Like many people, I have a tendency to put off certain tasks which I perceive to be unpleasant, painful or just plain boring – doing more than a few minutes of cardio, for example. At the same time, I realize that successful people get that way precisely because they are willing to do the things most people aren’t, including the things that take us out of our comfort zone (such as sales or marketing our business) or involve a certain amount of risk. And since I strive to be at least moderately successful in many areas of my life, I have had to learn to overcome the tendency to procrastinate.
As someone who has to juggle many projects and keep dozens of plates spinning at once, I can empathize with the legions of professional planners who are able to do all that and more. But I know that if I let procrastination get the best of me, I’m doomed. Consequently, many of my friends and colleagues see me as being hyper-efficient when it’s really just a case of self-preservation.
Attack of the Killer Ps
What many people do not realize, however, is that procrastination is a symptom of what I see as a bigger problem – perfectionism and the fear of failure. Procrastination and its evil twin, perfectionism, can become, for too many people, the Killer Ps.
Now, it may seem prudent to extol perfectionism as a pseudo-virtue during a job interview (“Oh, I’d say my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist.”) but it can become a definite impediment to success. Yes, I know that meeting planners are genetically predisposed to this dreaded condition and it certainly has led to a great number of successful events. But at what point does perfectionism become more of a hindrance than a help?
For me, the answer is when it leads to procrastination. While I can’t say I enjoy the discomfort of 60 minutes on the elliptical machine, I find myself leaning towards procrastinating more often than not because of fear. Specifically, the fear of failure and not being able to master the task at hand perfectly. And I know I am not alone in this.
So, how have I learned to overcome both procrastination and the fear of failure/perfectionism? Well, here are just a few simple tips that I’ve picked up in my journey towards hyper-efficiency:
- Think small and get moving: Breaking tasks down into bite-size chunks makes them much easier to face. Whether it’s giving yourself a simple, easily attainable goal (such as making just two sales calls before moving on to a more pleasant task) or taking on a couple of tasks early in the day that are not dependent on success, the important thing is to just start moving. Generally what happens is that the simple act of inertia is able to carry you forward and into eventual task completion, often without even realizing it.
- Work in some fun: There’s a reason for the recent trends towards “gamification” in adult learning. When an activity as an element of fun, pleasure or friendly competition (even against yourself) associated with it, we are more likely to want to engage in it. A personal favourite strategy is to listen to some kind of instrumental music while doing research or even writing articles. For me, music spurs my creativity and gives me the energy I need to complete the task.
- Eliminate, delegate or negotiate: Often, procrastination is the result of a sense of overwhelm and anxiety of how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it. Follow these three simple rules to get some of your work off your plate. If the task doesn’t need to be done right away (yes, there are some) or done at all, eliminate it altogether. If you have someone you can trust to assist or even take over the task, don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate to others. And if a deadline can be extended or task can be minimized through negotiation, then consider this as an option.
- Find your WHY: Sometimes we just need a little motivation to get going. Whether you find yourself more apt to perform a task based on extrinsic motivators such as money, recognition or even tasty treats (I’m thinking about the elliptical machine again!) or by intrinsic reasons such as personal pride, integrity or sense of achievement, finding the purpose behind your actions is crucial.
- Acquire new skills: If the fear of failure due to lack of knowledge is holding you back, then the simplest answer is to always be learning new things! Naturally, you’ll never have 100 per cent competence in every facet of your life or business (after all, even Tiger Woods hasn’t won a PGA Major in over four years) but if you keep learning and stay on top of the latest developments and strategies in the areas that are important to you, perhaps that fear of failure will evaporate.
Of course, there are many other great ways to arm yourself in the battle against the Killer Ps. Try a few of them today and see how quickly you can become a hyper-efficient, task-completing machine! If you have some tips of your own, comment below and let us know!