Just had another Time Management workout and have heard again the Procrastinator’s Refrain: “I work best under pressure.” Research suggests that this isn’t true. While deadlines can dramatically increase our focus, how can we know we’re producing “our best” work if we don’t have an option of revising or refining? Pressured thinking may work for some projects but for highly complex or creative work, the brain needs time to mix, blend, and percolate ideas.
Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
- arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
- avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
- decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
- (from a Psychology Today 2003 article)
In my workshops, participants who label themselves as perfectionists report a high degree of procrastination. The project that demands the most from them will be the one that is ignored day after day. If new, unforeseen priorities emerge—they may miss their deadline entirely. This may provide a “good excuse” but they will also miss the opportunity to shine at work. These same participants admit that their delays greatly increase their stress at work and at home.
Using emotional intelligence to overcome procrastination.
As a writer I well understand the difficulties in starting new projects. Strong emotions often emerge. Simply noticing the emotions and enduring them is a form of emotional intelligence. Trusting in our own skills and the creative process requires positive self-talk, another EI skill.
Here are some steps have helped me overcome procrastination when I’m faced with blog posts, training proposals, and even screenplays. Try it on yourself or a member of your team.
1. Identify the looming project that needs completion.
2. Arrange for 10-15 minutes without any interruptions: phone, email, visitors.
3. Sit with the blank page or forms that need attention.
4. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that might emerge: fear, anger, overwhelm.
5. Give the project your attention, even if that consists of sitting and staring at the page.
Within 15 minutes I’m betting that you’ll discover some preliminary ideas. Write these down. Don’t expect perfection. Every writer knows that the first draft may be disastrous but it is the only way to get to the next (much better) draft. If possible, continue to allow yourself undisturbed time (30-60 minutes) to make some headway on the project.
Remember, those 15 minutes of staring at the page are NOT a waste of time. Sitting in front of the paper sets the intention and alerts our larger mind (both conscious and unconscious processes) to the project/problem that needs a solution. Allowing random thoughts to kick around our mind (doodling might help here), primes the pump for our creative process.© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved