Putting off thinking about your future? How not to procrastinate

Procrastination. Even seasoned professionals aren’t immune to it. I say this with certainty, as I’ve just spent the last five minutes trying to repair a cafetière in the staff kitchen, putting off returning to my desk to write this blog.

Whether it’s in a work or study situation, most people will procrastinate – it’s a very common human trait. It can be particularly prevalent in career planning. But why do we do it and how can we stop it?

Typically it might be because we’re avoiding a (perceived) difficult task. After all, tidying-up or writing a ‘to do’ list is much more enjoyable (and easier) than tackling the subject of ‘what next after University?’

6 approaches to getting on with career planning

What exactly is involved?

What needs to be achieved? What other work or outcomes depend on the task being completed? These questions should help you to focus and plan.

What is it about career planning that you think is difficult?

Think through what’s required and identify what’s challenging or troubling you. This should help you to rationalise the whole process. It may be that some of the ‘problem’ issues aren’t actually difficult at all when you put them into perspective.

Break up the task into manageable chunks

Divide-up the task, so you’re less likely to be overwhelmed by the whole thing. By setting these shorter goals, it won’t seem as difficult to achieve, making you more inclined to tackle what’s needed.

For example, possible steps might be:

  1. try some self-assessment (think about what interests and motivates you)
  2. generate career ideas (do some of the exercises on the Explore Ideas page)
  3. research those ideas (try the Job Sector pages)
  4. discuss your options with a Careers Consultant (book an appointment via Careers Gateway)

Do you need some help?

Can someone offer their input (whether ideas, advice or practical assistance)? Having a little help can keep you motivate, grounded and focused.

You can talk through what’s needed with Careers and Placements staff at Careers Drop-in or in appointments.

Give yourself a deadline

It can certainly help you sharpen your focus on the job. However, make sure the deadline is realistic, otherwise you’ll put pressure on yourself, which might completely put you off finishing the task!

Ideally, start thinking through your options sometime in your first year (if you’re an undergraduate), but don’t panic, if it gets to final year and you’re not quite ready.

Go on, treat yourself

As a motivational tool, give yourself a break (10 minutes listening to some music) or treat (chocolate!!) at set points – perhaps when you complete one phase of your planning and research.

Just make sure you only treat yourself when you’ve completed a stage. If you don’t, you might never finish the task and just end up with chocolate wrappers everywhere.

As a bit of light relief, watch the entertaining TED talk on procrastination by Tim Urban – https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

On a personal note to my work colleagues. Look I finished the blog (!), though unfortunately, I couldn’t fix the cafetière. 😕

Blog written by Irena Zientek, Operations Manager: Information and Engagement, Careers and Placements