Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 22, 2009



"And the beat goes on..............."


Most of us are procrastinators on one level or another. To some this is a serious problem. I am astounded by how many people (my age) who still don't have a Will. They just keep putting it off even though the consequences are dire in doing so. I suppose they avoid it for the same reason other people avoiding seeking medical help on first discovery that something might be wrong -- they just don't want to contemplate, let alone deal with, bad news. (Ironically many people deal with problems with their cars but avoid dealing with problems with their bodies). The 1-800-Dentist tv ads are built entirely around the fact that (apparently) lots of people put off going to the dentist.

Psychologists would probably tell us there are deep-seated reasons we procrastinate. But the more
common reasons are all pedestrian and there are lots of legitimate excuses -- too heavy a workload, higher priorities, intervening crises, no time. Often times we just procrastinate because we just don't want to deal with something. There really is no valid excuse. I'm sure someone has done a study to show the costs to business of procrastination - in terms of lost productivity, money and most of all, wasted time.

I've read that one way to deal with procrastination is to make lists of what you need to do so you are confronted with your own tendency to postpone something. I've tried that, but often found that the mere act of putting the task on the list somewhat obviated my following up and doing anything about it. I took action - I put it on the list - right at the top -- and once I did that it was easier not to do anything else about it. On the plus side, I found that if I put some of the things that really needed to get done on the list every single day, carried them over from day to day, that eventually they would just disappear off the list miraculously (whether I did anything about them or not). Of course that didn't hold true for most business taks.

Often times we waste more time avoiding something than it would take to just deal with it. And it's easy to find reasons during the day not to deal with something our minds have decided we don't want to deal with (for whatever reason). We can put it right at the top of the list, and fully intend to get to it first thing in the day, then find ourselves dealing with other things on the list and all of a sudden the day is gone and we never got to Item #1. Logically then when we had free time we would get to the postponed job, but that's not how procrastination works.

How do you deal with it then? Putting it on the daily list might be more helpful to some than it has been for me. Delegating the job to someone else works if you have someone to delegate it to. But then there are many tasks that simply can't be delegated. Deadlines help - they force one to confront what is being postponed. I suppose self-imposed deadlines aren't nearly as effective though. The best method I've found to deal with some pesky item that has entrenched itself in that part of our brain where we subconsciously relegate those tasks we think deserving of procrastination is to break the job down into smaller component parts, and tackle one at a time. It is easier to Call Joe Smith and set a meeting about fundraising, than it is to design next year's Fundraising Campaign. And if you can get someone else involved in addressing the task that involvement will make it axiomatically harder for you to delay action. Sometimes all we need is someone else telling us to get on with it. The old proverb that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" helps when whatever it is you are putting off doing is complicated and large.

I guess in the last analysis, like the NIKE ad suggests, the best approach is to "Just Do It."

So whatever it is you have been guilty of inexpliably putting off, this is your wake-up call. Hey, I'm talking to YOU - don't ignore me. It's a good week to see if you can take some baby steps and get going. There is always a great feeling when you finally deal with something you've been avoiding, and inevitably you are left asking yourself why you postponed it for so long.

Good luck.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.