I’m not a procrastinator.
I’m a Driver personality, and I have the lists to prove it!
I am constantly in production mode: check. Check. CHECK!
You won’t catch me putting things off until later. I’m not a putter-offer. Nope, not me. I just wait until I’m ready to do certain tasks.
And some tasks require me to wait for weeks. Months. Even years.
Recognizing Procrastination in Hindsight
I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve started with great gusto, certain I’ll finish them in no time, only to have them drag on forever.
The project that forced me to recognize that I am an unintentional procrastinator was my MA degree. I started it in 2005 and should have easily graduated in 2007. But I didn’t get my diploma until 2013.
Why eight years to finish a 2-year degree?
For the longest time, I had a laundry list of reasons:
- The big move from southern California to the central California coast.
- The new job teaching ESL, which I’d never done before.
- Both kids becoming teenagers.
- Launching a speaking and writing ministry.
- My mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s Disease.
- And so on.
- And so forth.
But in writing You Don’t Have to Try So Hard with Kathi, I recognized the real reason I failed to make progress on my MA for so many years. Every time I thought about working on my MA again, an overwhelming worry would paralyze me:
I don’t know what to do next!
Which is, of course, a statement of fear. But my #1 response to fear isn’t fight-or-flight.
My go-to fear reaction is to freeze.
And tell myself I’m just waiting until I’m ready.
The Problem With Putting Projects Aside
Here’s the thing: when I’m in the midst of working on a project, I do know my next steps. But then life happens, and I have to set it aside for a few days (or weeks or … you know the drill!)
By the time I pick the project back up again, I’ve forgotten where I was in the process. So, I have to spend hours and hours getting back up to speed before I can make a tiny step of progress.
And then, when I finally get some momentum going, life happens again.
Which means that the next time I have time, I’m going to have to spend hours and hours, again, figuring out where I was, only to move forward another little bit.
As a Driver, I don’t have that kind of patience.
I can’t keep doing the same things over and over again. I want to do things once and move on.
I have to see progress.
One Thing That’s Working
Right now, I’ve got multiple projects “in process,” and to keep myself from stalling out on any of them, I’m doing something startlingly simple.
When I’m done working on any particular project for the moment, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to pull it out next, I grab a Post-It Note.
On the Post-It, I write out my next 3 steps.
Then I tape it to the spine of my project binder, like this:
I use tape so the Post-It doesn’t fall off and get lost. I put it on the spine so I can see it at a glance.
When I need more details than I can write on a Post-It note, I type up the list, print it out, tuck it inside the binder, and tape a Post-It on the spine that says “1. Read notes in binder.”
I’ve been using this method for several years now, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. It’s increased my project completion rate while lowering my stress.
The “Next 3 Steps on a Post-It Note” method can do the same for you.
One little Post-It note gives you confidence: I DO know what to do next!
It creates momentum: I AM ready right now!
And it means that when you have a pocket of time, you can pull out a project and make progress on the first item on the Post-It note.
Think of progress as the pin that pops the Procrastination balloon.
It’s not too late! Join us for the You Don’t Have to Try So Hard Book club and kick procrastination to the curb!
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of Overwhelmed and You Don't Have to Try So Hard. She's also the co-host, with Amy Carroll, of the Grit 'n' Grace podcast.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for 30 years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (27) and Jonathon (25), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about personalities, perfectionism, people-pleasing, and mother-daughter relationships at CheriGregory.com and life as a Highly Sensitive Person at SensitiveAndStrong.com