The answer to this question seems obvious: You waste time that you could have been spending on activities that create more value. For someone who wants to pursue a career in management consulting, this habit is a deal breaker. Clients expect professional consultants to be efficient and timely deliver output.
Apart from the issue above, procrastination also leads to the following negative results:
|Unconscious Habit||You are probably not aware that you procrastinate. Many people unconsciously put off activities that they should or could be doing.|
|Lack of Focus||Procrastination decreases your mental awareness and ability to focus.|
|Indecisiveness||Your decision making and execution muscles become fatigued and it becomes harder for you to execute difficult decisions.|
|Unaccomplished Tasks||The end-result is that you do not create the desired results that you want in your life, including your career.|
Procrastination is an unhealthy habit and must be put to a stop; otherwise, you will ruin your career ambitions. Here are five steps to minimizing, if not eradicating, procrastination:
Step 1: Avoid Distractions
The primary sources of procrastination come from the outside and distract you from focusing on important tasks. In general, it’s information that you do not need at the present moment. Ask yourself this question: Is the information I am consuming right now necessary, or am I just making up excuses in order to put off what is really important?
Examples of distractions can include:
- Facebook, Twitter, and other social media;
- Mainstream media; and
- Unnecessary web-surfing.
One method you can employ to stay focused is to use a service such as RescueTime to track how you spend time on your computer. You will be surprised at the results!
Step 2: Create an Actionable To-do List
Many people write very general items on their to-do lists like “arrange a dinner event” or “apply for the job”. We have made these mistakes ourselves. Including general items on your to-do list makes it easy to procrastinate. An item like “apply for the job” seems like a huge task and if you are the least bit tired, you will probably put it off.
What if the tasks on your to-do list were split into smaller, actionable items? Take a look at the following examples:
- Research application deadline at XYZ Firm.
- Decide if I will apply at other firms.
- Call Jeanne and ask her to send me her cover letter.
- Research the website of XYZ Firm for information about its company culture.
- Write first draft of cover letter.
- Review and edit the first draft of cover letter.
- Send the cover letter.
Did you notice that these items are all actionable? “Apply for the job” can include thousands of different actions, but the items above are very precise. “Research application deadline at XYZ Firm” seems like an easy task to accomplish. Actually, all of these tasks individually seem like easy things to do. By compiling a list of actionable tasks, you will start executing them and gaining momentum. Consider using a task management system like Nirvana to keep your to-do lists simple.
Step 3: Do the Worst Things First
There are some things we just don’t like to do. But we feel great after they are out of the way. This habit might be the best of the five steps listed in this email. Begin every day by doing the one thing on your list that you hate. Get it done and enjoy the rest of your day!
Step 4: Exercise Your Execution Muscle
You have removed the distractions, made an actionable to-do list, and are beginning your day by completing the tasks you hate doing. Still, you might experience procrastination and hesitation from time to time. It takes some time to strengthen your decision making and execution muscles. It’s like any other sport— you need to practice and practice to improve.
Our advice is that you focus on executing the important tasks, and whenever there is any hesitation or fear of failure, ask yourself “what is the worst that can happen?” Things are usually never as bad as they seem.
Step 5: Take a Break!
Don’t allow time and task management to control your life. Taking a break and doing things you enjoy is the best motivation for being productive.