Tell me if this is familiar: You have raised your hand to do something, and when you raise your hand it feels good. You feel confident that you can get it done. You even have a bazillion different ideas for it. So, you commit! You mark it on your calendar, your colleague sends you a reminder, it’s so far off….so you’re all good.

You start it nice and early – your mind still buzzing with all the ideas you had when you made the commitment. Then something else comes up, and something else. And believe or not, something else! This commitment falls to the bottom of the list (and in some cases, off the list completely!).

Now it is late. You feel defeated. Your colleague is not happy, as they needed what you committed to. You can’t remember where you were going, so you need to start again. This is no longer the fun task you thought it would be. Now it’s something that you don’t want to do.

Anybody with me here?

I am the Procrastination Queen

I have become the Procrastination Queen and I am looking to break my crown. The weird thing about this is that I am not a procrastinator about all things. I’m typically organized and respond to things in a timely manner. I’m reliable and a good collaborator. And I’m even learning how to set healthy boundaries!

Yet, every time I have this specific task, I find myself in the weeds. It’s not even that I don’t like this task, I do! It allows me to be creative and contribute to my organization’s overall goal!

So, what gives?

Apparently, I am what they call an “overcommitter”. I say yes to many things because they are appealing and I want to help – even if it may overwhelm me! I found this out when a colleague shared this great resource of a quiz that helps you identify what productivity method works best for you (take yours here). My result said I need to do a “Commitment Inventory” and that saying “no” would help me be more productive, and some other stuff. My first thought was, “UGH, just one more thing to do!” This did not make me feel more productive. It also didn’t help me get the late task done!

As I was approaching this late task, I took a second look at my results. Maybe there was something in the “other stuff” that would help me (please feel free to read my results here). I will admit that I am not going to do a commitment inventory, but it did confirm some things I know about what I need to do to continue to be successful and stop procrastinating!

How to stop procrastinating

I am not saying “no” enough 

I need to outline what things are the highest priority and which things I want to put my energy to (my challenge here is that I LIKE all the things!). It is recommended that you can rotate your highest priority at any given moment. For example, this quarter, I committed to a process improvement project. Next quarter, I say no to that since I want to work on product offerings! 

When I coach clients, I often suggest creating a list of negotiables and non-negotiables, and then rank them for level of negotiability. This creates a roadmap! It shows you what is most important, what to say yes to, and what to turn down if it doesn’t align with your priorities right now.

Work in bursts

This is a technique I actually use and recommend regularly to my clients. There are so many ways to do this successfully! Choose whatever works best for you. Some people like the Pomodoro Method or time blocking, where you can set a timer, then get up once the timer goes off. I like to work with music playing in the background and will set a number of tracks to listen (and work) to before I take a break. 

The “work in bursts” method is focused on accomplishing what you can in a given time frame. Remember that it’s not necessarily about finishing the task. One key to having this method work is to be sure to take a break when your time is up.  

Identify when you’re most (and least) productive

Identify your “prime” work hours. Once you do that, use that time for your hardest tasks. That heads-down, deep work. Save your busy work or low-hanging fruit for the times when you know you will not be able to concentrate as well. 

This is different for everybody. Some people enjoy the early morning hours and are their most productive then. Others need four or five hours to wake up slowly and work best into the night. And others might like to alternate deep work with easier work. Find what fits you. Be mindful that as your life and priorities change, these times may also change!

To do or not to do lists? 

This is a tough one! I love a list and have been known to add something to my list just to cross it off. The thrill of crossing something off a list is exhilarating! This leads to a feeling of accomplishment and that leads to being more productive and helps to stop procrastinating. 

One way to combat the never-ending “To Do“ list is to choose one to three of your highest priority tasks to do during your productive time. This creates more of a check-list than a To Do list. As you complete these one to three things, you check them off your list. It is okay to break your bigger tasks down into smaller pieces and do them that way. This builds accomplishments quicker and makes the tasks feel more achievable!

Celebrate the wins

This is super important to break the procrastination cycle! Use this in conjunction with breaking down your tasks into smaller pieces. The more you accomplish, the more accomplished you feel. This is a great motivator to keep working. Success begets success!

Be gentle with yourself

You won’t be proficient in a minute – developing these new routines takes time. Learning how to stop procrastinating and overextending yourself takes time! You are bound to let something fall through the cracks, or you may have that one task that trips you up every time. Maybe you have to do your deep work during a not particularly productive time. When that happens, take ownership and course correct as quickly as possible. And above all, don’t forget to be gentle with yourself.

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For me, once I finish this paragraph and turn in this blog, I’ll be able to turn over my crown and stop procrastinating. I will check this off and be grateful that my colleague gave me some grace and allowed me to be gentle with myself! If you need help when it comes to procrastination and overextending yourself, we’re here to help!

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Shari Santoriello

Welcome! I’m Shari Santoriello, a Career Specialist with Ama La Vida and I am as happy as you are to be here! I am a native New Yorker who resides on the beautiful north shore of eastern Long Island. I am a 25-year career veteran who has had success in marketing communications and a ten-year career teaching at the college level. Read my whole story here.