Doing What I Do Best — Procrastinating

In 2003, my work group had just completed the Gallup employee engagement survey. One of the questions on the Gallup survey is “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

Well, then, we asked, what does each of us do best? Of course, Gallup had a way to determine the answer — the StrengthsFinder survey. We dutifully read “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham, and took the assessment.

Of the 34 attributes that the assessment evaluated, four of my strongest were

    • Intellection (enjoying one’s own internal thoughts and ability to compress complex concepts),
    • Learner (desire to constantly learn new things),
    • Responsibility (following through on commitments), and
    • Focus (having a clear sense of direction).

So I was a cerebral, introspective, compulsive nerd.

That didn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve always been the Hermione Granger of any group I was in.

But the fifth strength Gallup’s assessment identified — indeed, my TOP strength — was Input. Input is defined as “the constant collection of information or objects for future use.” That did surprise me. Sure, I’m a pack rat, but how did that translate into a strength?

Upon further analysis (yes, I had to analyze my assessment — I’m a nerd), I discovered that input can apply as much to gathering data as to collecting physical things. So my voracious reading habit added information to my archives (useful or not). Gathering piles and files of magazines and newspapers was one of my strengths.

When my husband asked what the use was of all my stacks of paper, it was legitimate to say “I don’t know when or why I might need them, but I might.” At least according to Gallup, though I doubt my husband ever bought into this theory.

And more importantly, the survey gave me permission to browse. With the growth of the Internet and social media, I have ever more places to browse — research for my historical novels, Facebook and Twitter to see what my friends are doing, and an ever-growing list of newsletters flooding my three email in-boxes.

It’s all Input. It’s all designed to let me do what I do best every day. And it lets me procrastinate whenever I want.

That’s when I learned the downside of strengths. Research from groups like the Center for Creative Leadership shows that overdone strengths can derail one’s success. At some point, overuse of one’s strengths can lead to negative consequences.

Like maybe not getting my writing done as quickly as I want to.

What strengths of yours might you overuse? How do you counteract your tendency to procrastinate in your writing?

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