“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill
“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretzky
“Why do now what can be done later?” – Rich Gee
Face it – we all procrastinate in one form or another. It might be at work. It might be at home. You might be like some of my clients and do it EVERYWHERE.
During my 10 years of coaching executives, I’ve found that procrastination can be simplified into four ‘obstacles’:
- You don’t have enough information/ability/tools to make a decision or act.
- You find that the task at hand is too big or complex to handle in one fell swoop.
- You are afraid of the consequences of tackling the task.
- You just don’t want to do it.
Let’s tackle each one:
1. You don’t have enough information/ability/tools to make a decision or act.
This is by far the simplest one to tackle. You need to logically obtain the information needed, or required assistance, or the requisite tools to complete the task at hand. Usually we use these three areas as an excuse not to do the task. But when you look logically at the problem, it’s usually quite easy to solve.
Example: I hate financials. I put it off all the time. Why? Because when I begin to bill my 20-30 clients, I always run into one client with a credit card issue (expired date, number incorrect, issuer hiccups info, etc.). And the whole billing train stops. I get frustrated (emotions).
Solution: What I now do is clearly and unemotionally call up the client and ask for clarification or another card. I used to hate doing this (see #3 too!). The client always apologizes and I’m on my way. Take the emotion out of it!
2. You find that the task at hand is too big or complex to handle in one fell swoop.
This happens all the time — you have a project or initiative to accomplish, but because of the project’s depth and breadth, you just don’t know where to start and don’t have time to finish it in one fell swoop.
Example: I have a series of webinars I want to launch prior to the new year. But there’s a lot of moving parts – getting my mailing list together, developing the eBlast message, scheduling on Meetup.com and partnering with GoToWebinar.com for their services. Whew!
Solution: Break it up. Try to do small tasks in order over a period of hours or days. First, write out all the tasks that need to be done — then prioritize them with a quick estimate of how long they will take. Plug each task into your schedule (this is important). Then begin with the first one. You’ll find that you will start making progress immediately AND have fun with the small tasks.
3. You are afraid of the consequences of tackling the task.
This happens ALL the time – you have either let the activity wallow in the mire for so long or there is one task, person, thing that you don’t want to deal with — and that is the area that causes the procrastination.
Example: I don’t want to make the decision to purchase the GoToWebinar vs. GoToMeeting (one is quite expensive). So I procrastinate. It’s like a dam filling up and about to burst.
Solution: Get a piece of paper and quickly list the pros and cons of the area that is holding you back. You’ll quickly find that most of your ‘procrastination trepidation’ is emotion-based and not fact-based. Once I did this, I immediately made things happen — the dam went away.
4. You just don’t want to do it.
This is the biggest one of all — because deep down, we are all babies. We don’t do things we don’t like to do — and that is the main cause of our procrastination.
Example: As a small business owner (and a previous corporate executive), you have a bunch of things to do and it’s so easy to put something off — you rationalize the activity to the bottom of your list. This is why my new eBlast isn’t out yet.
Solution: Everything is important – but you ultimately need to make the decision to either do it and get it done or kill it and move on to something else. And that is the solution – flip a coin and either begin doing it or kill it. Odds are, you’ll want to do it and begin using the other three solutions to start making it happen.
Conclusion: Figure out what is making you procrastinate, take action, and make it happen. DO IT TODAY.
Image provided by Ilham Rahmansyah at Unsplash.