Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm

The post back in December about Identifying Corporate Procrastination has sparked a bit of a debate about the relationship and difference between Procrastination and Overwhelm. While procrastination is an internal choice, albeit unconscious in most cases, some people have reasoned that overwhelm is a frozen state when one feels overwhelmed by external circumstances, and therein lies a trap for the unwary!

How Procrastination and Overwhelm Affects Business
It is easy to assume that a company in difficulties is the end result of taking wrong decisions. However, it is often the case that the problem is delayed decision making rather than making a wrong choice. The reason why Managers delay action in the face of emerging risks will be explored elsewhere, but the consequence of failure to make timely decisions can cost a business in a number of ways, including:

  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Missed opportunities
  • Inadequate damage limitation

What Have Procrastination and Overwhelm In Common?
It is not difficult to understand that procrastination is a an internal process, but spotting the similarities with overwhelm is a bit of a stretch.

In order to deal effectively with Overwhelm, it is important to understand the mental processing involved in order to feel overwhelmed. If we believe that Procrastination and Overwhelm are different then it makes a solution more complex, and hence a greater challenge. However once we realize that overwhelm is just another form of procrastination then the solution is much simpler. In coaching terms, once we understand the micro-strategy which is running, then we can make a conscious decision to change the strategy, and so behave differently.

A Typical overwhelm micro-strategy goes something like this:

  • First imagine the task at hand as a gigantic, looming mass of work of incredible complexity
  • This leads to feeling that the task is impossible to achieve
  • Logically and rationally it is pointless starting an impossible task
  • This feeling in turn leads to putting off doing the task
  • But we are now in conflicted with the task imperative, so the result is overwhelm!

Put like that, being overwhelmed is more like a conscious decision not to start something, or failure to act for some reason, which is a bit like procrastination!

How To Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm
The key to dealing with procrastination and overwhelm is to understand that they are the same thing, which is an internal response to external circumstances. Once we take responsibility for the internal process then it is easier to make the change. All we have to do is Decide, Commit, then Act.

Decision making can be regarded as the mental process which results in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a single 1 final choice. With the right motivation, such as a clear positive vision of where you are going, then decision making is straightforward.

Once you rule out the environmentally damaging options, the do-nothing option (this is overcoming procrastination after all!), and any choice limiting options, what remains are candidate options. The question we must ask ourselves, is which of the remaining choices takes us closer to our goals and the vision? If you have multiple choices, with equal merit, then invite your team to chose, or toss a coin! The latter is quick and easy, while the former gets buy in from your team. Either would work.

When you commit to a course of actions, you cut yourself off from any other possibility, including the possibility of not taking the action. To use a skydiving metaphor, you are suited, booted and out of the door; you can decide on when to pull the ripcord, or your final approach route as you go. If you are CEO, you announce what the result will look like, even if you have no idea how to achieve your vision.

When John F. Kennedy said “We choose to go to the Moon” he personally had no idea how that was going to be achieved; he trusted his team, and put his vision out there. That is commitment!

Once you have made your decision and committed to your course of action, then Act! As Jedi Master Yoda from Star Wars 2 is renown for saying “Try not! Do or do not; there is no try!”

To overcome procrastination and overwhelm all we need is the right positive motivation, a clear vision of where we want to go, then decide, commit, then act.

Note 1. For the argumentative or miss-matchers who want to know what happens if you are looking for two options, or a top three, then it is still a single pair, or a single trio, or a single triskaidectet (13) which matches your selection criteria.

Note 2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) © and TM Lucasfilm Ltd.