Time Power: Overcoming Procrastination

03/03/2023by dang tin0

Overcoming Procrastination

‘‘Above all be of single aim; have a legitimate and useful purpose and devote yourself unreservedly to it.’’

Procrastination is the thief of time. We have all heard that many times before. The tendency to procrastinate is the primary reason that many people lead lives of quiet desperation and retire poor. It is not that people do not know what to do to be more successful. Most people are quite clear about the steps they could take to improve their lives or their work. The problem is that they continually flnd reasons not to do it today until it is too late. They procrastinate until there are no more tomorrows left.

One of the most valuable habits you can develop in life is a sense of urgency, an inner drive to get on with it, to get the job done now. A sense of urgency is the opposite of procrastination and its most powerful overriding factor. A sense of urgency can help you as much as any other habit you can develop.

Move On to the Fast Track

In a survey, 104 chief executive offlcers were asked what speciflc qualities would most mark a young person in their companies for rapid promotion. They were given a list of flfty qualities and behaviors to choose from. Surprisingly enough, 84 percent of them agreed that two of the flfty qualities were more important than any of the others.

The flrst of the two qualities was deflned as ‘‘the ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant.’’ It was the ability to set priorities on the use of time. Every manager has had the frustrating experience of coming upon one of his staff working away at something that is of low priority when something of higher priority is being left undone. Many organizations are overstaffed yet underefflcient, simply because so many people in the organization spend so much time on items of low priority.

The second quality identifled by the CEOs was ‘‘the ability to get the job done fast.’’ It was the ability to take the ball and run with it, without hesitation or delay. Everyone intends to do good work, but the road to failure is paved with good intentions. It is only actions that count, and only those actions aimed at accomplishing the most important tasks.

When You Get ’Round to It

I was a speaker at the annual convention of a successful national sales organization recently. As each person came into the room, he was handed a small wooden disk with the words To It printed on either side. The salespeople called these disks ‘‘round to-it’s.’’ They are handed out generously to people who are going to do something as soon as they get ‘‘round to it.’’ Once you have been given one of these round disks, you no longer have any excuses for procrastination or delay.
The ability to select your most important task and then to get it done quickly will do more to move you on to the fast track in your career than any other habit you can develop.

Developing a Reputation for Speed and Dependability

Whether you work for an organization or run your own business, or if you work in sales, when you develop a reputation for speed and dependability, you will never have to worry about being successful, promoted, or rich. With a reputation for speed and dependability, you will be able to write your own ticket. When you can separate the relevant from the irrelevant and get the job done fast, you move to the front of the line in terms of success and opportunity.

Ways to Alleviate Time Povert

The single biggest shortage among employed people today is time. People suffer time poverty. They may have the money they need, but they don’t have the time to enjoy it. As a result, free time is becoming more important than higher pay for many people.

Today, organizations will pay more for people or services that save them time. When you call another company to supply your business with a product or service, you value and respect suppliers far more when they move fast. We consider speed of response to our needs indicative of higher-quality products and services. People who move quickly are thought to be more intelligent than those who move slowly. We will buy from them faster and pay a higher price, with less resistance.

On the other hand, when we deal with an organization that moves or responds slowly to our requests, we automatically assume that organization to be poorly run. We assume that a slow company is managed by inefflcient and ineffective people. We assume that its products are worth less than the products and services of companies that do things more quickly.

Time Is of the Essence

One of the flnal clauses in almost every contract written in busi- ness today is a clause that says, ‘‘Time shall be of the essence of this agreement.’’ Today, time is of the essence of virtually everything we do.

Learning to overcome procrastination is a vital step upward on the ladder of success. Without this ability, you simply cannot succeed at anything worthwhile. Fortunately, procrastination is a habit that can be overcome. Developing a sense of urgency is a habit as well, which can be learned.

Developing a Sense of Urgency

There are seven steps you can take to program your mind with a sense of urgency. They will motivate you to overcome procrasti- nation, get started on your most important job, and stay at it single-mindedly until it is complete.

Set Worthwhile Goal

Set worthwhile goals for yourself, goals that you intensely desire to achieve. All motivation requires ‘‘motive.’’ A major reason for procrastination is that there is no speciflc goal that the person wants badly enough to get started and then to persist until the job is complete.

Many people procrastinate and delay because they don’t really want to do what they are doing. As a result, they flnd every excuse to delay and put off getting started. To counter this ten- dency, you can use goals as a motivator. The more goals you have, the less likely you will be to procrastinate on the tasks nec- essary to achieve them. When you set a large number of goals for yourself, you trigger the Law of Forced Efflciency. You flnd your-self moving faster and working more efflciently simply because you have so many things that you have to get done in a limited period.

Visualize Your Tasks as Completed

Program your mind to overcome procrastination by continually visualizing your tasks as completed. Visualize your goals as al- ready achieved. Imagine how you will feel with the job behind you. Imagine the satisfaction you will have when the task is accomplished. The more pleasurable the feeling of completion that you can create in your mind, the more focused you will be. The greater clarity you have of your flnished task, the more energized you will be. Clear mental pictures of a desired future reality sharpen your mind and allow you to concentrate better.

For example, if you set an income goal that you want to achieve in a certain time period and you vividly imagine how you are going to enjoy the extra money, what you will buy, where you will go, and what you will do, you will flnd yourself internally motivated to do the things necessary to achieve this goal. Every time you visualize your goal as complete, you increase the intensity of your desire and strengthen your resolve. You will then develop the willpower to do whatever is necessary to transform your mental image into reality.

Practice Positive Affirmations

Use the power of positive afflrmations to program a sense of urgency into your subconscious mind. At the beginning of each major task, repeat and afflrm the words, ‘‘Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!’’
Starting as a fatherless boy selling newspapers on the streets of Chicago, W. Clement Stone built an insurance fortune worth more than $800 million. In his book Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, he wrote that the repetition of the afflrmation ‘‘Do it now!’’ was a key factor in his rise from poverty to great wealth. By constantly disciplining himself to ‘‘Do it now,’’ he became one of the richest men in the world.

Throughout his company, Combined Insurance Company of America, which had branches in the United States and around the world, the entire staff would come together each morning and shout ‘‘Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!’’ flfty times before starting the day. This repeated afflrmation had a tremendous impact on the salespeople and staff. Even after people went on to other jobs and companies, they still repeated it to themselves. Many successful men and women all over the world today trace their success back to their association with W. Clement Stone and his motto: ‘‘Do it now!’’

You can develop any mental habit you desire by using re- peated suggestions, in the form of conscious afflrmations and mental pictures. At a certain point, your subconscious will accept these words and pictures as new commands. These commands will then become your new operating principles. Soon, you will flnd that acting with a sense of urgency is just as much of a habit for you as breathing.

Set Clear Deadlines for Yourself

Set deadlines for yourself on all important tasks. Put yourself on record. Tell other people that you will have the job done by a speciflc time. You will flnd that promising others motivates you. We all work very hard to fulflll our promises and to avoid disappointing other people. Often, promising others that you will have something done by a certain time and date is more powerful than promising yourself.

Setting a clear, speciflc deadline also programs the task or goal into your subconscious. You will then flnd yourself internally driven toward getting the job done. When you set a deadline for yourself, your subconscious mind installs an automatic override on your tendency to procrastinate.

Refuse to Make Excuses

All procrastination seems to be accompanied by rationalization. And rationalization is best deflned as ‘‘attempting to put a socially favorable interpretation on an otherwise socially unacceptable act.’’

Rationalizing is explaining away and making excuses for un- productive behavior. People who procrastinate always have what they think is a good reason to let themselves off the hook. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of making excuses. Commit yourself to completing a particular task by a certain time, and then burn your mental bridges. Refuse to consider the possibility of not working on your task. Never look for reasons to justify noncom- pletion of a task.

Reward Yourself for Completion of a Task

Create a reward system for yourself. Give yourself a reward for successful completion of each part of the job, as well as for successful completion of the whole job. You can actually program yourself to feel eager to start a job, and to continue with it until it is flnished. Just give yourself a reward at each step.

In behavioral psychology, this is called operant conditioning. It is a technique used to train both humans and animals. Behavior is shaped by designing a speciflc result or consequence that follows every act of the individual. Rewards tend to reinforce and encourage speciflc behaviors. Punishments tend to discourage those behaviors. Over time, the habits of the individual can be shaped and her responses made automatic with repeated rewards.

Using Rewards to Develop Positive Habits

Fully 95 percent of everything you do, or fail to do, is determined by your habits, either good or bad. One key to success is to develop good habits and make them your masters. You develop the habit of overcoming procrastination by rewarding yourself every time you do something positive until you rewire and reprogram your subconscious mind permanently.

Creating a reward system for yourself only requires a little imagination on your part. For example, if you have a big task to do and there are flve parts to the task, give yourself a reward when you complete each step. The reward can be something simple, such as a coffee break, a break where you get up and walk around, or even lunch. If it is a major task, or a major part of another task, you can reward yourself by going shopping, buying something you like, taking yourself out for dinner, or even taking a vacation with your spouse or family

When you put a reward system in place and you discipline yourself not to take the reward until you have completed the task or part of it, you eventually flnd yourself internally motivated to start and to flnish your tasks and responsibilities. In a way, your attention moves away from the difflculty of the task itself and onto the enjoyment you’ll get from the reward.

Overcoming Call Reluctance with Reward

A simple reward structure can be used to help salespeople over come the fear and reluctance associated with cold calling on the telephone. The salesperson sets a speciflc time and place for phone calls. He sets a speciflc goal for a number of calls, appointments, or sales. He then gets a fresh cup of coffee and puts it in front of him. Every time he makes a call, he is allowed to take a sip of coffee. Soon, he becomes motivated to make as many calls as possible so that he can drink the coffee before it gets cold.

Here’s another technique: Take a cookie and break it up into small bites, or place a bowl of jellybeans in front of the salesperson. Each time the salesperson makes a call and gets through to a prospect, he is allowed to eat a piece of cookie or jellybean. In no time at all, in a Pavlovian response, the salesperson becomes eager to make calls and enjoy the reward. It sounds simple and even childish, but it is extraordinarily effective in developing the habit of overcoming procrastination.

You can practice operant conditioning with your children to train them in the good habits that they will need as adults. Offer to take them to McDonald’s or to let them watch television if they clean up their room or complete their homework. Refuse to allow them the reward until the job is done satisfactorily. You will be amazed at how quickly they get started and keep going until the job is flnished.

Accept Full Responsibility for Completion of a Job Program yourself to overcome procrastination by accepting 100 percent responsibility for the completion of the task on schedule. Look only to yourself. Rely only on your own ability. No matter what the obstacle in your way, resolve to flnd a way over, around, or past it. Refuse to make excuses.
Accepting complete responsibility for results, and never allowing yourself the luxury of a mental escape hatch, is the equivalent of putting your own feet to the flre. It is amazing how much more you will get done when you eliminate your excuses and reasons for putting off something.

Five Ways to Get Yourself Started

Overcoming procrastination permanently requires that you use every method and technique possible to get yourself organized and motivated to start and complete the job. Here are flve things that you can do in advance to reduce your tendency to procrastinate.

1. Create a detailed plan of action. Begin by creating a clear, written plan with each part of the plan and each step orga- nized in order of priority. Put an ‘‘A,’’ ‘‘B,’’ or ‘‘C’’ next to each step. Determine the most important thing that you can do to get started and put a circle around that item.

A written plan leads you into action. It gives you a track to run on, a blueprint to follow. The more you break down your goal into individual steps and then list those steps, the easier it is for you to take the flrst one. Often, that’s all you need to get going.

2. Clean up your workspace. Begin with only one thing, the most important thing, in front of you. A clean workspace is a real motivator to action. A good time planner can be very helpful in this regard because it keeps you focused on the next task.

3. Separate the urgent from the important. Remind yourself that important tasks are usually not urgent. An urgent task is usually not important. Start off working on the tasks that are both urgent and important, the tasks that have short time fuses and must be done immediately. Then move on to the tasks that are merely important, but not urgent. It is these important (but not urgent tasks) that contain the greatest potential conse- quences for your career and your future.

4. Start with your most important tasks. You always tend to procrastinate on large, important tasks with considerable future value. Successful completion of these major tasks can make a major difference in your life. There seems to be a universal tendency to delay working on, or completing, the most important tasks until the last moment.
Some people say that they work better under pressure. This may be true in some cases, because then you have no time for excuses. The heat is on. The consequences of not completing the job are too serious to delay. It is always better to have the job done well in advance of the deadline.

5. Practice creative procrastination. This requires that you consciously procrastinate on those tasks that contribute little or nothing to the accomplishment of your major, high-value goals. Since you can never do everything that you have to do, you are going to have to procrastinate on something. The difference between effective and ineffective people is that effective people procrastinate on the things that don’t really matter.

On the other hand, ineffective people always procrastinate on the tasks that could make a real difference. Use your will power and self-discipline to put off and delay doing minor, irrel- evant tasks in favor of major, important tasks.
Many small jobs, left to themselves, have a tendency to become unnecessary. If you don’t do them for a while, you eventually reach a point where they don’t need to be done at all. These are the tasks that are the best candidates for creative procrastination. Before you start on a job, ask yourself, ‘‘What would happen if this task were not done at all?’’ If the answer to this question is ‘‘not much,’’ then put it off as long as you can. Often you won’t have to do it at all.

Sixteen Ways to Overcome Procrastination

Because procrastination is such a major concern of so many peo- ple and has been a bugaboo for people throughout the ages, methods for overcoming procrastination have been developed over the years. Here are sixteen of the most powerful techniques ever devised to help you overcome procrastination in your work and personal life. Think about which one of these ideas could be most helpful to you right now, in your current situation.

1. Think on paper. Prepare thoroughly. List every step of the job in advance. Break the job down into its constituent parts before you begin. Simply writing out every detail and thoroughly preparing in advance will help you to overcome procrastination and get started.

2. Gather all the materials and work tools that you will need before you begin. When you sit down to work or to begin a task, make sure that you have everything at hand so that you won’t have to get up or move until the task is done. Being fully prepared is a powerful motivator for staying with the task until it is flnished.

3. Do one small thing to get started. There is an 80/20 rule that says that the flrst 20 percent of the task often accounts for 80 percent of the value of that task. This is probably what Confucius meant when he said that, ‘‘A journey of 1,000 leagues begins with a single step.’’ Once you have taken even one small step to start the job, you will often flnd yourself continuing on with the task to completion.

4. ‘‘Salami slice’’ the task. Just as you would never try to eat a whole loaf of salami at once, don’t try to take on all of a job from the start. Sometimes the best way to complete a major job is to take a small slice and complete just that piece, just as you would take a single slice of salami and eat it.
When you select a small piece of the task and then discipline yourself to do it and get it behind you, it will often give you the momentum you need to counter inertia and overcome procrastination.

5. Practice the Swiss cheese technique. Just as a block of Swiss cheese is full of holes, you treat your task like a block of cheese and you punch holes in it. Select a flve-minute part of the job and do only that. Don’t worry about the whole job. For example, if you want to write an article or a book, break the task down into small pieces that take an identiflable amount of time to complete and do just one small piece at a time whenever you get a chance. Many authors begin by writing one page a day. If you are doing research, you can read one article per sitting. Many people write complete books on airplanes, or complete their college degrees with snatches of time between other activities. If you wrote one page a day for a year, you would have a 365-page book by the end of the year.

6. Start from the outside and complete the smaller tasks first. Often there are preparatory steps you must take before you can tackle the main part of the job. In that case, starting from the outside by doing all the little tasks flrst will help you to overcome procrastination, and it will get you started on the big tasks.

7. Start from the inside and do the larger tasks first. This is the opposite of suggestion number six. Look over your list of everything that you have to do to complete the job and ask yourself, ‘‘What is the biggest single task on this list?’’ What is the one item that will take the most time or require the most effort? Discipline yourself to start with that item, and stay with it until it is complete. All the other, smaller tasks on the list will then seem easier by comparison.

8. Do the task that causes you the most fear or anxiety. Often, it has to do with overcoming the fear of failure or rejection by someone else. In sales, it may be associated with prospecting. In management, it may be associated with disciplining or flring an employee. In relationships, this may have to do with confronting an unhappy personal situation. In every case, you will be more effective if you deal flrst with whatever is causing you the greatest emotional distress or fear. Often this will break the logjam in your work and free you up mentally and emotion- ally to complete all your other tasks.

9. Start your day with the most unpleasant task first. Get it over with and behind you. Everything else for the rest of the day will seem easier in comparison.
A recent study compared two groups of people. One group started an exercise program in the morning. The second group started an exercise program in the evenings after work. The researchers found that the morning exercisers were much more likely to still be in the program six months later. Starting the day with exercise was much more likely to lead to the habit of regular exercise than putting it off until the end of the day when it was easier to make excuses and procrastinate.

Mark Twain once wrote that, ‘‘The flrst thing you should do when you get up each morning is to eat a live frog; then you will have the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that can happen to you all day long.’’
Your ‘‘live frog’’ is your biggest, most difflcult, most unpleasant task. When you start and flnish this task before doing any- thing else, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the rest of your day is going to proceed much more smoothly.

10. Think about the negative consequences of not doing the job or completing the task. What will happen to you if this job is not done on schedule? Both fear and desire are great motivators of human behavior. Sometimes you can motivate yourself by the desire for the beneflts and rewards of task completion. Sometimes you can motivate yourself into action by thinking about the negative consequences and what will happen to you if the job isn’t completed as promised.

11. Think about how you will benefit from doing the job and completing the task.
Write down all the reasons why it would be helpful for you to get this job done on time. The more reasons you have for completing the task, the more intense will be your desire to begin, and the greater will be your internal drive to complete what you’ve started.
If you have one or two reasons for getting a job done, you will have a mild level of motivation. But if you have ten or twenty reasons for completing the job, your level of motivation will be considerably higher, and so will be your persistence and self-discipline.

12. Set aside fifteen minutes during the day when you will work on your project. Set aside a speciflc time—say, from 10:00 to 10:15 A.M., or 2:00 to 2:15 P.M. and resolve just to work for that brief flfteen-minute period without worrying about anything else. This technique will launch you into the task so that completion will be much more likely.
To get the most out of this technique, you must make an appointment with yourself and write it down. Then, at the desig- nated time, have your tools and materials at hand and begin the flfteen-minute work session. At the end of the flfteen minutes, you may want to continue to work. If not, put the work aside and schedule another flfteen-minute appointment at another time. And then keep your appointment with yourself.

13. Resist the tendency toward perfectionism. Since perfec- tionism is a major reason for procrastination, decide not to worry about doing the job perfectly. Just get started and work steadily. You can always go back and make corrections and revi- sions later. Nothing worthwhile has ever been done perfectly the flrst time anyway.
Not long ago, a friend of mind started a consulting business. I asked him how it was going. He said he had not done anything yet because it was going to take a full month before he got his brochures, business cards, and letterhead back from the printer. I told him that his brochures, letterhead, and business cards would never get him a nickel’s worth of business. What he should do is write his new telephone number on the back of his existing business cards, or get some cards made up at a quick copy center, and then just get out and talk to prospective clients. I told him that this would do him more good than all the bro- chures he would ever design.
He phoned me a week later and told me that this advice had transformed his thinking about himself and his business. He had started calling on prospective customers that very day and was already doing business and making money.

14. Pick one area where procrastination is hurting you. Select a single identiflable area where you know your tendency to procrastinate is holding you back. Pick the most important area, and resolve to conquer that speciflc example of procrastination. Set your priorities, and then concentrate single-mindedly on the one area where overcoming procrastination can make the great- est contribution to your success. Always attack the most difflcult tasks flrst. Challenge yourself to confront the hardest parts of your work, and then get them done before anything else.

15. Develop a compulsion for closure. Once you have launched and begun to work on your task, refuse to stop until it is completed. When you develop the discipline to start a major task and then stay with it until it is flnished, you will be laying down the foundation for a life of persistent, purposeful work. Force yourself to flnish the last 5 percent of the job. That is the part that is worth all the rest in terms of personal satisfaction.

It is amazing, and somewhat sad, the number of people who overcome procrastination sufflciently enough to get started on a task, but they never carry it through to completion. As they get closer and closer to the end of the task, they flnd more and more reasons and excuses to put off the last 5 percent or 10 percent of the job. This is the reason most university theses and dissertations to complete masters or doctoral degrees never get completed and submitted. A person may spend years of study in college and leave without the degree because he was unable to push through and complete the last 5 percent or 10 percent.

You only experience the joy, satisfaction, and exhilaration of flnishing the task when you bring it to completion. As you wrap up the last detail, you feel a tremendous sense of relief and accomplishment. Your brain releases endorphins, and you get a surge of happiness. But this is only possible when you complete the task 100 percent.

16. Maintain a fast tempo. Fast tempo is essential to success. Resolve to work at a brisk pace. Walk quickly. Move quickly. Write fast. Act quickly. Get on with the job. Consciously decide to speed up all of your habitual actions.
It is amazing how much more you will get done when you push yourself to move faster rather than moving at your normal pace. In fact, if you continually force yourself to work harder and faster, you will start to feel the magic of the flow experience. When you get into this ‘‘flow,’’ you will experience an enhanced feeling of confldence and competence. When you are in flow, you will start to plow through enormous quantities of work in a much shorter period of time than you’ve done in the past.

Deliberately organizing your life, work, and tempo so that you regularly trigger this experience of ‘‘flow’’ is a key to great success. All truly effective people enjoy this mysterious flow of energy on a regular basis. It is activated by consciously speeding up the tempo of your work and keeping up the pace until you lift off, like an airplane clearing the ground.

Your Greatest Challenge in Time Management

It takes courage and self-discipline to break the habit of procras- tination. It takes hard work and determination. But the rewards are great. You will experience greater self-esteem, self-confldence, and personal pride. You will achieve lifelong success. By overcoming procrastination and becoming a focused, effective per- son, you will accomplish more than anyone else around you and more than you can possibly imagine today. There is no other decision that will be more life-enhancing and satisfying than your decision to ‘‘Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!’’

‘‘Concentrate . . . for the greatest achievements are reserved for the man of single aim, in whom no rival powers divide the empire of the soul.’’ ORISON SWETT MARDEN

Action Exercises

1. Select one major task where procrastination is holding you back. Resolve to learn all these methods and techniques by starting and flnishing that one project.

2. Make out a detailed list of every single thing you will have to do to complete that task; think on paper.

3. Select the single most important item on your list, and gather everything you will need to start and complete that item.

4. Set a speciflc time when you are going to start and work single-mindedly on that task until it is flnished.

5. Break your largest tasks and goals down into bite-size chunks, and concentrate on starting and completing one part of the job at a time.

6. Accept 100 percent responsibility for starting and flnishing your major task; refuse to make excuses or rationalize putting it off.

7. Visualize yourself working with a sense of urgency; program your mind by repeating the words ‘‘Do it now!’’ over and over.

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