Surely you remember the old adage, “don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.” The meaning of that saying seems to have gone the way of the five-dollar lunch.
Procrastinators are made, not born. It starts at a very young age. When a child doesn’t want to do something, they respond with a not-now attitude. Children don’t often understand that there are always consequences for their actions. Children can easily pick up their procrastination habits from their parents. They see how their parents behave and assume that it’s normal behavior. Parents must reinforce a more positive attitude of follow-through with their children. Otherwise these childhood episodes will follow them into their adult life.
Procrastination is habit forming. The word is derived from the latin verb procrastinare, which simply means to put off or postpone for another day. Today, behaviorists typically define it as a learned habit derived from a human preference for short-term rewards. There is no set reason why procrastinators delay in completing projects. There are three types of procrastination behaviors, as identified by Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. The arousal procrastinator, the avoider procrastinator, and the decisional procrastinator.
First, arousal procrastinators do so for the thrill of working at the last minute to complete a project. Often these people are unorganized and have trouble with time management. They may get it done, but because it was so rushed right before the deadline the quality will suffer.
Second, there is the avoider procrastinator who avoids either the fear of failure or the fear of success. Their indecisiveness will prohibit them from trying new things and exploring new ideas. People who fall into this category will achieve average throughout their life.
Third, decisional procrastinators believe that not making a decision relieves them of the responsibility of the outcome. They simply don’t want it to fall on their shoulders. These people are followers. They don’t want to stick out, they prefer to blend in and let others make the decision.
We not only put off projects we could easily finish, but we put off projects we don’t want to do. This is our way of saying “I don’t have time”. How many times have you heard that? We make time for everything that is important to us and everything we want to do. If you “don’t have time” it’s because you don’t want to make the time. Let’s face it, it’s simply an easy excuse to use when you want to avoid something. We’ve all done it. We just tell people we don’t have the time when what we really want to say is that we don’t want to.
You have time to party, you have time to watch tv, you have time for relationships, you have time for everything you deem important. If it’s important to you then you’ll make the time. I wish people would be more honest with each other. Instead they just drag people along with the thought that they might actually still be interested – and they’re not.
How many times have you made a call to someone, or left a voicemail, or sent an email and they never call back or respond in anyway? It doesn’t feel good does it? How many times do you do it to people who are trying to reach you? Your intentions may be honorable, you planned on calling them back, you’re just too busy, whatever your excuse is it’s still procrastination.
Have you considered what procrastination or lazy work habits are doing to your productivity? Failing to follow through with a sensible timeline and deadline for your projects is the kiss of death. I see too many people with no sense of urgency. They’ll get it done when they get it done.
There are steps you can take to rid yourself of this troubling disease!
- Each morning, start with a list of things to accomplish for that day. Make a decision as to what can be finished by the day’s end. Commit yourself to not leaving work until the list is finished. If you can’t finish every item on the list then donate twenty dollars to your favorite charity. Do this every time you miss completing an item. This should make you accountable pretty quickly. Either that or you’ll be broke. Be honest with yourself, if you cheat then you’re only fooling yourself.
- It is human nature for people to unload their challenges on others. Do not be too accessible throughout the workday. Your agenda will never be completed with interruptions. Plan your day so that you have time to collaborate, but isolate yourself the remainder of the time. It may be best to start off the morning with open time for others so that they can get on with their day. When you are focused on your work, do not allow yourself to be dragged into other problems. If you must close the door or find a quiet place to work – then do it.
- Don’t over-promise! Don’t set yourself up for failure! Deliver what you know you can finish in a timely manner. Your word is your most vital asset. If you tell someone the deadline is Friday then make absolutely sure that you can finish the project prior to Friday or do not make the promise. Whenever you make a promise, be certain you can deliver what you promised or refrain from inserting that foot of yours in your mouth. This will take serious discipline.
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