It was my last course of my Master’s Degree. It had been 8 long years since I had started and the finish line was in sight.
It was down to my final paper of my final course. It was midnight, the night before my paper was due.
I couldn’t get in to it.
During my schooling I worked full-time for most of it and had 2 small children. I did school once they were in bed, on my lunch breaks, etc.
Over those years I learned that I have this other gear that kicks in when the stress level gets high enough. My overdrive. Don’t get in my way when it does kick in because I get crazy amounts of stuff done.
I began to see how useful this overdrive was during my schooling and I would consciously let the pressure build with a looming deadline so that it would trigger this overdrive and I’d get stuff done more efficiently.
The problem was, it was midnight the night before my final paper was due and overdrive wasn’t kicking in yet.
One of the problems with becoming an adrenaline addict is that you get more and more accustomed to stress and less and less able to respond appropriately.
As a Psychology student I enjoyed studying this moment while it dawned on me that I had to get this paper done anyway.
It was a wake-up call for me, one I am so thankful for.
I still do well under pressure, I can still get a lot done quite quickly when I need to … BUT I hate it now.
There is a peace and joy in getting stuff done ahead of time that far outweighs the thrill of meeting a deadline at the last minute.
Some of you reading this right now are saying to yourself “Marilyn doesn’t know my life, I don’t have that luxury.”
I get that. I coach many very busy leaders. However, let’s get honest about the subtle ways that we procrastinate and the obvious and hidden ways that we “benefit”.
One of the most common things people say in our culture, when you ask them how they are, is “busy, really busy”. It’s almost like it would be embarrassing if they weren’t. That being busy is the healthy normal. How often have you heard “I’m doing well, thanks, I’m not too busy, just perfect.”
We are a society addicted to stress and busy-ness but in denial.
So, what are the strategies, especially for truly busy people?
I suggest an honest conversation with yourself for starters:
- Am I benefiting in some way by procrastinating?
- Do I use the adrenaline high from letting the stress build?
- Is it possible I feel more important, more accomplished by leading this super busy life?
Next, some strategies to help move you away from last minute stress to a healthier way of living and working.
- Notice what you are avoiding and break it down in to bite size pieces. Even if it's only the first piece it will get you un-stuck.
- Don't be afraid to ask for support for tasks - whether this looks like appropriate delegation or psychological support for facing a task. (This is best done early before you get to that panicked, "OMG I should have started this a week ago" state.)
- If it's a task you really are not looking forward to limiting your time for that first dive in can break down the barrier of starting. This also works for repetitious tasks that most of us hate, like filing, cleaning off our desk, etc.
So, what are the benefits of not procrastinating? (Clearly for those of us who repetitively procrastinate, we subconsciously think it has advantages or we wouldn't keep doing it.)
I'll leave you to consider the benefits by way of these questions:
What stresses would be eliminated by planning and tackling work ahead?
What projects would benefit from some creative thinking and strategic planning, versus last minute completion?
What could you do with some free time if indeed your new habits made you less busy eventually?
Posted on Thu, February 25, 2016
by Marilyn Orr filed under