Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates.
IowaBiz.com delivers cutting-edge content written by local business and thought-leaders. I am honored to begin sharing my 25-plus years of leadership experience and future-forward thinking to inform and inspire IowaBiz readers in the area of Life-Work Balance.
Being at the top of your game day after day, and living your life to its fullest, requires the development of successful time mastery habits. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” carries the classic wisdom from a very accomplished Benjamin Franklin.
As an executive coach and a certified work-life balance specialist, I have had many clients who express a feeling of being overwhelmed with “too much to do and not enough time to do it.” This feeling of not knowing where to begin can lead to inertia, being weighed down and unable to move. They find themselves in a full-blown habit of procrastination - putting things off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day.
At one time or another we have all fallen prey to the self-sabotaging behavior of putting important tasks aside until “some other time”. Unfortunately for some who are stuck in the avoidance cycle, another time never magically appears. This is the opposite of the Nike tag line “Just Do It”. In our culture winners achieve results and losers just do nothing. To be self-actualized at work and in our personal lives, we need to overcome the behaviors that shoot us in the foot, often making us feel badly about ourselves.
The first step in breaking the procrastination habit is to take some spacious, mindful time and list all of your projects, committees and activities in both your professional and personal life. Put everything that you spend your time doing on the professional or personal list.
Once you have looked over your list, the second step is to be honest with yourself. This can be difficult but it is important. Have you said “yes” to projects or activities that you could have said “No” to and find that you have overcommitted your time? If so, are there any areas on your list that aren’t aligned with your goals which you could gracefully exit from? Maybe its time to give another person the opportunity to lead a committee or be the PTA president. This honest appraisal will help you release those things that are stressing you out. It will also help you reclaim more of your 24-hour day to execute the tasks that you have been putting off. That will feel so good!
After you have done some self-examination, maybe you have discovered the problem you have is that, honestly, you are just making excuses. A great technique to break this procrastination habit is to ask your personal coach, or a friend whom you trust, to be your very own “accountability buddy.” It works like this: you identify the one, two or three tasks, activities or projects that you want to accomplish and when you want to get them completed by. Then, on a set day and time, you report out to the other person about your progress towards your goal.
Not wanting to let the other person down, this technique is a motivator to help you begin to create the “Just Do It” habit. Research from Brown University has shown that the use of a “weight loss buddy” can help a person lose twice as much weight. Having an accountability buddy is fun and it really works.
I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she has been putting off making a doctor’s appointment for the past six months. She was not afraid or concerned about anything, she was just procrastinating. Unfortunately, she was beating herself up each week for not making the time to make the call. My response was that all too often we procrastinate about our self care, but that really it is one of the most important things to accomplish in our quest for life-work balance. If we don’t make the time to take care of ourselves, who will? I told my friend that I was going to help her out by being her “accountability buddy.” I told her that I would call her the following Friday to have her share with me that she made the call to schedule the appointment. Her face lit up as she affirmed that this was a great idea and was just the kick in the pants that she needed to take a small action.
I am happy to report that my friend received a gold star from me that week. She went above and beyond expectations and scheduled three appointments that she had been procrastinating about. A bonus is that taking just one small baby step, one micro-action, toward completing an important task feels insanely good. It releases well-being chemicals in our brain. This helps to break the self-defeating cycle and inspires us to want to accomplish more.
So come on... what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to take one small step in the right direction and away from the self-sabotage of procrastination.