Think and Grow Rich author, Napoleon Hill, says that "Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday." If your day looks more like this and if Monday's to-dos have now made it into Wednesday's to-do bin...
...then procrastination just might be a problem for you. And if so, then you're probably planning to deal with your procrastinating habit tomorrow. The problem is that delaying for later what you know needs to be done today can leave you feeling guilty, anxious, disorganized, undependable and even depressed. Well you're not alone, but here is why this habit is so destructive.
Each day we are given 24 hours. Let's see these 24 hours as money budgeted to buy "stuff". This "stuff" consists of tasks, and these tasks can be bought only with the money - 24 hours - that you were originally given each day. Okay, so 8 hours buy sleep (for those lucky people out there!) and the time left is for us to spend on the tasks that today brings. Oh! And the hours do not roll over into the next day but left over and un-bought tasks do! Got it?
Along comes procrastination convincing you to spend your money on him instead, so that hour that you needed to write a report for work, let's say, you "spend" it browsing your email. The hour is gone, but that report remains. In essence, procrastination is like spending money for un-budgeted, non-essential items, leaving you without the funds to purchase the much-needed items that are slowly piling up!
So why do we do it? Laziness, unpreparedness, forgetfulness, are key culprits, but at the heart of these lies fear of failure, low self esteem, lack of confidence and perfectionism. I fall prey to perfectionism: if I worry that my results won't be perfect, then my fear of failure makes me slow to act. I put off the task which of course creates anxiety because I KNOW I still have to complete it. When I finally get around to it, I'm low on "funds" (that's "time" for those paying attention) so I can only afford to buy something of less quality and substance. The result each time is that the task I can afford to buy is a far cry from what it should and could have been.
What you put off doesn't matter. It could be losing weight, eating right, breaking a bad habit, starting a new one, or completing an assignment for work or school. Procrastination is no respecter of goals. And because of this, over time unchecked procrastination can literally ruin your time, plans, goals, and destiny.
The fix for this gross mismanagement of your time is simple but, as with breaking all bad habits, takes discipline. Time management is key and at the heart of it is scheduling. Writing a to-do list isn't enough because it's too easy to merely move those tasks to a later time and date. Here are some quick scheduling tips that help me.
Get a calendar that you actually like using and that will give you enough room for all your tasks, plans and notes. My ARC system is my lifeline for business and personal planning. For a more personalized experience, try printable planners from The Handmade Home.
2. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Rank your tasks in order of priority and slot out enough time for the duration of the task. For example, if travel time is required, make sure to include that on the calendar as well. The key here is to hold ALL of your time accountable and prioritized!
3. Make It Yours
Create a system to organize your priorities. You can use colors, letters, numbers or any system that works for you. For instance, "A" can be used for all urgent tasks; "B" for those next in line and so on. You can even write "C" next to the ones you want to be done next week! It's not just about doing EVERYTHING right now; it's about prioritizing your life and completing your tasks in that order responsibly. This eliminates the guilt that comes with pushing an urgent task into the next week just because you don't want to do it!
Trust your schedule and stick to it. Ah! The satisfaction of checking the "complete" box next to a task. The sense of accomplishment is irreplaceable, and will soon replace the other emotions of anxiety, guilt, and fear of failure that you've come to know.
If there's anything that deserves being put off indefinitely, it's procrastination. It is a thief of time and dreams, and the cause for the disappointment of many a New Years' resolution.