Imagine it’s 2pm in the afternoon. You’ve been on Zoom or Microsoft teams calls all day so far and have a 30 minute break before you get zoomed away. You look down and the words of a project stare at you.
Next you jet off back into the Teams room for meetings the remainder of the day.
You close down the office for the day and silently say, “Tomorrow, I’ll start!”
Has that ever happen to you?
It has for me, especially when I have a full day of Teams or Zoom meetings. Side bar here; I don’t know about you, but I cannot WAIT until meetings can be in person again without wearing a mask.
Wait, a minute it seems I’m procrastinating to finish this article, I digress.
Seriously have you ever knowingly just put things off?
Procrastination Began in 800 BC.
Procrastination has been around for a LONG time; in fact since 800 BC. WHAT? Greek poet, Hesiod cautioned not to put work off until tomorrow and the day after. Also, Roman consul Ciecero called procrastination hateful in the conduct of affairs.
With ancient artifacts that get dug up and found, the discover of the little-known truths of procrastination have just recently been discovered and its time you knew the truth.
First Truth = No End Date
The first truth is tomorrow never has an ending date. When you say, “Tomorrow” day after day, it eludes you, given there isn’t a definitive date. Tomorrow provides a way out and pushes the task, project or activity to an unspecified time.
Sometimes tomorrow meets never and some of you reading this have moved things to the land of never.
Imagine if you could look into your land of never, what would be there? Jobs you wanted to interview for but just never got around to it. The resume you started to update but never found the time to finish. The project you started for the company which seemed promising but another project took the forefront and you see it sitting there with the lost revenue, which exceeded the other project you completed.
Individuals and companies say tomorrow and unfortunately tomorrow never comes for some.
Second Truth = Pleasure and Less Stress
The next little known truth gives way to short term pleasure and perceived less stress.
Do you enjoy the DMV?
Waiting in line with a mask on, just to get your drivers license renewed sounds like so much FUN! I can remember sitting in a DMV for over 1.5 hours waiting to be called up and I just left! Tomorrow I told myself and you can guess what happened. I actually went back the next day… are you kidding? Why would I do that to myself again?
The relief of not having to go back to the DMV provided a little bit of pleasure until my expiration date on the license arrived! That forced me to wait in line and this time over two hours!
Short term pleasure turned into frustration and time wasted, however I did get my license. The next little known truth shifts acceptance.
Third Truth = Deferred Responsibility
Have you ever thought if I don’t do this, somebody else will? What if that responsibility was yours? Would the response be the same?
As the snow begins to thaw in parts of the country, the garage can yearn for a cleaning, yet its most likely one activity that is put off and thus procrastination sets in. I know cleaning the garage for me isn’t a top priority, however its my task to complete. In my mind, I tell myself my daughter will do it, while knowing she will NEVER clean the garage.
When you defer the task to someone else, it releases you of taking action and you fall back into the second known truth: short term pleasure and less stress.
It might feel good to shift the task to someone else, even if you know it will not get completed. Doing so keeps you in the next known truth of no progress.
Fourth Truth = No Progress
With the calendar turning to March, Spring is approaching and lawns will begin to turn green and the sounds of lawn mowers begins to ring again. My mower sits in the dirty winter sand and salt filled garage with an empty gas tank. When I attempt to start it without doing anything, the mower will not start. Therefore I’m stopped from being able to mow the yard, unless I pour gas into the tank.
In an article entitled, “How Common Is Procrastination? A Study, it states that 88% of the workforce admit to procrastinating at least one hour per day. There are 261 working days in 2021 and thus this would equate to 261 hours in a year or almost 33 working days of pushing tasks, projects, or responsibilities off. 33 working days of no progress! Sounds like a great return on investment for an employer, as they are paying 33 days for time not truly worked, right?
The evidence of continual delaying will eventually get noticed in the workplace and Managers and Leaders need to ensure movement is occurring on projects, tasks and responsibilities to improve the return on investment.
Four Keys To Preventing Procrastination
Realizing and understanding the four little known truths hopefully will move you into action, however here are four keys to help you complete what you’ve put off.
- Define the intrinsic and extrinsic benefit of having completed it. So, what outward and inward benefit will you receive once its completed. Ex. Putting off cleaning my garage. Intrinsic benefit – It brings sense of inner joy after its clean. Extrinsic benefit – reduces the dirt on shoes brought into the house. What are you delaying right now? Write down the internal and external benefit it will bring you.
- Find an accountability partner. Do you have a good friend or mentor who will speak the truth? Sometimes, what your friend or mentor says sometimes stings or cuts right to the point. Having someone push you when you don’t feel like doing something, can redirect your actions and cause movement. When asking someone to hold you accountable, share with them what’s been causing your inability to get the activity completed. Finding that individual to edge you forward will slow down procrastination.
- Give yourself a negative consequence. If you have children or your children are on their own, do you recall what you did when they didn’t do something? Mostly likely you did something to spur them into the right direction. Somehow as adults we avoid giving ourselves a negative consequence, however this can move you into action if you follow through. I once heard a story about an individual who was struggling to lose weight and she told her best friend if she didn’t lose the weight by a specific date, she would sent a check to an organization she didn’t align with. Do you know what happened? Magically she lost the weight by the deadline. What are you willing to give yourself or lose something if you don’t move into action?
- Reward Yourself. Some people respond better if they see a prize waiting at the finish line. Think of the item, project or task you’ve been delaying on and ask yourself, “If I completed it, what can I give myself?” Sounds silly to give yourself something, however it can work magic in your mind, as you are telling yourself “If I do “x” and complete “x”, I receive y”. That equation will register in the subconscious mind and will allow you to see how it can be received.
By implementing any of these four ways, it will push you away from the activity that has existed since 800 B.C. However you have the freedom of will to decide to move further into procrastination or move into action. What will you choose?
“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.” – Eva Young
Time is the one equalizer everyone has and those who choose to delay, never fully grasp what one truly has.
PS – Here is a fifth key to beating delay – Hire someone to do it? Anyone want to clean my garage?