Procrastination came easily to LeeAnn Eddins. Waiting until the last minute to complete a task gave her that sense of urgency necessary to get the job done. But then technology changed. Communication became faster and, as a result, so did the workflow. A client could reach out almost immediately, no matter when or where. The buffer of time — shipping time, travel time, conference time — practically disappeared.
“Procrastination is the opposite of productivity,” Eddins of l.a.eddins design says.
Which is why when she was asked in 2018 to be a presenter at Beyond Rubies, Kirkwood Community College’s annual conference for women, Eddins knew she wanted to talk about her old friend.
“Procrastination is something everyone can relate to,” Eddins says.
In fact, each time she’s presented her program, “Get Over Yourself & Get It Done: Confessions from a Recovering Procrastinator,” someone has come up to her after to say it felt like she was speaking directly to them.
“I always get those comments, ‘I thought it was just me,’” she says.
As a graphic designer and visual communicator, Eddins is familiar with deadlines. She plans her professional career and her personal life around them. Unfortunately, every deadline is an opportunity to put off completing a task until the last minute — or at least it used to be. In doing her research, Eddins discovered the ways in which people can procrastinate and, more importantly, why. It turns out, there are quite a few psychological and cognitive studies on the topic.
Good news — procrastinators aren’t lazy.
Better news — once procrastinators identify why they procrastinate, they can take steps to overcome it.
For instance, there are over planner procrastinators. These are the people that plan and prep over and over. They spend so much time preparing for the assignment at hand, they never finish it. Similar to the over planners are the perfectionists. They may start the job, but their need to do it perfectly the first time, every time, stalls their progress. Eddins is what she calls an optimist procrastinator.
“I have a serving attitude,” she says. “I’m a people pleaser. I want to help.”
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The downside is that it’s easy to get overloaded and be left with an out-of-control to-do list.
No matter what kind of procrastinator a person is, the first step to moving past it is addressing your thought perception. Fear plays a bigger role in our actions than we realize. For instance, over planners are often focused on the preparation process so they don’t have to think about what happens next. At the same time, perfectionists are so worried they’ll fail, they focus on redoing every step again and again, not realizing that incomplete work is just as bad.
“Quite frankly, your inner critic is a big jerk,” Eddins says. “You have to challenge what you’re telling yourself and reverse it. Anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same emotional coin.”
Eddins says her type of procrastination forced her to prioritize.
“I couldn’t do everything, so I had to decide what was important and what wasn’t,” she says. “I had to pare down my choices.”
She also had to learn what worked best for her and give herself permission not to feel bad about it. For example, she is not a morning person. It makes no sense for her to wake up early to go to the gym because she doesn’t want to — and why should she feel bad for preferring to work out later in the day?
“As soon as you free yourself from the trap of assumption, you allow yourself the space to do the things you need to do when it works best for you,” Eddins says.
Of course, sometimes deadlines don’t allow us the opportunity to focus on why we procrastinate; the job needs to get done. When time isn’t on her side, Eddins turns to the Pomodoro Technique to get her started.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. This is a short on time, high in intensity technique that breaks down work into intervals. Eddins sets her timer for 20 minutes, eliminating all distractions by silencing her phone and turning off computer notifications. She spends the next 20 minutes working on the identified task. When the time is up, she can work on something else.
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“I hardly ever quit after 20 minutes,” she says. “By that point, I’m deep into what I’m doing and want to keep going.”
But if there’s ever a time when the work isn’t flowing, she knows she can quit after 20 minutes.
“It’s the best thing I’ve found to get me started,” Eddins says. “That’s all there is to it; a beginning and permission to quit.”
It also gives her a little sense of that urgency she used to crave as a recovering procrastinator, only now she makes it work for her, not against her.
Note: Eddins will give a short version of “Get Over Yourself and Get it Done” for a lunch-and-learn meeting April 11, noon to 1 pm, at Office Evolution, 1100 Depot Lane, Cedar Rapids (right behind NewBo City Market) It’s open to the public, lunch is provided, but space is limited, so RSVPs are required to Melissa.Miller@officeevolution.com,
Quotes about procrastination
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
• Pablo Picasso
“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
• Rita Mae Brown
“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
• Leonardo da Vinci
“Someday is not a day of the week.”
• Janet Dailey
Books about procrastination
“Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy
“Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen
“The Procrastination Cure: 21 Proven Tactics for Conquering Your Inner Procrastinator, Mastering Your Time, and Boosting Your Productivity!” by Damon Zahariades