Do you ever get annoyed with yourself for procrastinating?
You knew you had the deadline; you had plenty of time to work on it. But there you are, at the last minute, scrambling to get it done.
Yet somehow, it always seems to get done. Doesn't it?
Deadlines ignite energy. And the closer they get, the more energy you have.
Have you ever watched one of those crazy home makeover shows, where they redo an entire house in a week? On the first day they're leisurely discussing ideas over coffee. By the last day, they're moving so fast their skinny backsides are a blur as they whiz by the camera.
Some people are methodical by nature. It makes them physically ill to leave things until right before the deadline.
But if you're the type of person who likes the focused energy of just-in-time delivery, here are five ways to make procrastination work for you:
1. Plan for procrastination
If you know you're not going to do it until the 11th hour, make sure that you keep the 11th hour open. Knowing that you have a time blocked out to get it done tomorrow frees up your mental energy today. Don't delude yourself into thinking you'll do a little bit each day. Start an idea list, jot stuff down when you think about it, and give yourself a big chunk of time right before the thing is due. When the 11th hour arrives, you're amped up and ready to go.
2. More talk, less action
When you talk about the project without acting on it you generate ideas and create a mental frame that makes you more effective when you start to do the actual work. Talking about it with others gives you the chance to socialize it and get input before you start. When the time comes to run around like a crazy person, you're more prepared mentally. You may have put off the actual task, but your brain was doing important advance work that allows you to move quickly.
3. Give in to anxiety
T.S. Elliot once said, "Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity." We tend to think that we need to be in a Zen state to get creative. Wrong. When you have to get it done RIGHT NOW, you get super creative, super fast. You ignore your inner critic because you don't have the time to listen to her. When anxiety kicks in it blows the doors off your preconceived ideas, which opens the space for creativity to take over.
4. Don't dot the i's, forget the t's
With a looming deadline, you give up on trying to get it done perfectly and instead you get it done good enough. This is a good thing. Fast and efficient is better than slow and perfect. Super-tight deadlines force you to focus on the most important elements and put aside the peripheries. Sometimes 80 percent is more than good enough, it's great. Because it frees you up to move on to more important things.
5. Put things off
Don't let the anal planners of the world make you feel like a sloth. If you have a busy engaging life, you're always going to be doing a lot of last minute juggling and rearranging. Instead of beating yourself up about procrastination, think of it as continual re-prioritizing. Bottom line, if you're getting the important things done, your system is working.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of "The Triangle of Truth," which the Washington Post named as a "Top Five Book for Leaders."