I’ve struggled with procrastination most of my adult life. See if my cycle sounds familiar. I start by putting off important things until they become urgent… enjoying drama and chaos… and then dealing with the shame and guilt that comes with the required apologies and excuses.
People have often thought I’m lazy or disorganized. Not true. I’ve always had drive and I’ve typically got the details of my life pretty well put together. My problem actually has never been related to motivation either. That’s why motivational tips and time management books never seem to help me. You see…
Procrastination isn’t about motivation. It’s about confidence.
This insight came when I put myself through a time study and then did some analysis. Don’t groan… I hate time studies too. Just the act of writing down (or logging electronically) how I spend my time in 15 minute increments felt heavy and burdensome. But, it was ultimately pretty enlightening.
I discovered that procrastination was nastiest and most debilitating when I lacked confidence in some way. I realized that procrastination for me is actually a sign that something isn’t right. When I’m tempted to procrastinate, it’s because I’m not confident in either my skills, my process, or the information I’ve gathered about a project. For me, the key to overcoming procrastination is resolving a confidence issue in one of these areas.
Resonating with you? I thought it might.
When I’m not confident in my skills, I procrastinate.
Hard to admit it to myself, but most often those nasty procrastination habits are strongest when I’m not confident of my skills. I’ve learned to pause and identify anything “new” about a project I’m tempted to procrastinate. Maybe the work is unfamiliar and I’m not sure of the requirements. Or, maybe I feel a bit intimidated by the client and the results she expects. Sometimes this is just a smidgen of good old imposter syndrome. All these are confidence issues.
In these moments, the best path forward involves identifying where I’m feeling insecure and creating a plan to overcome it. Gaps in my skills? Maybe I can find a tutorial or a guide to help me close the gap. Intimidated by a client’s requirements? This is also an opportunity to study and improve my work. Groups like the Christine’s Drama-Free Design Collective are great places to ask questions and get a little advice.
Imposter Syndrome is a little bit more difficult to conquer. My approach? I acknowledge how I feel… afraid, intimidated, insecure… and then give myself a pep talk. I read through old testimonials and words of praise from former clients. Then I move on… because I’m not going to let feelings of insecurity keep me from meeting my commitments.
When I’m not confident in my process, I procrastinate.
Over several years working with clients, I’ve developed a pretty good process for understanding my client’s needs and creating copy they will love. My creative process is actually similar in a lot of ways to a design process. I balance discovery with my own creative energy and follow repeatable process steps to get to a result (copy) that the client loves. But, it wasn’t always this way… and before I had a good system to guide me, I often struggled with procrastination.
Just like you, I want my clients to be thrilled (over the moon, actually) with my work. Positive comments and praise are as important to me as paid invoices. I thrive on client approval. Before I had a consistent process for client work, I would sometimes freeze because I wasn’t sure of the results. I wasn’t confident my clients would approve.
The key to overcoming this kind of procrastination is having a system you can trust to deliver results time after time. Designing to Delight is the perfect strategic design system for consistently delighting your design clients. If approval is important to you, you’ll want to check it out. Christine shows you how every design project is just a type of puzzle… and she shows you how to get to the right solution with confidence.
When I don’t have enough information, I procrastinate.
These days, my procrastination habit is very nearly a thing of the past. I’m pretty confident in my copywriting skills, and I know I have a creative process that provides consistent results for my clients. But, I still struggle at times. Why? Because sometimes I just don’t have enough information to get the job done right.
Recently I worked with a client who was excited to see her website come to life. She had lots of great ideas, and we moved smoothly through my discovery process… setting content strategy and creating core messaging to move her business forward. Everything felt right. But, when it was time for me to write her copy I started struggling. I felt frozen, and I just couldn’t get the right words to form in my mind. So, I pushed the project to the side and started procrastinating.
But, after a few hours of wasting time on various social media platforms (I’m looking at you, Pinterest) I forced myself to evaluate. See… I understand that I only make money when I’m actually working, and therefore procrastination isn’t something I can let myself wallow in for long. As I reviewed the project, I had to admit that the information I’d gathered simply wasn’t adequate for the project.
While talking to the client in the initial steps of my process, I had cut corners and skipped portions of my usual discovery plan. Why? I’d gotten excited about the project and allowed myself to be distracted by the client’s enthusiasm and energy. I failed to ask the boring questions… the ones that aren’t super fun but are actually pretty important for the success of the project. I’d allowed myself to move forward without all the facts.
Once I realized this, the solution was simple. Humbling, but clear. I contacted my client and suggested we connect for another conversation. During that conversation, I asked all the boring questions I’d skipped previously… and gathered the information I needed to complete the project successfully.
Here’s the point I want you to take away from all this…
Procrastination is an indication of another problem.
Rather than feeling guilty or struggling to push through, when you’re tempted to procrastinate take a moment to pause. Evaluate your situation and your circumstance. Look for the real problem.
Maybe you’re seriously overtired or really overbooked. Maybe some part of your life is out of balance and you lack the energy to get the work done. Procrastination can mean you simply need to take a little time to rest or reevaluate your priorities. Or maybe, like me, you’re facing a confidence problem. Maybe you’re not sure of your ability to complete the project because of a lack of skills, information, or repeatable process.
Want to conquer procrastination? Solve the underlying problem. That’s the best way to get yourself unstuck and moving forward toward your goals. Struggling with procrastination? Let’s talk about it. Share your thoughts in the comments below.