Why Do Engineers Procrastinate?

Procrastination is another dragon the engineer must slay on the way to realizing professional and personal growth. For engineers procrastination often results when tasks seem daunting to the point that it overwhelms them and then self doubt creeps in. Self doubt is a common malady considering the complexity and rate of implementation of many engineering projects and usually results from fear of failing. The complexity of electronic systems, their design, construction, and use require many skills and often times an engineer is asked to take on new tasks beyond his or her current skill level. This can exacerbate fear and self doubt and procrastination is seen to be a quick solution to the short term problem.

If they are left to fester, short term problems inevitably develop into long term nightmares. So how does an engineer avoid procrastination? Fear will always rear its head and self doubt is unavoidable given the circumstances. If left unchecked they could lead to the more serious chronic problem of lack of confidence-a career destroyer.

To avoid procrastinating the engineer needs to make a big commitment to a few changes and each one in itself is simple and just requires accomplishing one small step at a time.

Become more organized: This doesn’t necessarily mean the engineer should clear off his desk. All engineers seem to have messy desks but know how to retrieve what they need. This is more about organizing time, both at work and at home. Create a doable schedule that includes both your home life and workplace. Flag the items that are causing your procrastination in red and in “bold” come up with a one sentence simple first step action. For example, you are procrastinating about implementing a new radio station because you don’t know how to download all the parameters. Your answer: Send a simple e-mail to co-workers asking if they have had problems downloading parameters.

Prioritize your “to do” list: Engineers all have “to do” lists and they are a good thing. But often lists are not prioritized and are simply numbered from one to whatever. At the end of the day unfinished business will be put on tomorrow’s “to do” list. Procrastinated issues always seem to find their way to the bottom of the list. Prioritize your list and place the issues you are procrastinating on at the top in bold. Once again come up with a simple first step answer to the issue.

Ask for help if you don’t know all the answers: It is amazing what people will do for you if you just ask. All engineers like to think that they know all the answers but there comes a time when it’s worthwhile to swallow your pride and ask. People (even engineers) like to witness other people just being human.

Take action immediately on the issue: As soon as an issue becomes a problem, take action. Make a phone call, send an e-mail, grab a co-worker, but take action. This will help “nip the problem in the bud.” Then take another small step and then another and procrastination will be a thing of the past.

Reduce time consuming tasks to a manageable level: Sometimes procrastination doesn’t occur because of one or two issues but because of a kind of system overload. The engineer takes on more and more responsibilities and his or her overall work suffers. The engineer needs to learn to say “no” and to learn to “cut the fat” from projects. Too many meetings can waste valuable time. Perhaps it’s better to get a summary of project from a co-worker who has had the experience than studying the entire project manual yourself.

Once the engineer has accomplished small steps for these tasks he or she will be amazed how much more comfortable their job has become without the threats of fear and self doubt that has led to procrastination. Now the engineer can reach the next step-becoming an expert in the workplace.