I really hate it when I procrastinate! I spend so much of my life helping my clients to be effective, how to get the most out of the time they have and how to create efficiency - and I really believe in all of what I say and work hard every day to live it. It is not "do as I say, but not as I do". Well - not usually anyway!
So, what happened last week? I found myself procrastinating over an issue - nothing major, or even difficult!
I had promised my wife, Bernie, that I would clear out the basement so that we could start painting it at the weekend - I knew she has wanted to get this done for ages. I promised to have the clearing done by Friday and I knew it was going to take a good few hours to do it, so I knew if I gave it an hour each evening from Monday through to Thursday it would get done.
Did I do it on Monday? No, and it didn't happen on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either and all week it nagged at me. Far from feeling relief from doing a chore I dislike, I felt even more irritated with myself for not doing it! Bizarre, isn't it! I do confess that it is a chore I dislike and also painting is something that I don't do very well!
What did I learn (again!)? Apart from the fact that leaving it all till Friday night is not a good idea, it did make me reflect on the following:
1. Lack of self discipline really hurts. It reminds me of a great quote from Harry Truman "In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves...self discipline with all of them came first" While we think that NOT doing something is letting us off the hook and making life easier, the reality is the opposite it hurts us mentally and psychologically.
2. Tomorrow never has more time than today. Why do we always con ourselves that tomorrow, next week or next month we will have more time? Do I have more time today to do something challenging than I did this day last week? No, so stop promising yourself that something that has never happened is suddenly going to without doing anything different!
3. It damages communication. All week I was conscious that I was not delivering to Bernie and so many times when we were chatting I was waiting for her to bring it up - she didn't, which almost made me feel worse! But I knew that she knew - it was unspoken, but it was there!
4. It clutters your mind. I cannot recall who said but it is very apt here - "Procrastination takes up real estate in your mind". We work hard to be focused on what matters most and yet we give up valuable mental space because procrastination does bother us and occupies your mind
So, what will I do to prevent this happening again?
1. Stop thinking and start doing. Yes, a little bit of planning is good, but don't over think it. Waiting until you have the perfect plan will not help. Just start, and correct as you go.
2. Start my day by tackling the most difficult task, or the one that falls into "most likely to procrastinate on". As I found out, leaving it till the evening did not work
3. Make a decision and stick to it. Remember what Theodore Roosevelt said: "In a moment of decision, the best thing to do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing and the worst thing you can do is nothing" Make the decision and get into action.
4. Face your fear. You see for as long as I didn't start the chore I could not be accused of getting it wrong. Sounds really stupid when we are talking about clearing a basement, but we do this all the time. You see, at some level, I get something from saying "I'm not very good at ......(fill in the blank for yourself)". So, procrastinating lets me off the hook. It makes no difference whether it is fear of success or fear of failure - either way I am not facing up to it.
The author Dennis Waitley said it well: " Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the "someday I'll" philosophy" what a waste that would be for all of us.
What are you procrastinating about?
Follow John Murphy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jmicoaching