Procrastination: Tips to Avoid Its Subtle Sabotage

Tips to avoid procrastination and its effects on your job search.

People have devised a variety of ways to sabotage themselves on the job search. Few are more destructive or profound than procrastination.

Whether you have elevated procrastination to an art form or address it only selectively, the habit can lead to stress, illness and low self-esteem. Combine that with the already compromising position of unemployment, and you have a recipe for full-blown depression.

Many people consider the role of procrastinator a black- or-white proposition: They either see themselves as one, or they don’t.

The truth is, there are different degrees of procrastination. Almost everyone procrastinates to some degree in some area of life. That’s called being human. Procrastination becomes a problem, however, when it is so pervasive that it affects our behavior in ways beyond our conscious awareness.

Although there are many ways job hunters procrastinate, I’ m going to focus on two of them:

  • Hypocritical procrastination
  • Interruptions

Hypocritical procrastination

Rita Emmett, author of “The Procrastinator’s Handbook,” describes ” hypocritical procrastination” as the game we play when we justify putting off an important project by doing something noble instead. This can be a huge issue for job hunters — especially when there is a spouse or children involved. What often happens is that the unemployed spouse looks for ways to help around the house as a way to procrastinate — without appearing to procrastinate. To the spouse who appreciates not having to pick the kids up at school or mow the lawn,, the extra help is welcome. However, the longer it goes on, the more the spouse is unintentionally enabling procrastination and sabotaging the partner’s job search.

As a job hunter, your top priority is to focus on yourself and do what it takes to secure a new position. Otherwise, you will become a magnet for the errands and unfinished projects of people who assume you have all the time in the world since you aren’t working.

If you are the kind of person who loves to help others because it makes you feel good, hypocritical procrastination can be difficult to recognize: You may not be consciously avoiding the work you need to do. Instead, hypocritical p rocrastination happens gradually when you allow your valuable time to be consumed by others until you have very little time for yourself. When you or your loved ones finally begin to question why you haven’t made any progress on the job front, it is easy to say,
“I’ve been so busy, I just haven’t had any time.”

But guess whose fault that is.


This might sound strange, but the most common interruptions to productivity are often disguised as multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is not the skill people pretend it is. Multi-tasking is one of the 21st century’s greatest inhibitors of productivity and progress.

Think about it. Many of us willingly start our day with interruptions — as a matter of habit.

Thanks to the Blackberry and other handheld devices, we can now receive e-mail without turning on our computers. Even if you wait until you get to your desk and turn the computer on, you may still be guilty of allowing your day to be sidetracked by interruptions. After all, if you check e-mail first, whose agenda are you on?

Not your own.

Responding to email first thing in the morning and continuously throughout the day puts you in reactive mode — continuously. As a result, you have probably had the experience of reaching noon — or, worse yet, early evening — only to discover you didn’t do a single project you set out to do when you started your day.

So what’s the cure?

Set aside time where you do not allow yourself to be interrupted. For example, I heard about one author whose publisher gave him a month to write a book. At first, he was traumatized because his last book had taken about nine months to write. But after getting advice from a time-management expert, he created a plan and stuck to it.

He started the day by turning off his phone and e-mail for an hour and a half. During that time, he shut the door to his office and worked diligently and without interruption. After 90 minutes, he took a 30-minute break and focused on something completely different (like exercise). Then he continued working for another 90 minutes, took another 30 minute break, and ended his day with a final 90-minute writing marathon.

If you already added this up, you probably realized if he started writing at 9 a.m., he would finish for the day at 2:30 p.m. — with more than enough time to check e-mail, answer phone calls or simply take the rest of the afternoon off. While this might not seem like a particularly rigorous schedule, you can’t argue with its effectiveness. He started and finished the book in three weeks — one week ahead of schedule. That is what’s possible when you break the procrastination habit.