Last week I discussed Interruptions being one of two chief time thieves. This week we tackle the other - procrastination! In ‘time management’ training sessions these two challenges always come up and account for 80% of lost time and productivity.
I use to joke that if there was a university for procrastination I could be a professor. My knack for putting things off was the bane of my younger years. I ran late for meetings, constantly missed deadlines and was unreliable. This was firmly driven home when I arrived 20 minutes late to a client appointment apologising profusely only to have the client glance at his watch a say, “No worries you always run this late so we only planned to start the meeting about now”.
Tony Robbins says "Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change," and change I did.
I learnt many amazing lessons in the pursuit of time management and applied all that I found relevant. The quote “Running late is a bad habit, just like running on time is a good habit” crystalised a nagging suspicion that I was my own worst enemy. Habits are learnt. Re-education was needed. I learnt, for example, that if you want to arrive on time simply leave on time.
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The changes I made were dramatic and effective. One thing remained - I still slipped into procrastinating. Do you find yourself procrastinating? Doing the easy over the necessary, doing something enjoyable rather than work, leaving the big stuff until it is screamingly urgent?
The challenge I found was that procrastination took on so many guises. Stopping for coffee, surfing the web, doing smaller and/or more enjoyable work, avoiding anything that looked like it was a lot of work, avoiding anything where I might disappoint people, visiting rather than calling, working on systems rather than work and on and on it went. Changing has taken many approaches and attempts.
I followed the 3 steps of
- Observing myself
- Analysing why I was doing what I was doing, and
- Working on ways to overcome and replace the bad habits and unproductive actions.
Some of the challenges, I tackled as individual symptoms - drinking coffee was one. I use to make myself a coffee before a big or difficult job and use the journey to and from the kettle to get distracted. So I moved the kettle. With the kettle being further away I had found I would have more opportunity for distraction and would sometimes even wait for it to boil reasoning that by the time I got back I would just have to turn around again. So I put a bottle of water on my desk and every time I had an urge for a coffee I would drink from the bottle and stay seated.
Some challenges were common to everything. Early on I discovered the power of starting something.
Half the battle is won when you “just start”.
I wrote “JUST START” and stuck it on the wall in front of me. Starting helps break the perception of a job being huge. It positively affects your mindset. I actually thought it was the ‘silver bullet’ for a number of years until I noticed that I started a lot of things and did not finish them.
My ‘silver bullet’ needed more gunpowder to get through to the heart of the matter. Starting is good. Actually, it is great! You do, however, need to finish. On a recent trip to deliver training with Paul O’Brien, he delightfully summed up the finishing ability with the phrase “Bum Glue” - being the ability to stick at something until it is finished!
Procrastination will always be an enemy of effective time use. A deep desire to change combined with a willingness to attempt a new approach and stick with it until it replaces the old does work wonders. If you need some help, do get in touch. Learn the discipline of “just starting” and add to this the magic of “bum glue” and nothing will hold you down!