Glenford Smith | Compulsive email checking
QUESTION: Sometimes I get caught up in compulsive email checking, and I interrupt my work to check my personal account every few minutes. The only way to stop this is to walk around the building - outside if possible, but inside if the weather is bad. It's a terrible temptation when I'm not feeling motivated or absorbed in a work project. How do I deal with this?
CAREERS: Thank you for your email. What you are describing is the destructive habit of far too many people. Do not take any comfort that you have so many people suffering the same thing. Remember, misery loves company. It can hurt one's chances of creating a successful career.
But I empathise with you, though. Procrastination was a demon I had to get past in the process of career development. Allow me to share from my personal experience of dealing with this problem.
You have used the word 'compulsive' quite aptly, I must say. It is a habit just like any other a admittedly, a very bad one. The email just happens to be what you have latched on to at the moment. If it's not that, it's something else. It's just something to take your mind off the important thing that you are to do. The ironic thing is that once you start to do it, you find it was no harder to do than putting it off.
How do you deal with it? I used to look for technique after technique, trying to find an easy way to do it. Then I discovered that they were just clever ways of putting off the tasks, and I decided something important. The way to get myself to do what I was putting off was: just do it. That's it.
The way to put off procrastination is just to do
it. At first, it was hard to keep still long enough, then eventually, it became easy. There are some things I learnt in gaining self-discipline:
Sit down and concentrate, especially when you get the urge to get up and go outside or check your email. If you can help it, do not have anything to take up your attention at the time - I mean cell phone, a letter, or a fruit to eat. They all will seem particularly appealing at the time.
Have regularly scheduled breaks when you deliberately do nothing productive, say every ninety minutes. The break can last up to ten minutes. You will find that you work with greater focus if you know that a break is coming.
Write what you plan to do during the time in your to-do list. And cross it off when you have finished. You may find it tremendously empowering and motivational when you begin to see the number of things you have completed.
To start your procrastination programme going, start off with one item on it first - like decide work in a row to finish ten tasks - before taking on more. Instilling a discipline - stop procrastinating on one task, for example - requires all the self-control you can muster.
Do not wait to feel motivated or inspired. Motivation is a matter of choice and habit, not feeling. Feelings come and go. Make yourself obey your commitment. This is very important. Do it repeatedly until it becomes habit. Do not believe that you have all the time in the world - you don't.
• Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.