Procrastination works against you

There will never be more than 24 hours in a day. No matter how much we hope, wish or pray, it just can’t happen. The issue with casually brushing something off to do “later,” at an undetermined “better time,” is that it often becomes assurance it won’t get done at all.

For many people, procrastination seems like it is done unconsciously, but it really is a conscious decision or choice not to do something. When you make the decision to wait until later, you may have very good intentions. But unless you know when “later” is, the circumstances around whatever it is you are putting off can change. Delays can make an action more complicated or no longer relevant. Delays can cost you money and help you lose your credibility. If you are planning to follow up on a lead of any kind, waiting until later could turn into a missed opportunity.

For the most part, a delay is usually caused by a situation that could have been addressed differently or sooner.

Procrastination is a pet peeve of mine. It’s because too many times I witness people create considerable stress around a situation that just didn’t have to play out that way. Blog June 2015 ProcrastinationI also witness people miss opportunities to get their foot in the door, have a conversation with the person they were hoping to meet or miss a deadline for applying for a once in a life time role. These delays rarely happen because something else of huge importance stood in the way or a crisis caused them. It’s more frequently because people simply choose to put things off. I’ve heard some really creative excuses, but for the most part, a delay is usually caused by a situation that could have been addressed differently or sooner. Many times the delay in doing something else suddenly becomes an issue and causes a delay in accomplishing what was really important. And so it goes …

As an example, it’s the middle of April as I write this, and I am stunned by how many people waited until this week to do their taxes. The need to do their taxes took time away from their marketing efforts, job search efforts and their ability to concentrate on preparing for upcoming interviews or conversations with key decision makers. (Is this really the first time you’ve ever had to file taxes? Is it a surprise that April 15 comes every year?)

Overall, this kind of procrastination sets someone up for a zero percent chance of winning and ultimately contributes to low self-esteem. It isn’t pleasant to hear someone complain about their unemployment or lack of customers at the same time we see opportunity slipping by because the complainer hasn’t followed up on leads we’ve given them. Letting the ball drop and complaining about the outcome is just not a good look.

The good news for anyone who has a habit of putting things off is that you can change your habit! If whatever you have been doing isn’t working, then try some very simple changes:

Use a calendar. Stop adding things indiscriminately to a “to-do” list that never gets done. Make a commitment for doing something and plug it into your calendar when you are really likely to be able to do it. Then do it!

Get realistic. Keep track of how long regular events, tasks, actions take so you are able to plan for the right amount of time to get them done in the future. Pay attention. How many times must you take the same route and arrive late to figure out that you needed to leave earlier?

Plan further ahead. There is some consistency with most people being aware of their next vacation time and being fully committed to being gone. Yet it’s funny that, when asking about a business or other less “fun” kind of commitment, the response is “I’m not sure what my schedule will be like.” If you can plan your vacation a year ahead, you can surely use the same process to plan for important meetings or completing delinquent projects.

Break big projects into smaller pieces. When you are faced with big projects (like taxes), plan ahead to begin working on them a little at a time. Don’t wait until the “right” time to finish something that requires 4-6 hours. It won’t happen. Planning 30 minutes to an hour, several times over a course of months, is much easier to manage.

Stop whining. We all have 24 hours. That’s it. Can’t have more. Whining only takes up more time. Start looking at solutions for the things that are preventing you from doing all that you want.

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