Do you routinely experience problems with procrastination? If so, you may have been told that you were lazy, disorganized, lacked a sense of responsibility, or were otherwise flawed. Before you slink off hanging your head in shame, however, stop and reconsider.
There may not be anything wrong with you at all. In fact, you may be procrastinating as a result of what's right with you instead of what's wrong with you. Consider these possibilities.
Perfectionism. Your clients, editors, and readers appreciate your close attention to detail. You've probably even landed jobs because you are so thorough. Unfortunately, it's easy to take perfectionism too far. Some perfectionists put off starting projects for fear they will make a mistake. Others can't bring themselves to finish the project and hit the "send" button for the same reason.
There are a few tricks that can help ease the burden of perfectionism. Carol Tice, one of my writing coaches taught me to let go of the need to be perfect by deliberately inserting a small error into the copy. Once perfection was off the table, it was easier for me to embrace the concept of "good enough."
Another idea is to set strict time limits so that you don't spend countless hours editing or poring over your notes for the perfect quotation.
Possessing multiple gifts. Multi-talented people often have so much on their plates that it's hard to set aside time for one specific project. When you do force yourself to work on a project with a rapidly approaching deadline, you may feel resentment and wish you were doing something else instead.
Liisa Kyle and Lisa Rothstein, known collectively as the DaVinci Divas, have a whole website dedicated to celebrating people with multiple talents. They also offer one-on-one coaching to help you sort out your priorities and make sure you are devoting your time to projects you find satisfying and fulfilling.
Ambition. It's great to make ambitious plans for yourself. Most self-improvement experts agree that the best goals, the ones that really help you to grow as a professional and as a person, are the ones that force you to reach a little beyond your comfort zone.
Overly ambitious plans, however, can be a little scary. If you suspect you've committed yourself to an impossible schedule, it may be difficult to start the project at hand. And every day you put off starting the work puts you that much more behind what was already an unrealistic deadline.
If you've been overly ambitious, honesty is the best policy. Contact your client and let him or her know that you've over-promised. Brainstorm with your client on how best to fix the problem. For instance, you could offer a discount in exchange for an extension of your deadline.
Optimism. There's a story about singer and actor Michael Crawford that, early in his career, a director asked him if he could dance. Although he couldn't dance, he answered affirmatively and was cast in the part. He spent the next few weeks frantically taking dancing lessons. In the end, his dancing passed muster, but not all such stories have happy endings.
Being optimistic about your abilities is great, but you also need to be realistic. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to complete a project you've agreed to take on. Before signing on for an assignment, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to do and that you either possess the necessary skills or are able to attain them.
Although human nature is to put off projects that make us feel uncertain, it's a better idea to give these projects your highest priority so that you have plenty of time to finish without feeling rushed.
If you have problems with procrastination, don't automatically assume you're somehow defective. Instead, try identifying and working with your strengths to get your procrastination under control for once and all.