Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.
STILL PROCRASTINATING? JUST DO ONE THING.
By Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Two years ago I posted my first blog entry, Getting Unstuck. It was about how to work with your lizard brain, the part that can hijack you away from your best intentions when you are anxious about starting or completing a task. There are many causes of procrastination, and it is not necessary to analyze why you might be stuck in order to become unstuck. Even though I enjoy the writing process, I found myself putting off creating this blog. Instead, I was getting bogged down in research, looking at images on Google, and returning emails and phone calls. Ok, checking Facebook too. Then, I just did one thing. I started writing.
When it comes to your career shift or job search, what are you putting off? Procrastination often leads to negative self-talk, which adds guilt or shame to this self-defeating behavior. You might feel better if you list what you have actually been doing instead of that dreaded thing, such as completing an application on time, rewriting your resume, or setting up an information interview. Maybe you are just wasting time, but more likely, some of what you do may be important, necessary, or soothing. Whatever you are doing you may perceive as more rewarding and less difficult than the thing you are procrastinating. So stop feeling guilty, which truly is a waste of time and energy. Here are two helpful techniques to try:
Procrastination-Busting Questions to Ask Yourself
Instead of saying, “I should _______,” and feeling worse and more stuck, ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Think about longer range but specific desired outcomes. If you come up with, “I don’t want to have to move in with my parents/children,” flip that thought and put a time frame on it. “I want to sustain financial independence by earning at least $______/mo. starting Jan. 1.”
Next question: “What are some different ways I might get what I want?” If you are at a loss, brainstorm with a career professional or a friend. Enlist an accountability buddy with whom to share your plans. For more about the importance of building accountability in to your career transition, see Minda White Redburn’s series in the Career Transitions archives:
Try mind-mapping. http://www.mindmapping.com/ , which only requires paper or a white board and some markers. You don’t have to be good at graphics; instead of working on a keyboard, drawing by hand has a way of tapping into your creative right brain. The goal, for example, financial self-sufficiency, belongs in the center of your diagram, stated as specifically as possible. The branches radiating outward would represent all the different ways you might achieve/maintain it within your timeframe. Twigs off the branches might be people to contact, resources for information, or other specific action steps. If you are a creative person and are having fun with this visual project, or if you are a perfectionist and want this to be a masterpiece, beware. This could lead to more procrastination.
Here’s the key: do not wait until you are in the mood to take action. Pick one thing off the map that has potential to bring you closer to your goal. Then begin. Don’t give yourself time to make up rationalizations about why now is not a good time. Even if you only have 15 minutes, make a start. It’s OK if you don’t finish (here is where your accountability buddy can help out). You might be surprised to find that you don’t want to stop.
According to research conducted by Timothy A. Pychyl, a Canadian psychologist, “once we get started, … we perceive the task as much less aversive than we do when we’re avoiding it. Second, even if we don’t finish the task, we have done something, and the next day our attributions about self are not nearly as negative. We feel more in control and more optimistic. You might even say we have a little momentum.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/200803/just-get-startedy If you leave your tasks unfinished, set a time for completion in the immediate future. Here’s an opportunity to seek help from your accountability buddy. Because Dr. Pychyl advises that there many approaches to overcoming this self-defeating behavior, it’s good to expand your repertoire and be willing to get curious and experiment. I have found that bribing myself with really good chocolate helps.