“I’ll definitely do it tomorrow”, “I’ll get to it once I finish with this”, “Once I’m done watching this, that’s the next thing I’ll get to”, “Relax, there’s still plenty of time”.
Be honest, at some point in time you’ve said a version of this to yourself or to others. If you have, welcome to the Procrastination Club.
It’s true we all do this, but we need to be very careful we don’t make it a lifestyle. Postponing or delaying things needlessly (the dictionary definition of procrastination) is a sure-fire way to make time your enemy and out yourself under unnecessary pressure. Plus, you’ll definitely earn yourself the undesirable reputation for being unreliable.
I remember working with someone who could easily be described as the president of the Procrastination Club. He was permanently stressed out because he tended to leave almost every assignment to the very last minute and would then rush to meet the deadline, with a lot of unnecessary errors included because there just wasn’t enough time to give the assignment the required level of review. He would almost always have to go back and re-work it because our supervisor at the time wouldn’t accept all the errors. Meanwhile more work was piling up because he was pushing completion of those assignments until ‘tomorrow’. Vicious cycle, right?
I remember asking him once why he kept doing this to himself and his response showed me why he couldn’t break the cycle. He said, “there’s always tomorrow, so why should I try and finish everything today?”
To be fair, he was right to some extent, there are some things that cannot be finished within a 24hour window. But at the same time, he didn’t seem to realise he was pushing yesterday’s work into today and pushing today to tomorrow. So yes, there’s always tomorrow, but each day would start with unnecessary baggage, making him less productive and unreliable.
Each person is different. You could be super-efficient at work but procrastinate in other areas. One thing I’ve noticed is that we tend to procrastinate when what we are supposed to do is something we are not looking forward to. It could be typing up the minutes for a past meeting or finishing an annoying client’s order.
Whatever it is that you have convinced yourself is worth delaying your work for, stop it right now, there’s a reason procrastination is called the thief of time…
Here are a few unconventional tips to help you to stop procrastinating and get things done!
- Eat that frog: I borrowed this phrase from Brian Tracy and it basically means, do what you hate first! Once you’ve gotten that thing you least want to do out of the way, everything else becomes easier.
- Create a map: Get a pen and a notebook and create a timeline of your tasks for the day: If you dedicate one hour to do this task now, how much time do you have left to do something more enjoyable? How much time will you spend chilling? How much time will that leave you to spend on the next task? Mapping your day this way will help you create realistic timelines and get stuff done in record time.
- Remind yourself of what’s in it for you: When you hear that sly voice in your head saying, ‘Just leave it, do it later’, remember why you’re doing it in the first place. What’s the implication of missing this deadline? If it has financial impact, remind yourself what you stand to gain/lose. Likewise, if it has reputational impact: How many negative referrals will you get and what’s the impact on your career/business? Don’t forget bad news travels faster than good news and it’s much tougher to repair a bad rep than to create a good one.
- Think about the who’s depending on you to deliver: Whether it’s your boss, your client, your partners, someone is depending on you and trusting you to come through for them. Are the distractions worth breaking that trust? If you really value your clients/career/friends, you will put in the time to do well by them.
Once you decide you’re ready to turn things around and stick to it, it doesn’t matter how log you’ve been part of the club. It may take some getting used to, but I guarantee you that you will be amazed at just how productive you can be by taking these steps.