Many lawyers admit that procrastination is a problem. If one can begin by admitting that it is difficult to manage time — this is a good beginning.
Ben confessed. “Sure, I admit that I procrastinate in my law practice. When I am working on something difficult, and I don’t know the answer, I find myself easily distracted. With email, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook at my fingertips it is hard to ignore. It feels like my smartphone is calling my name all day long.”
Heather chimed in, “Rather than make a mistake, if I don’t know the answer for a case that I am working on, I save it for later. I am afraid to do the wrong thing. I end up with a pile of uncompleted cases sitting on my desk.”
These are the kind of statements that I have heard over the years from lawyers who procrastinate. Unfortunately, there are many lawyers who are procrastinators.
Distractions Are Everywhere
Wireless devices are a constant temptation for the procrastinator. I spoke with my nephew, an accomplished forty-year-old international businessman. I asked him what he was doing as he hovered over his tablet during a visit. As he reluctantly stopped what he was doing, he answered, “Playing my game.” Later, he admitted to playing this same game for over five years.
Games, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, are distractions. All day long a lawyer receives constant updates from the news. Tweets, phone calls, and instant messages continue to break his or her concentration.
Consequences for Procrastination
When solicitors fail to respond to a client’s deadlines, it becomes one of the biggest sources of disciplinary complaints. This makes lawyers vulnerable to malpractice exposure.
Randy, a partner at a mid-sized firm, admitted, “I can’t seem to focus on any case that I’m working on. After I get a cup of coffee, check my email, and take a couple of phone calls, check social media, I finally get around to it.
Sure, I surf the Internet or check my LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook accounts. I do this a few times a day. But then I feel guilty. I work late into the night. I am trying to have something to show for my billable hours that day.
I am so exhausted when I arrive at home; all I can do is sit in front of the television. I know it sounds crazy, but I even procrastinate going to bed. I sit there staring at the screen nursing a drink until it is around 2:00 am. I finally collapse into bed.
The next morning, I hit the snooze alarm too many times. The heavy traffic stresses me out, and I am agitated because of arriving at my office much later than planned.”
Top 5 Causes of Procrastination
What are the top causes of procrastination?
First, ask yourself the cause of your procrastination? Unless you identify why you procrastinate, you will continue this behavior.
Top 5 Reasons For Procrastination
- Perfectionism, the fear of not doing it right
- Habit of waiting until the last possible minute
- Tendency to become too easily distracted
- Boredom, anxiety, loneliness
- Burnout, depression, alcoholism, hangovers
Stella talks about her anxiety. “Yes, I procrastinate. You see I have these piles of papers all over on my desk. When I arrive at my office in the morning, I don’t know where to begin. I waste time searching through stacks of paper. It is easier to use my smartphone for social media.”
5 Steps to Overcome Procrastination & Reclaim Your Power
No. 1: Avoid Perfectionism:
Do your best. You are not perfect. Time yourself with a beginning and an end to complete a project. Make yourself accountable to a supportive friend or professional. This will enable you to complete projects.
No. 2. Make a Plan and Give Yourself a Time Deadline:
The best way to get an estimate is to take time and plan your work. When planning, always start planning from the end of the desired completion. Then work your way to the beginning.
Making a plan gives you an idea of how much time it will take. Remember, everything typically takes much longer than anticipated.
No. 3. Do Not Allow Yourself to Become Distracted:
You have to exercise discipline. Do not check email, surf the web or check social media until lunchtime. You can find apps that can shut down your social media and email accounts for specific times.
You can leave your smartphone in your car, a friend or turn it off until after you complete your task. You may need to find a support buddy or coach to help you change this behavior.
No. 4. Combat Boredom Loneliness:
It is up to you to engage yourself. The practice of law can be tedious. Set goals for yourself. Listen to soothing music. Invent challenges to help you enjoy your law practice.
No. 5. Seek Outside Help if You Suffer from Burnout, Anxiety, Depression, Alcoholism, Hangovers:
You have to recognize if you are not getting enough rest, or drinking too much. Because of pride, most lawyers hate to admit that they need help until it is too late.
Many times it will be well worth the time and effort to seek outside help. Avoiding or ignoring these behaviors can have disastrous consequences to your legal career. Don’t delay.
No. 6. Set Your Timer and Get In The Habit of Nonstop Work:
Set your timer for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour, and work nonstop until the timer goes off. Using a timer will help you get back into the habit of working nonstop for a specified period of time.
When you realize that you are out of control, seek help. Many emotional and mental difficulties can be best sorted out by working with a professional. A therapist, consultant, or a coach can help you overcome these problems.