17 ways to end procrastination and achieve your career goals

You might believe that success in achieving your career goals is a combination of who you know and being in the right place at the right time. While these may play a role, the truth is that successfully achieving your career goals has much more to do with planning, prioritization, and consistent action toward your career goals.

It is that “consistent action” bit that trips most people up. In most cases, we know what we need to do. We just don’t want to do it. The problem is that when it comes to your career and achieving career goals – whether that goal is to land a new job, win a desired promotion, make a complete career change, or something else—the actions required for us to get there are things we don’t really want to do. So, we procrastinate. We put those tasks off. There is always tomorrow, we tell ourselves. But tomorrow turns into next week, next month, next year…and suddenly we realize we are no closer to achieving our career goals.

Procrastination is the greatest barrier to achieving your career goals. It is the root of almost all unachieved career dreams and professional success.

Procrastination is something we all experience. Trouble is that procrastinating can quickly become a habit; one that can derail your career dreams. If you can defeat your procrastination, you can achieve your career goals. Here then, are 17 ideas for ending procrastination.

1. Pick One

If you’ve been procrastinating in the steps needed to achieve your career goals, choose one task – preferably your most important – and focus all your energies on getting that one done. The sense of relief and accomplishment you experience will make it easier to tackle the next task. And the one after that will be even easier. So, pick one task (or even a small, specific part of one) and go for it!

2. Start Today

Make ‘today’ the most important word in your vocabulary – especially if your particular form of procrastination involves goals that don’t have deadlines. Goals that don’t have tangible deadlines tend to be put off indefinitely. Divide the task up into more manageable bits that can be completed one day at a time. Remind yourself daily that no matter what long-term career goal you have, it will never be realized unless you commit to completing at least one task per day.

3. Do It Now

The longer you fret about doing something, the more reasons your mind will invest to keep you from doing it. Before you have a chance to think about it, just do it. Update your resume. Call that networking contact you’ve been nervous about calling. Sign up for that class you know you need to get your career moving in a new direction. The longer you linger, ponder, think, relax, or stall, the less likely you’ll be to do anything. You only have a few seconds to take action before your brain will start getting in your way. 1-2-3-GO!

4. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself for beating procrastination and taking action will keep you engaged and focused on the goal. As you achieve each small task, celebrate the progress you’ve made. The reward that works best for you should give you a noticeable jolt of pleasure and uplift your spirits – even if just in a small way.

5. Eliminate Excuses

Procrastination and excuses often go hand-in-hand, encouraging each other. Accepting personal responsibility and realizing that ‘reasons’ are often just excuses will help you shut the door to procrastination. Working with a job search coach or another accountability partner will help you recognize and bust excuses and step outside your comfort zone.

6. Renew Your Commitment Daily

To stay on track, it’s important to maintain a commitment to the goal. This can be achieved by renewing your commitment each day. When you wake up, remind yourself of your ultimate career goal. The feeling of excitement about achieving the desired career goal is constantly alive. You just need to reengage it regularly.

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7. Practice Positive Self-Talk

Negative thoughts and procrastination go together. Start reframing self-deprecating, blame-filled thoughts into empowering, positive ones. If your self-talk becomes positive, you will start to believe it. And after a while, as you experience the joys of successful habits, you will find yourself less inclined to procrastinate.

8. Practice Time Chunking

Decide on a chunk of time – half-an-hour, an hour, or more if you think you can do it. Then stop multi-tasking and focus for your set period of time on doing ONE task toward your career goals that you’ve been putting off. Planning to work on a dreaded task only for a short time-chunk can be a surprisingly effective way to deal with procrastination. Try using a timer. It is a great way to focus your attention.

9. Set Realistic Goals

If you set unrealistic goals, it’s easy to get discouraged. Avoid discouragement by setting goals and milestones that are attainable. Use the SMART goal-setting technique. Your confidence and motivation soar when you know you can achieve what you set out to accomplish.

10. Plan Your Week

It doesn’t have to be the most meticulous plan in the universe. But do spend 30 minutes every Sunday night planning your week ahead, scheduling time for working toward achieving your career goals.

11. Change Your Mindset

When you feel bad about a task, consciously shift your mindset and get excited that you’re being given an opportunity to work toward your career goals. This is the moment that separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. The least successful people are the worst procrastinators. Successful people do the hard things.

12. Prioritize

Is everything on your list equally important? Go through your to-do list and ask yourself, for each item, how important it is in the ultimate pursuit of your career goals. Those things that really matter and will make a positive difference should take top priority. The rest can be done later. Or, you might even find them fall off the list.

13. Trim Your To-Do List

Are you one of those people who consistently overestimate what they can get done in one day? If this sounds like you, try trimming your to-do list to the top three priorities each day…or, maybe even one priority. If you do this every day, your mind will start cueing you to regard that one task as crucial. And it will get done.

14. Forgive Yourself

Somedays you win, others you lose. Working through discomfort and defeating procrastination is a challenging skill to learn. Just get back on the horse and vow to keep trying. Drowning in guilt is a sure-fire way to invite yourself to give up. Forgive yourself. Banish shame. Lose the guilt. And lose the label too. Stop calling yourself a ‘procrastinator,’ and focus on moving forward.

15. Join a Job Search Group

Not only will other group members encourage and inspire you, but they’ll also help build your confidence too.

16. Banish Burn Out

People often procrastinate when they are feeling burned out by their work and their life. Identify what is making you feel burned out and take steps to free yourself from that feeling. For example, stop working weekends and late nights, delegate tasks that others can do, and make sure you are spending fun time to recharge your motivation.

17. Forget About Being Perfect

People who are perfectionists are prone to putting things off. They become overwhelmed with the fear that they won’t achieve their career goals. Perfectionism just reduces efficiency and induces paralysis. It’s important to realize that getting things done is more important than doing everything perfectly: Working on your career stories, attending that networking meeting, practicing interview skills – these are what to focus on. If perfectionism is your problem, give yourself permission to let go a little and get it done.

Imagine how much you’d get done if you never procrastinated. Imagine how much closer you would be to achieving your career goals. There are many strategies for dealing with procrastination. The trick is to figure out which ones work most effectively for you. Try the methods above and any other methods that appeal to you. Decide for yourself how to best manage your procrastination tendencies and restart that forward momentum toward achieving your career goals.

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