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Nope, that’s not perfection that’s procrastination

Break from work.

Who doesn’t fall victim to the nasty problem of procrastination? Even the most senior Creative Director, Account Director or CEO is going to experience procrastination at some time and perhaps even daily. So, given it is so rife across our industry I thought I would offer some thoughts on how to manage procrastination in order to assist you in getting the results you are aiming for.

How do we know when procrastination is in the way?

Often we think we have ‘reasons’ why we can’t do something when in fact they’re simply excuses dressed up. What excuses sound like is: “I don’t have time. I can’t decide. If I do it I’ll wreck it. When I have completed my [insert training course here] I’ll know enough and then I’ll do it. It’s not creative enough. Only I can do it. I want it to be right. What will “they” think of me. It’s not good enough. I’m not good enough. It needs to be perfect. The timing is not quite right.

Differentiate between your emotions, beliefs, and strategies and what makes a sound and efficient choice.

1. Is there emotion involved?

A simple way to tell the difference is to be aware if there is an emotion behind your thinking. Tap back into that emotion and ask yourself where that could have come from. Be objective about the tasks at hand, as if any emotion were not a factor. Ask yourself ‘If the emotion wasn’t there, what would I do?’

2. Is it closest to ‘the money?’

Excuse the expression, it simply helps you to focus on what is going to get you closest to the result you need right now. Sometimes things that are urgent take priority over tasks that are more important.

Focusing on the bigger picture helps you prioritise even when others make an awful lot of noise.

3. Are there beliefs in the way?

A hint that a belief is involved is when the words ‘too’, ‘always’, ‘can’t’, ‘won’t’, ‘must’, ‘never’ and other definitive descriptors are present. Beliefs are actually not real and are purely defined by our background, our experience, our values and the way we assign things to mean something. As much as we think a chair is a chair, it is just a wood structure that we use to sit on and we call it that and use it that way because we believe it to be that way. It could equally be something else. The way we see the world is in reality only the way we have experienced it and not a fact.

The question is not whether a belief is influencing us, but more about whether it is working well for us or limiting us.

4. Are we overwhelmed?

Overwhelm can be a procrastination strategy in itself for some and sometimes we just need to step back, take stock of what has to be done and clear the way to get the tasks done. I call it ‘re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ because essentially it is not useful to the final outcome, however sometimes it helps us clear the emotional path to getting things done more effectively and without the stress.

5. What are your procrastination strategies?

Strategies are actions that we take in certain circumstances on a recurring basis. In fact, a lot of people with depression get depressed because of their choices in actions, their feelings they allow in their body, and the things they ruminate in their mind. All these can create a strategy of depression. Strategies begin with one thing that leads to another, that leads to another, that finally leads to feeling depressed.

If we can go back to the very first action that sets off or triggers the strategy, including procrastination strategies, we have more chance of undoing them. Look closely at what you do before you decide to procrastinate – is it to pile up the work in a messy pile on your desk? If so, then do something else. Is it to do something unimportant first just because it is urgent or do we leave our office door open? If so, then do something else at that moment. It can be a very simple step to break the procrastination cycle.

6. Is it on brand? (Even your own personal brand!)

We all have a brand which is defined by our core values. If we are not aligned with our values we can find reasons to resist, or we get stuck being ineffective in making things happen. Asking yourself if it is aligned with our values and our guiding principles will help us identify any blocks that might be stopping us moving forward.

7. Is the work what the client expects?

Often I see creatives who are stuck at resolving something because they have high expectations about the standard of delivery. Of course, we need to seek excellence, but my point is about what is beyond excellence and that’s probably a level of perfectionism that will take far too long or stall us in some way. Be sure to measure what the client’s expectations are, whether the work fits your brand well enough for what it is if it fits in the budget parameters and if it can be done in time for the schedule, will it harm the parties involved?

Weigh all that up to determine if that little bit of extra delay or time spent on the job is actually required.

8. Is the work on strategy?

Sometimes we can’t move forward because we’re actually not that clear on the job we really need to do. Someone asked me the other day to help them produce a video. They couldn’t give me any strategic background as to what job the video was to resolve and they didn’t see the need to discuss strategy — but just wanted a video.

No producer in their right mind would know where to go from there, and much less experienced would be trying hard not to offend anyone and might just find themselves stuck and floating about without direction unable to solve the client’s brief. Without a clear strategy for any work, we do it will get us stuck and unable to move forward, we end up doing things that are wasting time, and we do things that ultimately won’t work.

In a world of timesheet driven accountability, let’s get out of our bad habits and make the most of our working hours and make what we do produce as effective and creative as possible too. That’s excellent work… not perfect work.

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