Overcoming Procrastination

By Frances N. Chaves

Procrastination is looking at the same list of job search tasks every day, and never crossing anything off the list. Procrastination is telling yourself that today is the day you’ll make that important networking phone call, then never touching the telephone. Procrastination is suddenly developing an irrational need to clean the house rather than redo your resume. Face it: procrastination makes job searching impossible. So why do so many of us engage in it?

According to Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University, “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time-management problem.” Our ability to deal with negative emotions relates directly to being able to stop procrastinating. Job search tasks evoke negative emotions that may be particularly attractive to postpone: self-doubt, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment…

We fool ourselves into thinking that by putting things off, we’ll feel better in the moment. But later, when the task remains undone, we “pay the piper” with negative self-talk. (Think how good it feels to eat that ice cream now but how bad you feel when you get on the scale!) The negative feelings feed the procrastination cycle so that the procrastinator is more likely to procrastinate again when addressing the undone task. Procrastination becomes a coping mechanism — a way to avoid the negative feelings.

However, it’s a falsehood. The task remains undone; negative feelings pile up; and one remains trapped in the procrastination hamster wheel.

To move beyond procrastination, Dr. Pychyl recommends acknowledging the emotions one is feeling and not being judgmental about them. A New York Times article reports research that students who forgive themselves for putting off an exam do better on completing the next exam they take.

Another procrastination researcher, Dr. Piers Steel, professor in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, says, “Procrastination is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.” He recommends examining one’s procrastination. Is the problem with “onset” (starting a task) or “goal striving” (having the skills required to complete the task, lack of willpower, bad habits or more)?

A community like the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey provides missing skills that are making it hard to complete job search tasks. More importantly, it can also give you a supportive community to bolster your efforts to overcome procrastination and negative self-talk — and achieve your job search goals.

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Be self-forgiving
  • Make temptations harder to satisfy (especially social media!)
  • Join PSGCNJ

About The Author:

Frances Chaves is a communications consultant, writer and editor for The Electrochemical Society and TBI Communications Ltd. She develops, writes and edits digital content, annual reports, book-length catalogs, grants, and reports. She is also a graduate of Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey’s (PSGCNJ) career training workshop.