Duncan Resource Group, Inc., is an Organization and Time Management Consultant in Atlanta, Georgia. She helps people increase their productivity by getting organized, streamlining processes, and by using technology better. Peggy is also a popular seminar leader, the host of the Atlanta cable TV show, TECHsupport, and a columnist with the award-winning Atlanta Tribune. She has also caught the attention of the world's largest seller of office supplies, Office Depot, and is a featured writer on their Website. Visit Peggy at http://www.duncanresource.com or call at 770-907-8868.