Stacking pens and delaying time on tasks they should be doing

April 9, 2021, by indybamra1

How To Deal With Procrastination

The Career Wellbeing blog series. We know that thinking about your career, applying for jobs, and moving into the workplace can be exciting, but we also know that sometimes it can present challenges and might be a source of stress or anxiety. That’s why, in this blog series, we will explore some of the things that might cause you concern and provide helpful insight and advice, alongside ideas and inspiration for your future career wellbeing.

By Hannah Woolley, Careers and Employability Consultant: Professional Services Partnerships

“I’ve missed another job application deadline. Why didn’t I start earlier? I need to get on top of this, I should research career options and write a CV. I’ll just check Twitter, tidy my room, binge-watch Netflix… what am I doing? OK, re-focus, but there is so much information about sectors, roles, companies, schemes… I don’t know where to begin! This is all too much. I need a break, I’ll check the weather, scroll through photos, colour code my socks… What am I playing at?! Everyone else has this stuff sorted. If only I’d begun sooner, I might have had interviews or even a job lined up by now!”

Does this sound familiar? Procrastinating over career activities is fairly common, but if left unchecked, it can feel demoralising or become stressful. Read our suggestions on how to break the procrastination cycle:

Consider why you might be putting it off

Perhaps the idea of making career decisions feels too big or complicated and you don’t want to get it wrong. Perhaps you fear failure, so you reason that if you don’t apply for any jobs, you can’t be rejected. Perhaps you quite like being a student and leaving the security of what you know to start work feels unsettling. Acknowledging your feelings can be a positive first step forward.

Replace should with could

Saying “I should explore my career options” implies a sense of duty and correctness, so when you don’t do what you should be doing you might experience negative emotions, like frustration or guilt. Saying “I could explore my career options” opens a choice for you. It empowers you to decide if now feels like the right time. If it doesn’t, perhaps it’s because you have lots of other things going on and you want to prioritise other things, and that’s OK.

Try to avoid making comparisons

Often, feeling like you should be doing something can creep in when you compare yourself to others. Maybe you notice that friends are attending employer events, creating LinkedIn profiles, or doing work experience, and you criticize yourself for not doing similar activities. Instead, try to see this as a source of inspiration, as actions you can take if they feel relevant to where you’re at career-wise.

Take one small step

Getting started is often the hardest part, especially when the task feels too big. So, try to identify one small action you can take to get the ball rolling. Pick something straightforward that you know you can achieve reasonably quickly. For example, complete one of the activities suggested here.

Break it down

Once you’ve got off to a good start, capitalise on this. Continue to break things down into bite-sized chunks and tackle these in short bursts of action. For example, when researching career options, allocate a specific amount of time and set yourself one question to focus on or one resource to work through. This will help you to make incremental progress and you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Reach out for help

Trying to understand lots of information about a multitude of career options and trying to work out the complexity of different recruitment processes can sometimes lead to cognitive overload! Which in turn, might cause you to stall and slip back into procrastination because the task feels too tricky. To avoid this, reach out for specialist help and book a careers appointment. This will allow you to clarify your thinking and work things through with the support of an adviser.

Let yourself off the hook

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, you’ll get distracted and won’t get around to completing that application or doing that careers research, but giving yourself a hard time over it is unlikely to help. So, instead of dwelling on what might have been if you’d acted sooner and stirring up feelings of guilt or self-loathing, think about what you can do now. Letting go of the past and focusing on the present will allow you to move forward with positivity.

Eyes on the prize

Another motivation tactic is to visualise what you’d like to achieve. Think about how satisfying it will feel to smash your career goal, however big or small that may be. Picture the benefits this would bring. Write this down. Then, whenever you feel the temptation to reach for the short-term gratification you get from procrastinating, revisit the vision you recorded as motivation to stay on track.

Further support:

  • The Counselling Service offers workshops, including one on perfectionism and procrastination.
  • The Library has created a Reading Well list that includes e-books on wellbeing topics.
  • Academic Support offer resources focusing on time management and beating procrastination.

Remember that you are not alone when it comes to careers decisions and applications. It’s ok to feel unsure about what you want to do next, to take time to think things through, and to change your mind. Check out our web resources on choosing your career for independent advice. You could also talk to someone about your career concerns by booking an appointment with our Careers team. 

Posted in Career wellbeing