05/07/2010 04:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Before You Procrastinate - Read This!

It's probably in the bottom of your in-box and definitely in the back of your mind. There's at least one project lurking out there that you've been putting off. But it's 4:00PM on Friday and you'll just worry about it next week. Problem is, you'll probably worry about it during your cherished weekend and until you finally do something about it.

You're smart and ambitious and know this strategy usually backfires, so why do you do this to yourself, time and again? Well, there is a short-term payoff - you avoid doing something you don't want to do and focus on something more fun. If only you were free from that inner voice that plagues you saying "Hey, you better get that done!"

So, how do you stop procrastination from creeping in and grabbing hold of you and your career?

1.Keep Your Eyes On The Prize: The best way to get started on a project and keep moving forward is to keep your reasons for doing it top of mind. For example, let's say you want to become a better presenter and there's a series of workshops that you know would help. You've been putting it off because you're focusing on all the things that make it a chore: you'll have to drive out of your way; they'll be work involved; you'd rather be watching CSI or doing something else that's more fun. Focus on the reasons why you thought you should do it in the first place. Being a better presenter will give you more of the types of opportunities that are important to you. By keeping that thought in your head, it will make it easier for you to move forward.

2.Break It Into Bite-Sized Pieces: Many people procrastinate because they see the project in its totality and believe it will take too long. A better approach to take is to break down your goal into manageable action items. Paraphrasing David Allen in "Getting Things Done", you can't do a project -- you can only do the next action. By developing an action plan, it will keep you focused on what the next step is and make completing your project seem more doable.

3.Shoot For Good, Not Perfect: Sometimes we set the standards unreasonably high, which prevents us from even wanting to start. The pressure we put on ourselves can result in stagnation. Balance your desire for perfection with the need to get things done. Does it really have to be perfect to create value?

4.Do It In Spite Of Your Mood: Don't wait until you are "in the mood" to work on your project, because the right mood may never come. Action drives motivation and can feed your desire to continue. Even if you are not in the best mood, any effort you make will result in progress. As long as you keep working on it, it will get done.

5."Diss" Distractions: Let people know in advance that you are not available during the time you're working on your project. Turn off your cell phone, don't answer emails and don't go on YouTube. When you're doing something that you've been putting off, it's especially easy to get distracted. Remove all those distractions that will take you off point.

As the dentist says "Ignore your teeth and they'll go away." While your projects won't go away, avoiding them will create a major toothache. You know what it feels like to live with the burden of procrastination. See for yourself how good it feels on the other side.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success