My grandmother a wise old woman would always say to me “My son Procrastination is the assassin of opportunity. The best way to get something done is to begin”. The idea here is not that procrastinators get absolutely nothing done. They seldom do absolutely anything. They do marginally useful things by put off important task and fill their time with menial tasks. Tricking themselves and others into believing they are productive. Why does the procrastinator do these things; because this is their way of not doing something more important?
If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get them to do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
Procrastinating is never a permanent solution, as the issue always seems to fall back in your lap at the worst possible time. Then you have to scramble, running around like a chicken with a head, to deal with it before it gets worse. If you are an executive, entrepreneur or professional who puts things off until you have no choice but to deal with them, you are setting yourself—and possibly your team and business —up to fail.
As a business leader you will face unpleasant or difficult situations, decisions and challenges when you would rather be doing something else. Frankly if you didn’t you would not be considered a leader. When you procrastinate, you convince themselves that it really doesn’t matter that much.
You might tell yourself:
- If I ignore the problem, it will take care of itself. The Sweep it under the Carpet Approach.
- I can pretend that I never knew about it. The Plausible Deniability Technique.
- If I wait long enough, someone else will deal with it. The Drop it and See who Catches Methodology.
People who are not in positions of leadership may get away with this sometimes, but if you have a team depending on you, living in a LaLa-Land fantasy world of procrastination is a disaster that will eventually happen. In fact, your reluctance to act in a timely fashion can interfere with your team’s ability to be effective, reach its goals and survive. “Even the smallest cog can stop a gear from turning”. You need to decide if you are going to allow procrastination to block the workflow?
There may be decisions that you can put off for a while because they are not urgent, but most of the decisions that you need to make as leader of the pack are time-sensitive. If you are a habitual procrastinator, you have to break that habit—and fast.
How do you break the habit of procrastination?
First, recognise that procrastinating is a habit and that it is hurting you, not helping you. It is getting in the way of you being your most productive and effective self, both on the job and in your personal life.
Second, come up with creative ways to force yourself to do what you know you need to do. For example, make yourself a sign and post it in your office where you can see it as you work. It could say something like:
- “Putting off till tomorrow is going to make tomorrow miserable.”
- “I can handle this, so what am I waiting for?”
- “Clear the air now and breathe easy all day.”
- “That mountain is not going to move itself—start digging!”
- ”Being the one in charge means taking the initiative.”
- “Just get it over with already.”
Another creative prompt is that as soon as you sit at your desk with a fresh cup of coffee, you tackle one of the problems or projects that you really don’t want to do. Let the coffee be your subconscious trigger not to procrastinate and to start doing stuff.
Third, make a list of all the tasks that you are hesitating about or don’t want to do, but know you should get done. Tackle one each day and immediately tick it off as soon as you complete it. Seeing those checkmarks add up will give you a sense of accomplishment that will counteract your tendency to procrastinate.
The key to breaking a procrastination habit is to replace the self-indulgence of not doing it (procrastination) with the reward of accomplishment. Celebrate each time you tick something off your list that you have been putting off doing. Feel the euphoria and excitement of finally getting it done and repeat the process until you have exhausted your list. Remember that you are fixing problems in your business or life that only you can fix. Don’t let this habit of procrastinating become the barrier that is holding you back from your success.
Are you a habitual procrastinator? Have you always made excuses for why you procrastinate? Can you see where indulging this habit is limiting the success of your business, your team or your life? Which of the above steps do you think will help you most?
Today, Stop making excuses for why you cant get it done and start focusing on all the reasons why you MUST make it happen.
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