Are you a procrastinator?
By Anne Bachrach
A.M. Enterprises (The Accountability Coach)
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, but you know procrastination when you see it. Here’s how to recognize the signs of procrastination and stop the cycle of excuses and delays so you can achieve more success in life and in business.
If you have ever been a leader, manager or business owner with employees, you’ve experienced what it’s like to delegate an important task under deadline. From experience, you’ve probably learned who you can trust to complete the task well and on time, when others fall short.
Have you ever delegated a time-sensitive task to an employee only to find them making excuses, waiting until the last minute or wasting time when they should be working on your project?
It probably got you fired up.
So, here’s a question for you: If you don’t tolerate procrastination from others, why would you ever tolerate procrastination from yourself?
First, let’s establish that no one is perfect, and no one is completely procrastination-free every moment of every day. However, you can spot a habitual procrastinator anywhere. Here are some common signs1:
- Procrastinators are often overly optimistic about completing complex tasks in little time
- They think and say they work best under pressure
- They're easily distracted and lose focus when there is no urgency
- They delay starts because they have a false sense that everything is under control, so there’s no need to jump into it immediately
- When no progress has been made, they offer reassurance that everything is under control
- They are action-driven by panic (the realization that everything is not under control)
- They scramble at the last minute, working hours on end to complete a project minutes before the deadline.
Question No. 1
Do you recognize any of these signs in employees or coworkers? (Circle one)
Question No. 2
How many of the characteristics listed above have you experienced at any time in your personal or professional life? (Circle one)
0–1 2–4 5–7
Question No. 3
How often do you find yourself exhibiting these habits? (Circle one)
Rarely Sometimes Frequently
There’s no right or wrong answer to question one. Procrastination is a common characteristic and often encountered in the workplace.
If you answered 0–1 on question two, you probably tackle everyday and professional tasks head on and without delay. If you answered 2–4, you may procrastinate sometimes. If you answered 5–7, you should definitely keep reading!
If you answered "rarely" to question three, that’s good. You’re probably not a habitual procrastinator. If you answered "sometimes," there’s room for improvement. However, if you answered "frequently," we have some work to do. The key is to discover the root cause of your procrastination, so you can correct it. Most procrastination is commonly rooted in the following issues2:
Low self-confidence: When you’re feeling insecure about your ability to complete a task, let alone completing it well, you probably delay it to avoid feeling stupid. Truth be told, you have more than enough smarts to figure it out. The good news is that the more times you tackle a task head on — and are successful — the easier it is to stop procrastinating.
Perfectionist: You’re a perfectionist, and nothing less than stellar is acceptable. Give yourself a break, and let go of trying to be perfect. Given your high standards, your best is probably far above par. Somewhere along the line, you tied perfectionism to acceptance (or love) and love should never be dependent upon performance. Explore that issue.
Rebellion: Procrastination may be your way of expressing rebellion. A sort of “You can’t tell me what to do, I’ll do it when I’m good and ready.” This probably didn’t work when you tried to use it with your parents (or maybe it did work and that’s why you use it as an adult), but it definitely will not work with your boss. If you’re an entrepreneur, well, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.
Manipulation: This is a common characteristic of an insecure coworker or manager. “They can’t start without me. This project is nothing without my talent.” This takes some personal growth to overcome and the realization that discounting the ability of others does not increase your own. If you’re feeling insecure, go back to school or take additional training. When you expand your skill set, you can stop feeling insecure about your value.
Coping with pressure: Procrastination may be a coping skill for dealing with feeling overwhelmed. Certain people delay until they have the mental stability to perform the task, or wait until the very last minute to start. While this may certainly be the case some days, the important thing to remember is not to make a habit of it. Delegate tasks temporarily or permanently to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Will you choose to begin reducing procrastination in your life so you can enjoy even greater successes, or will you continue to let procrastination hold you back from reaching your true potential? What has to happen next for you to stop letting procrastination be your excuse? It’s easy to make excuses and it’s even easier to use those excuses to procrastinate. With a little insight into why procrastination occurs, you may be able to reduce or completely eliminate it from your personal and professional life.
1 California Polytechnic University. “Procrastination.” CalPoly Student Academic Services. http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html
2 California Polytechnic University. “Procrastination.” CalPoly Student Academic Services. http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html