Procrastination: the (ig)noble art of putting off till tomorrow something that should have been done yesterday; of shelving something important until it becomes compellingly urgent and (often) impossible to fulfil. You know the feeling: rather than studying, Facebook seems fascinating, Instagram alluring. Seduced by Snapchat, wooed by WhatsApp. Any diversion will do.
What type of procrastinator are you?
Have a go on this useful little quiz, providing you use it as an enabling strategy, rather than a method of – yes – procrastination. Mainly we delay doing things because they appear difficult or tedious, or we lack confidence in our ability to accomplish them successfully. This is the perception – it may not be the reality.
A few of the most common, and least convincing, reasons for procrastination
“I work best under pressure”. Hoary old chestnut, best summed up by one word. Hokum. Will you really do better in a state of sheer panic overlaid with a surplus of stress?
“It’s hard / boring / complicated”. So how is deferring going to make it easier?
“I’ll put it on my list.” Sounds organised, but often involves postponing the urgent by focusing on the unnecessary. However, ticking off the less onerous items can psyche you up for something more demanding or free up space for more pressing matters.
A tried and tested technique
Thinking about the consequences of delay can have a negative outcome e.g. if I don’t finish this assignment, I will get a poor grade, then an indifferent degree, so I won’t get a job. It’s called catastrophising, and is counterproductive. Better to always look on the bright side of life. Think instead of the positive effects of taking action.
How does this relate to careers? Abraham Lincoln’s view was that “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Tough words, Abe. Tough, but true. And nowhere more so than when it comes to careers thinking, planning and action.
Procrastination about your career means that you:
- risk graduating with nowhere to go
- may miss out on your favourite option (because application deadlines are sometimes set so far ahead of graduation, you almost have to put your name down at birth)
- will spend valuable time filling in forms / sending off CVs which don’t pass muster, or enduring tests, interviews and assessments for which you are ill-prepared, hence unlikely to succeed.
Procrastination = WASTED EFFORT.
There is no Careers Fairy. Lengthy legwork is necessary and can be time-consuming and monotonous. Nothing, from staking out your future to fine-tuning a CV, can be dashed off in an evening – it all requires research, reflection and review.
- you needn’t do it all at once. Carve a seemingly insurmountable task, such as researching a particular company, into smaller chunks. Slow but steady.
- contrary to Julie Andrews’ advice you don’t have to start at the very beginning. If it’s less taxing, commence an application, for instance, in the middle or even at the end.
Now stop reading this and start checking out that career. You’ll thank me for it later.
Gill Sharp, Careers Consultant