Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Success Series: What successful people know about procrastination

I've been writing this blog for over three years, and the most popular blog article by far is one I wrote in 2011 on....drumroll please....procrastination

People find this post from Google searching - and it seems students are Google searching procrastination a lot. 

Which tells me two things:

1) Students struggle with procrastination.
2) They want to get better.

I've read dozens of books about successful people and met many successful people, from CEO's to non-profit founders to New York Times Best selling authors to college presidents. Something has really struck me about my interactions with these people:

They don't seem to procrastinate. 

Seriously. Of all the people I connect with and e-mail, those who are most successful tend to get back to me the fastest. It almost doesn't make sense.

But it's true. 

When I sought out people to review my book for the inside and back covers, without fail those who were the most successful - the ones I thought would be the least likely to get back to me - got back to me before those who hadn't reached those heights in their careers.  

How can that be? My theory is that they got to where they are because they don't procrastinate - they just get things done right away, and are really good at knowing what is important. 

They only do the important things - and instead of procrastinating unimportant things, they just delegate them or get them out of their life. 

Successful people get to where they are by prioritizing the important things. 

Sometimes I procrastinate cleaning the kitchen or organizing a drawer. But I never procrastinated my school work when I was a student. Seriously, never.

Not because I'm just amazing. But because inherently I knew this was important. I wanted it. I wanted to do well. And I knew I had to get it done right away - I had to take action on an essay the day it was due to start to build momentum. Because I wasn't immune to procrastination - I just learned to protect myself against it. 

Procrastination can be a vicious cycle. Because the more you put something off the bigger it seems and the less you'll want to do it because it just seems so daunting.

One of the best ways to fight procrastination is to act on important tasks right away.

When you get an assignment - do something to move it forward right away. For example, when you get an essay assignment, do some research immediately, check out a book that will help you, or format a basic outline and save the document on your computer. I'm talking 5 minutes here.

The first step builds momentum that makes it seem less overwhelming. Sometimes you'll feel so buzzy from getting something done that you'll want to keep going. 

If that doesn't work, ask yourself if you need to raise the level of importance of your overall goal that the task relates to.

Is college actually important to you? Does getting the best grade you can really matter to you? Why are you in college? What do you want?

Sometimes procrastination might mean something isn't that important to you. Or maybe you're not just totally connecting how this task can actually help you get where you want to go.

Figure out how to raise the level of importance and put cues into your routine that will help remind you of that importance (like reading your goals every morning or meeting weekly with a mentor).

Or maybe sometimes you're procrastinating something because it's really not what you want. Maybe you need to change your major. Maybe you need to research a new path. 

Whatever you do, don't ignore procrastination. Take some time to think about what's happening and do something about it. I know, telling procrastinators to not procrastinate thinking about procrastination. Ha. 

But you get what I'm saying. And I know you can do this because, hey, you read this entire article, right? That means there's something that is important to you that you want to stop procrastinating.

Don't do anything else before you do something to move that task forward right now. Seriously. Stop reading. Go! ;) 

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