Imposter Syndrome

Procrastination – 4 tips for Quiet Leaders

July 7, 2023

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Oooh I love a good procrastinate – I read the book ‘The art of procrastination’ I love it so much. Which meant I put off a few things whilst I read it! Seriously though, it was a great book, and did make me question – when am I procrastinating and when am I just not ready yet? 

And that may sometimes be the case – I have more processing, thinking and reflecting to do perhaps – I really am not ready.

But most of the time we won’t ever be ready, and when that’s the case we need to act before we are. Or, as deep thinkers and deep processors we may just keep collecting information and skills and knowledge and never get to taking action. I just need to read this other article before writing the proposal…

And as a Quiet Leader procrastination can be a significant issue. Why? Because we are prone to feelings of being an imposter (‘imposter syndrome’), perfectionism and overthinking. And they all fuel the fire of procrastination. 

So let’s start back at the beginning – what do I mean by procrastination? I really like Wikipedia’s definition for this one: ‘’unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so’’. 

But why do we do it? When we know there will be negative consequences? And we aren’t stupid, we aren’t bad, we’re just human.  

For many reasons, and these depend on the person, but it may be to avoid the fear you cannot do the task well enough, or don’t know how to do it, or you’re really tired, or really distracted. The discomfort of those feelings are judged worse than those of putting it off – we don’t want to make ourselves unhappy. 

But there is a high cost to procrastination. It doesn’t go away, that’s the thing, that task that needs to be done. 

There are the explicit costs – missed deadlines, ‘pulling an all nighter’’ to get the thing done last minute, not delivering on promises. But there’s the hidden cost too, the weight on your shoulders of the thing you know you ‘should’ do, until you can no longer put it off. The guilt when you’re doing something else instead. And then the self-blame afterwards, the frustration and disappointment in yourself, the shame. It’s all so exhausting and lowers self-belief and esteem.  

Distractions are an unhelpful facilitator of procrastination, and there are whole industries based on providing us with external distractions to keep us putting stuff off ad infinitum. Hands up who’s ‘just checked FB/IG for 5 minutes’, and looked up an hour later feeling guilty, dismayed and frustrated with yourself for the time wasted? Don’t beat yourself up, there are rooms of big brains working out how to keep you hooked on it and unable to put it down after 5. 

And then there’s the internal distractions. Away from the uncomfortable emotions that come up when you feel your feelings of being an imposter arise (I don’t know how to do this, someone’s going to find out I am not good enough), or perfectionist (it has to be absolutely right and I don’t have the time). 

But with help and support, you can overcome a habit of procrastination, taking small practical steps whilst working on your mindset. When you’re ready there are some fantastic self-help articles and books to research out there, and working with a coach to support your thinking and identify what’s holding you back are all excellent ideas.

In the meantime here are 4 tips to try…  

  1. Take away whatever your favourite procrastination go-to is. Scrolling Facebook on your phone? Turn it off and move it somewhere else. Instant work messages? Turn off notifications for a time and let people know. 
  1. Write down all the tiny steps you need to take. Start really, really small – for instance open email, read email, note down my initial thoughts, identify and note who I need to talk to for more clarity, identify and note collaborators etc etc. As far as you can get without knowing the details yet. 
  1. Commit to working on the steps for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes. How many can you complete in 5? Tick off the ones completed and note those that you have started. Pause to give yourself a pat on the back. You’re on your way. 

4. Take the next tiny step and reward yourself – a coffee? Every step is one step closer to your goal.