We’ve all been there. You have lots to do. But instead of doing the work on your plate, you find yourself mindlessly checking Facebook, organizing your recipes, cleaning your desk again. Anything and everything (sometimes including productive activity) except the work you really need to do. And you wonder yet again, how did I get stuck in the Procrastination Doldrums, and how can I blast out?
This is the sixth and final installment in this series of blog posts on how to conquer procrastination.
Here’s a brief summary of the five causes of procrastination and their corresponding antidotes, with links to the original blog posts for more information.
What you fear
Identify the specific fear, combat fear with Scripture, get real, get accountability, get started.
What you don’t know
Get clear about what you need to know, what the actionable step is, and what help you need.
What you feel
Race the clock, block time, change your environment, rely on Scripture, check in with a partner.
What you believe
Ask yourself why you believe you have a reason to delay working on a task and whether that reason is valid.
How you behave
Seek clarity on how your behavior (such as failing to plan and indulging in shadow comforts) is undermining your productivity, use the resources you have, and match your actions and your objectives.
You might consider keeping this summary close at hand as a reminder to check what’s holding you back when you find yourself procrastinating.
Clarity facilitates productive action!
As important as it is to understand each individual cause of procrastination and to discover what will allow you to handle those challenges, the real turning point in overcoming procrastination comes in understanding the causes in the aggregate. After all, although it would be lovely if only one cause could operate at any given time, that just isn’t the case. And the more causes in play, the harder you may find it to conquer procrastination.
What makes conquering procrastination even more challenging is that some inquiry is required to distinguish, for example, between the fear of failure and not knowing where a project will end. In either case, you may feel a sense of foreboding or danger, but if you address fear but don’t take the practical step of defining the project’s scope, the lingering uncertainty may well derail you. And that derailment (which may read as failure) may reinforce your fear of failure, leading to a nasty downward spiral.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a member of the clergy, when you listen carefully to your internal voices and monitor the messages your body is sending you, you’ll be able to hear beneath the symptomatic maybe I should check email thoughts to what’s prompting you to procrastinate.
This figure represents the layers of voices that can be involved when you’re procrastinating, and it can get messy quickly.
Consider these questions:
- What do you feel physically? Is your stomach churning? If so, you may be fearful of something, or you may be stuck in a belief that makes your procrastination feel inevitable. Are you physically or mentally tired? Perhaps a power nap or a walk would get you back on task with more energy and focus.
- Are you clear about the scope and process involved in the task? If not, what you don’t know is standing in your way.
- Do you find yourself wanting to do something that brings immediate gratification? Think in terms of a Pavlovian response rather than true satisfaction. It’s easy to get sucked into checking email or Facebook because your pleasure center gets an immediate hit. When you’re drawn to small pleasure, it’s time to refocus on the success you’re actually seeking. Prayerful focus on your meaningful goal will help you to access the discipline needed to stick to the work at hand.
- Are you using the tools in your arsenal to facilitate your work? If not, you’re sabotaging yourself and procrastination is simply your method of choice.
- Have you bought into the story that you always procrastinate? If so, your own beliefs are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The key to untangling the root cause of an episode of procrastination is discernment.
As always, if you lack clarity, turn to prayer, confident that uncovering the problem will also point you toward its solution.
As we come to the end of this series, I’d love to know what lingering questions you have about procrastination, or if you’ve had any insights that add to the tips I’ve shared. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments. Let’s chat!
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, JD, ACC, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!