Mantra to Overcome Procrastination

What do the Harvard Business Review and the Navy Seals have in common? A piece of advice for overcoming one of the biggest, insidious blockages to work search and other of life’s onerous tasks.

“You don’t have to like it, you just need to do it.”

There, I said it. So did Heidi Halvorson in the Feb 14, 2014 HBR article entitled, “How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To.” and so do the Navy Seal trainers in the Basic Underwater Demolition training camp (not known for providing comfortable, feel-good experiences).

They are both commenting on one of the irrational messages/permissions that we quietly give to ourselves when we’re conducting the laborious process of searching for work; “This doesn’t feel good. I should wait until I feel good about doing this and then it will go better/faster/stronger.” Good luck with that.

Even when we start with “why” and have a solid purpose for what we’re pursuing (find new work, finish a degree, update our resume) we can lose focus or motivation or both. It’s essential to stay in touch with your “why”. It’s a source of energy. But don’t wait for every “why” to feel highly motivating at every moment.blanknotebook

I have a better idea. While you’re searching for work (and networking and filling out applications and doing all of the administrivia that goes with the process) hire yourself. Actually, think of yourself as employed by You Inc. to find you new work. Now, manage you the way you say you’re capable of managing projects or teams or individuals at work.

Would you accept an excuse for inadequate work (much less no work) from a team member or an employee or even a colleague that said, “You know, I just didn’t feel like doing it this week. I really don’t like this assignment.” As a formal or informal leader in any endeavor, you know you can’t wait for everyone to “be in the mood” to do the work that needs to be done. We can’t be doing “favorite work” every minute of the day.

It’s the same with the search for work. You don’t have to like it, you just need to do it. That’s what I said to my client Glenda, when she met with me for the third time without any real effort put into her job search. I decided we should change the definition of our roles. Instead of being her career coach, I was now the President of Work Search Inc.. I “fired” Glenda as a client and redefined her new “inside job” as Production Manager at Work Search Inc.. I told her that each time we met, we would look at her performance as a manager of work search process and not evaluate her as a poor, struggling job seeker.

On her resume, Glenda touted herself as a leader. She wanted a role as a leader in a team or a functional department of an enterprise. These previous leadership roles represented situations where she recalled working on matters that she didn’t always feel like doing. She could have paused work and spent hours delving into her inner feelings and emotional conflicts and previous experiences that didn’t go perfectly. But she still needed to get certain work done and so did her direct reports, barring any fundamental values conflicts or real mental health problems. She “just needed to do it” when at work and the same was true now. It was amusing and motivating for Glenda to step up to this new role definition as Production Manager. But it created a new sense of self and triggered a different set of messages to herself about being more responsible and productive.

Hire yourself or promote yourself to Manager of Work Search Process. Redefine your role as a “manager” not just a job seeker. Just like an actual manager might do, hire a consultant to help you with the process if you need assistance. But remember, as the manager you’re responsible for production…not the consultant…whether you feel like it or not.

BruceHazenheadshotsmBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:

1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?

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  1. The “Work” Of Changing Work | - September 10, 2016

    […] Hazen was spot on about the uncomfortable work entailed in career transition in his recent post Mantra to Overcome Procrastination, “You don’t have to like it, you just need to do […]

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