I had been putting off writing this piece for two days. Procrastination is a very strange phenomenon. We know something must be done now, but we delay it. It can be a phone call to mom, an email to a customer, a report to the boss, getting up on time, making an important decision, ending a bad habit, starting a good one, saying some nice words, apologizing for a mistake, it can be small tasks or big projects… but we often delay it despite expecting to be worse off due to the delay. We know that procrastination can cost us money, health, relationships, productivity or social disapproval for not meeting responsibilities or commitments… but we procrastinate. Procrastination is not always inaction. Very often, we get busy with less important or less urgent tasks to avoid the high-priority actions. Few reasons why we procrastinate, and some ideas on what to do about it:
- Lack of passion. Sometimes the important and urgent task is too boring. I can’t get passionate about sorting through the physical mail, paying the bills (though online), filing the receipts and so on. So here’s what I did. Firstly, I scheduled this task for Sunday mornings, so the pile of envelopes doesn’t bother me all week. Secondly, I systematically unsubscribed from many mailing lists. That required some time over the phone and some emails, but it was worthwhile. I also put as many bills as possible on auto-pay. Now I have a much smaller pile to deal with every Sunday morning. The idea is to get rid of, or minimize the unpleasant tasks in your life. Sometimes you can trade boring tasks with colleagues or members of the family. I’ll do your Powerpoint presentation; you do my Excel report. I’ll edit the photos; you do the filing. At home, I take care of all IT stuff; Salma looks after mechanical issues. I am responsible for all issues with schools and education; she looks after all the shopping and food. I do the paper work; she checks credit card statements…and so on.
- Lack of skill. Very often, we put things off because we are not good at them, or we just don’t know how to do them. The obvious way to deal with this is to learn. I knew somebody who dreaded the monthly reports because she wasn’t good at Excel. She used to make mistakes and feel stressed. So obviously, she would put it off until the very last minute, which would make it even worse. Until one day, she figured she had to learn it and get good at it. Once the stress of making mistakes and the fear of failure was gone, the task wasn’t as dreadful and the procrastination was also gone. Why do you think most salespeople procrastinate calling up the upset customer, or delay in resolving any conflicts, or put off the diet plan – because they are not good at these things and there’s a fear of failure.
Please let me know if you found the above useful. And guess what the third reason is. Then stay tuned for part 2. [A recent photo of sunset through a window – one of those things that can’t wait.]