One of the most viral TedTalks of all time was led by Tim Urban, who explored the mind of a master procrastinator. He proudly admits he’s guilty of waiting until the very last minute to finish a project, write notes or even prepare for that very speech he was given. Though these types of folks are often given a bad rep (especially when they’re part of a group project), Urban argues that some professionals have the ability to use this habit to their advantage.
After all, not everyone functions the same way while at the office. While some power through tasks and can’t stand the sight of a notification on their iPhone’s home screen — others purposefully delay so they get a rush of urgency. Here, self-proclaimed procrastinators explain how they ultimately always get the job done.
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Ask for deadlines
If you want founder of the Tampon Tribe, Jennifer Eden, to do something for you, it’s in your best interest to ask for a deadline. And frankly, it’s in her best interest, too, since she says she works fantastically under pressure. However, the moment something has no specific date or requirement, her mind starts to wander and eventually will focus on a task that’s more enjoyable. “I’ll find an ‘urgent’ errand, or podcast or lunch date and then end up working late to get things done. I have some very strict rules for myself to avoid this occurring,” she shares. If you know you’re the type of person who can’t self-motivate without a timeframe, ask your manager or client for one. Or even suggest a deadline when you first start working on a project. This will allow everyone to stay on task — and keep you from playing hooky.
Focus on your strengths
If he’s honest with himself, Frank Mancuso, the SVP of Business Development for GlobalFit has been a procrastinator his entire life. However, like Urban, he’s figured out how to hone the routine and use it to his advantage in both his personal and professional life. This mindset shift is essential for procrastinators who may feel a tad guilty or inferior in their habits. Instead, he encourages those who delay to really dig deep and analyze their work.
As you will find, you probably have been working and thinking, just not in the same way your colleagues do. “Most would say that I lack concentration or the ability to organize my day or my thoughts I spent so much of the past 24 hours, thinking, planning and rehearsing in my head. Procrastinators are not ill-prepared or wasting time, but can master the art of procrastination like a chef creating a new menu based on the ingredients readily available,” he shares.
Time block your days
Even if you can’t be held to the same structure as others as a procrastinator, you can set yourself up for success by time blocking your days, according to Eden. She begins every single day by looking at her priority list and creating a time block within the day for every task. She tends to be a bit old school with an appointment book, but it helps her to write down her schedule so she’ll stick to it. If she starts to lose track, she’ll check in with her calendar and get back to the task of the hour. You can set aside 30 minutes here, an hour there, but however you slice it, structure will do wonders for your procrastinating self.
Find energy in the last-minute
One of the biggest reasons some leaders are guilty of last-minute habits is due to the surge of creativity and emergency that comes with a deadline. Though some people are overanxious and stressed by the possibility of missing an important deliverable, procrastinators actually use those antsy feelings to their advantage. “When faced with a weekly report to the COO, creating a proposal or presenting to clients I tend to procrastinate in order to be spontaneous. I consider myself the prepared procrastinator. Unlike most typical procrastinators who are often consumed with perfectionism or who are simply afraid, I am energized by a looming deadline or a presentation, and procrastinating stirs my creativity and allows me to be present in the moment,” he explains.
Give yourself a reward
Abhi Lokesh, the CEO and co-founder of Fracture tends to put off beginning big, hair projects until the very last moment. Because he knows it’s going to be daunting, slow and even messy, it’s easier to put it off than to dig in and get started. He tends to fill his days with other types of ‘busy work’ — emails, research, you name it — to feel productive when he really is just delaying the inevitable. As a way to structure his attention span, Lokesh uses rewards. It doesn’t even have to be something big or incredible, but something that will inspire him to move forward. “It’s usually something small — like a cookie, or a slightly longer lunch break,” he shares. “I talk to myself about how much more relaxing it’ll be to do the ‘fun stuff’ after I tackle the big hairy project than if I were to do to the fun stuff first, before the big hairy project. By utilizing basic principles of delayed gratification, I convince myself of the benefits of tackling the big hairy project first and then enjoying the fruits of my labor with a little reward.”
Change your email habits
If you’re a procrastinator you probably love checking your email. Not only because it makes you feel like you’re contributing, but it’s a great, constant distractor from what you should be working on. It’s something Lokesh is guilty of, and even admits he’ll open and read an email and forget to respond. “If I do that often enough, I’ll usually end up with an inbox full of emails that I’ve read but haven’t done anything with, which is worse than not having read them in the first place,” he explains.
Over the past few months, he’s forced himself into getting in the habit of taking action on an email the first time he opens it. “I’m basically not allowed to move onto anything else until I either delete, answer, or otherwise take productive action on that email,” he continues. “This makes my email checking routine far slower, but much more productive.”