Step by Step: Conquering Procrastination

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By Susan Biagi

Procrastination is one of the many challenges confronting jobseekers. And yet, the rewards of conquering procrastination far outlive the job search. In an age where so much emphasis is placed “soft” skills, people’s abilities in the areas of time management and communication position them for greater success at work.  The following are some tips to help overcome this barrier:

  1. Avoid focusing only on the easy tasks. Often we never get to the most important jobs because we’re so busy doing all the easier, less important activities. For some people, surfing the job banks is painless and fun. While important, job banks should never be used as a replacement for face-to-face contact with employers. If this is the case, turn off the computer, put on your coat and shoes, and head out the door.
  2. Avoid unnecessary checking of email. While necessary to a job search, email can be a huge time waster.
  3. Make a list of the most important job-search tasks, such as updating your resume, asking friends and family for job leads, or compiling a list of employers.  Prioritize these activities from most to least important, and begin with the first item on the list.
  4. Tackle one job at a time: “Today I’ll work on my cover letter,” or “Today I’ll write my phone script.” Write the jobs in a daytimer, or record them in your smart phone. Be sure to give each job a deadline.
  5. Write down and analyze all the reasons why you might be procrastinating. These could range from a lack of tools, such as an updated resume, to more ingrained barriers, such as a fear of meeting new people. Choose one small hurdle to overcome, one that you can begin to work on right away.
  6. Break big jobs into small steps. Instead of  “update my resume,” try the following:
  • make a list of all your jobs in the last 15 years
  • update the contact information of all former employers
  •  list any training you received
  • choose and download a resume template
  • insert your information into the template
  • ask a friend to proofread
  1. Refuse to wait until you “feel like” doing something. Accept that you will never feel like doing it, then get started.
  2. Ask a friend to accompany you on your job search. Choose someone who cannot be easily persuaded away from a goal. Remember, too, to build a reward into the day: after dropping off three resumes, plan to take a break together at a coffee shop.
  3. Meet with an employment counselor at Career Link, and ask to be held accountable. Request a list of tasks, with deadlines.
  4. List all the short-term rewards of procrastinating, such as getting to watch your favourite tv show. Then draw up a list of long-term consequences, such as bankruptcy or your EI running out. Ask yourself if a tv show is worth the pain of being broke.
  5. Leave your house. If there are too many distractions at home, work at the library, your favourite coffee shop, or Career Link. Set up an alternative “office” and make it a place where you only do job-search tasks. (Resist the urge to check your Facebook page while at the “office”!)
  6. In your cover letter, tell the employer that you will be calling on a specific day, to follow-up. Remind yourself that avoiding this task will have serious consequences.
  7. Forget about perfection. Each time you contact an employer, treat it as a learning experience. If you stumble, focus on correcting your mistakes and contact a new employer immediately.
  8. If fear keeps you from contacting employers, break the process down into several steps:
  • Write a script and practise in front of a mirror, your partner, or your dog
  • Contact “easy” employers first, such as a former boss, a friend in business, or someone for whom you’re not that keen on working anyway
  • Tell yourself that you’re contacting a particular employer just for the practice. That way, it doesn’t matter so much if you stumble in your delivery
  1. Give yourself a pep talk. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ve got a big, ugly job to do that I’m probably going to mess up,” say, “I’ve introduced myself to plenty of strangers in the past and this is just one more person to get to know.”

Jobseekers struggling with procrastination are invited to meet with a Career Link employment counselor. Simply call 604.485.7958 to start the process. Try it. It’s easy and it’s free!



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