Are You a Procrastinating Speaker?
“The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.”— Rita Emmett describing what she calls “Emmett’s law” in “The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now” (2000)
One of the most devastating traps you as a speaker can fall into that greatly retards your advancement as a speaker is presentation preparation procrastination.
Just like bad news, procrastination doesn’t get better with age. As time passes, your presentation preparation procrastination adds more and more stress as your presentation event date gets closer.
So what can you do about it? First, you need to understand your speaking procrastination. Second, you need to take active steps to overcome your procrastination. Third, you need to cultivate a growth mindset and build consistent habits.
Understanding Your Procrastination
The first step in understanding your procrastination is to determine the triggers that lead you to procrastinate, such as feelings of overwhelm, fear of failure, or a lack of clear goals.
My high school electronics class teacher gave us some sound advice as we were troubleshooting car radio and color TV problems. His advice was to divide and conquer to determine the cause of the problem. You must do the same thing.
You must devise a plan for dividing and conquering your presentation preparation, preferably on paper or computer. Then put these tasks on your calendar to work and complete – emphasis on complete. One of these tasks is to practice your presentation. You shortchange this step at your peril.
The second step is to recognize the Instant Gratification Trap and how it affects you. You fall into the Instant Gratification Trap when you complete presentation preparation tasks of lower priority rather than higher priority tasks. You do this because the lower-priority task is easy, quick, or fun. Resist this urge.
Suppose you don’t consciously try to do the highest-priority presentation preparation tasks first. In that case, you will add stress to your life and find yourself a couple of days before your speaking event fretting that you should have used your presentation preparation time for higher and not lower priority tasks. Don’t let this happen to you.
The third step is, to be honest with yourself and recognize self-doubt about completing your presentation’s preparation. Positive self-talk is vital here. The most important person’s opinion of you is yours. Beware of your negative self-talk.
Your subconscious mind believes anything you tell it. If you don’t have enough time to prepare for your presentation, your subconscious will accept it, and it will manifest itself in your life.
Your subconscious mind is like a garden. You will have positive outcomes if you plant “good seeds” (your positive thoughts). If you don’t plant “good seeds” (your positive thoughts), “weeds” (your negative thoughts) will take over your garden, not producing the outcomes you want.
So, understanding your procrastination is a necessary step, but it is not sufficient to successfully combat your presentation preparation procrastination.
If you want to work smarter and not harder, you must have methods to overcome your procrastination.
Overcome Your Procrastination
There are several ways to overcome your presentation preparation procrastination. They are time management techniques, setting SMART goals, and breaking tasks into manageable sizes.
Introduce proven time management methods to break the procrastination trap. The story below illustrates a time management method you should adopt.
Earl Nightingale tells the story of how one idea was worth $25,000.00 to an efficiency expert named Ivy Lee.
The president of a big steel company granted an interview to Ivy Lee so he could show the president how to make himself and his employees more productive.
Lee told the president to write down on a piece of paper the six most important things he had to do tomorrow. Then Lee told the president to number those items in the order of importance to him or his company.
Then the president should put the paper in his pocket. And the first thing tomorrow morning, take it out and look at item number one. Don’t look at the others; just number one, and start working on it. And if the president could, stay with it until it’s completed. Then do the same thing with number two until you must quit for the day.
The president did what he was told and was amazed at his and his employees’ increase in productive work. The president promptly wrote a check for $25,000.00 to Ivy Lee.
There is no faster way to accomplish your presentation preparation tasks than this method.
If you want to supercharge this method to become even more efficient and effective in your presentation method, ensure the items on your list are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded (SMART). This will provide clarity and motivation for you to complete the tasks.
If the tasks on your list seem too big to accomplish, break them down into smaller tasks.
So, understanding your procrastination and using the Ivy Lee time management technique are necessary steps to combating your procrastination. However, these are still insufficient to fight your presentation preparation procrastination successfully.
If you want to work smarter and not harder, you must have the right mindset and the ability to develop positive and repeatable habits in your presentation preparation.
Mindset Shift and Habit Building
Everything you will ever accomplish will always start with the thoughts you entertain.
Encourage a shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, where you view your challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. Without successfully facing your challenges, you will not grow in your speaker maturity. Positive thoughts beget positive actions. But what can you do if you are having trouble maintaining positive thoughts in your mind?
A concept not well understood by those speakers having trouble getting ahead is that thoughts and actions are bi-directional. They go both ways.
Not only can positive thoughts beget positive actions. Positive actions can generate positive thoughts, which adds to your motivation to forge ahead on your positive actions. Your subconscious mind is extraordinary. It will believe whatever you tell it. Whatever you tell it will manifest itself in your reality. So, why not tell your subconscious positive thoughts?
Building consistently positive habits will make you more efficient and effective in your presentation preparation. You will do more work as you keep using these habits in less time.
For example, remember everything you needed to consider while learning to drive a car. These included things like checking your rear-view mirror, checking if there are any other cars on a road you want to pass, and accelerating to the speed limit, naming just a few. Now, you get in your car and take off, not even thinking about everything you need to do to drive your car. This is because you have developed positive habits of driving your car.
The same thing happens with your presentation preparation. You develop positive preparation habits that you do over and over and over again. Not only do you accomplish these habits better, but you also accomplish them in less time.
A habit I cultivated is writing these articles every week. At first, it was a long and drawn-out process to write these articles. However, over time, I developed positive habits to accomplish them with better quality and in a shorter time.
I wrote my first newsletter on 21 Jul 2019. Two hundred and twelve (212) newsletters later, I am still publishing them once a week. Am I so superior to everyone else writing newsletters? Absolutely not. I just have developed a positive habit of writing and posting them. You can develop positive habits like this also. Hands down!
So, understanding your procrastination, overcoming it, and shifting to a positive mindset while forming positive habits will significantly aid you in your presentation preparation.
Don’t let your presentation preparation procrastination win. Fight back!
Call to Action
Take time to understand your presentation preparation procrastination. To solve this problem, you have to understand it.
Implement the Ivy Lee time management method for your presentation preparation
Foster a positive mindset while forming positive habits to make your presentation preparation more efficient and effective.
“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.”– David Allen, time management expert
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”