Is there some task or project you've been doing your creative best to avoid working on? I'll bet there is. But instead of wasting mental energy worrying about it, you can learn to overcome your resistance and tackle important, high-value tasks quickly and efficiently so that whatever your goals, you'll move forward faster. Here's how.
Identify What You're Resisting
If you're looking for a job, maybe you're dragging your feet over networking or practicing your interview skills. On the job, perhaps you're putting off calling that unhappy customer or having a difficult conversation about an employee's performance. Or maybe you're hesitating over taking the first steps toward kicking off that career change you've been contemplating.
Decide How Important the Task Is
Ask yourself where the task or project you're avoiding fits into your roles, responsibilities and goals.
- Are You Avoiding Something You Should Be Doing? We most commonly resist tasks vital to success in our job, job search or career change. Such resistance holds us back from getting what we want.
One of my job search clients was the perfect example. Feeling shy about selling herself and fearing rejection, this client had put off following up on referrals she had gathered from friends. After I held her accountable for making those calls, some of those initial leads led to informational interviews, further referrals and an eventual job.
If you typically avoid repetitive or administrative tasks, like filling out expense reports, following up on customer-service surveys or replying to emails, delegate them or get them done another way before they become bigger issues.
For example, a self-employed client had neglected to do his books or file his taxes for four years. At first, he didn't see his financials as important. By the time he realized otherwise, the problem had become too big for him to tackle alone.
- Are You Avoiding Something You Shouldn't Be Doing? If you repeatedly resist doing tasks that are central to your job, you might have a bigger and different problem altogether.
Another client who had recently been transferred into a sales role resisted making her sales calls. We soon discovered the real issue -- that she was in the wrong job. Happily, she was able to transfer into a more suitable account management role. If this scenario sounds familiar, determine whether your resistance is really due to poor job fit.
Understand Why You're Resisting
Common reasons include lack of clarity about the next step, poor work habits, operating out of your comfort zone and fear. If you understand the root cause of your resistance, you can start to do something about it. Use these techniques:
- Work within a structure. For example, use the first hour of your day (before even checking email) to tackle whatever you're resisting.
- Determine the next, specific action, and do it.
- Break daunting work into small steps. Start the first step now.
- Overcome fear, inertia or shyness by putting your resistance in perspective. The importance of your job search, earning a living or performing well in your position far outweigh any real or imagined consequences that could result from these reasons for resisting.
Of course, resistance can be a good thing if taking immediate action could have negative consequences. Say you're angry about how your manager treats you, and you want to get that anger off your chest. Spouting off to the boss the first chance you get could jeopardize your living. Instead, find a safer way to vent, like confiding in a friend. Then develop strategies to address the real problem.
Hold Yourself Accountable
A career counselor would ask you to identify the things you're resisting, why they're important, and then hold you accountable for getting them done or taking them off your list. But you can answer to yourself. Following this system will train you to identify and tackle the important jobs in your life. Master this, and you'll dramatically increase your personal and professional performance.
[Ian Christie founded BoldCareer.com to help individuals build bold, fulfilling careers and help organizations attract, develop and retain talent. A career coach, consultant, three-time entrepreneur, former senior director at Monster and former retained executive search consultant, Ian is an expert in the fields of careers and recruitment. He believes that career management is a central theme to both personal and organizational effectiveness. BoldCareer.com offers career services to companies and individuals as well as free career resources.]