In my last article, Advice That Sticks – The Passenger’s Guidance, I briefly mentioned how our colleagues act as cautionary tales for our own development. While it is true that everyone is replaceable, it is also important to note that it is in the best interest of a company to retain employees, especially those who deliver beyond expectation.
Getting hired means two things. First, your employer understands that your probationary period is a period of adjustment and learning and that they need to provide guidance for you to deliver quality results. Second, you have already taken your first step on the pathway to success and should continue on that path provided you work hard and fix your eye on our goal.
As we all know by now, the path to success is not as smooth as we would like. There are numerous challenges along the way and your biggest adversary is time, a critical element that can either make you or break you. For those who have been working long enough, you may have met the two notorious bullies at any time in your place of work. Their powers are so effective that if you allow, you may lose your chance to succeed.
Procrastination – The Danger of Waiting
Why wait when you can act on it on the spot? Yes, other workers believe that they work best when under pressure. According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the word procrastinate means “to delay something until a later time.” In an attempt to understand the complexities of procrastination, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) published an article written by Eric Jaffe (Observer contributor and the author of “The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, the Route That Made America (Scribner, 2010).” According to the article “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination,” the real issue that contributes to the poor concept of time is one’s inability to manage emotions resulting to work delays and unfinished tasks.
Procrastinators know the consequences of their actions – the possibility of suffering for delaying until the last minute. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University, in Canada, further commented that a chronic procrastinator is aware of his actions. The idea that he knows what he needs to do, and yet could not bring himself to do it, further widens the gap between “intention and action.”
While procrastination does not always cause a situation to get worse, being a practitioner may bring about obstacles that could cause emotional damage. Regret also plays a huge part in the emotional impact of procrastination. This must have been how Leonardo da Vinci felt, when at the time of his death, there remained several works unfinished. In fact, it took him 16 years to finish his famous painting Mona Lisa. It is no wonder that the English poet and dramatist Edward Young (1683–1765) termed procrastination as the “thief of time.”
Complacency – The path from Self-satisfaction to Mediocrity
Another culprit in sabotaging your career is the personal satisfaction without any desire to change. Our online dictionary friend, Merriam-Webster, states that complacency is also attributed to one’s inability to know the “actual dangers or deficiencies” underlying this habit.
Yes, complacency is a hard habit to break once adopted. There are hundreds of human resource and work related articles highlighting the dangers of complacency in the workplace. More often than not, career failure is attributed to an individual’s inability to decipher the importance of taking action and finishing the work on time or earlier than expected. A complacent employee also tends to have a low regard for others’ time, thereby compromising everybody’s productivity.
The Fix – Old Habits Die Hard
If you will not regain control of your career, then who will? Would you let yourself sabotage your career just because you are afraid of change? It is important to understand that procrastination requires strong counteractive measures in order to overcome your unmanageable emotions.
The good news is that habits can be broken especially if these are detrimental to your success. Both procrastination and complacency are obstructions but are not inherent to everyone. These are adopted through years of frustration or loss of focus to succeed. If you are not getting the rewards you think you deserve, if you have been passed up for promotion time and again, could it mean that YOU are doing something wrong in the process? How are you managing your personal challenges?
- Learn how to Farm
Farming requires special skills in order to yield a bountiful harvest. Weather and soil conditions are two of the most important considerations. A farmer should know when is the opportune time to plant the seeds. Outside factors like fertilizers and water system are also important considerations.
Talk about one’s career, it is imperative that we consider both internal factors (our skills, academic orientation, experience etc.) and external factors (deadlines, resources, challenges, our dealings with our colleagues etc.) for us to climb the ladder of success smoothly. We must be aware of how to effectively deal with these elements and know exactly when the perfect time is for us to plant seeds:
- Work beyond your regular tasks and responsibilities
- Step up for an internal project and contribute to the team’s overall success
- Pay constant attention and show interest in business-related matters
Benefits: Earn your colleagues’ respect and praises for a job well done
- Always Create a Contingency Plan
While waiting for your big break to come, do not become complacent. Learn to improvise and create a contingency plan. The truth is, is that nobody knows if a plan will succeed or fail during the process. Are you aiming for a promotion within the next six months? What will happen if your anticipated promotion is awarded to your colleague? Will you leave the company for good?
Well, if you have prepared a contingency plan, you will be able to embrace any changes or frustrations gracefully. So, do not procrastinate and wait until the last minute. Create a plan B now, and remember – it is better to be ready than be sorry.
- Seize the Opportunity before it disappears
You may have heard many stories of successful people who experienced a pivotal change in their careers and lives in general. Who would not be inspired of J.K Rowling, the highly acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series of books, who reached rock bottom and lived on the breadline while raising her daughter alone, unemployed? Similarly, Oprah Winfrey had to flee from her own family to escape abuse and poverty.
Yes, the path to success can be painful. Struggles are real but to give up is not an option. Instead, do what JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey did — seized the opportunities presented, use the power of adversity to stand tall and keep moving forward.
In reality, breaking the debilitating habits of procrastination and complacency can help us prepare for better days ahead. There is neither an overnight success nor an accidental break. Success requires effort and action, so the choice is our own.
- Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination by the Association for Psychological Science (online)
- Biography of Edward Young – Encyclopædia Britannica (online)
- Overcoming Obstacles: What Oprah Winfrey Learned From Her Childhood of Abuse
- The Fringe Benefits of Failures