Tomorrow I’m going to…

Tomorrow I’m going to write a post about the dangers of procrastination. It will say something about how harmful procrastination is to your chances for success. I’ll probably write something about how procrastinating makes easy things hard and hard things almost impossible.

I could put some stuff in there about how to avoid procrastinating by doing immediately everything that takes less than 30 seconds to complete. People will be surprised when they learn that something like 90% of the things they procrastinate on take less than that 30 seconds to do. (It’s somewhere around 90% I’ll look up the exact percentage later)

I’ll think I’ll call it “the 30 second rule” and encourage people to try it for a solid week and see the difference it makes in their productivity. I don’t know, maybe I’ll save that for a post I do at some point in the future.

I’ll almost for sure put something in the procrastination post about a “Prioritized Daily Task List.” That’s like a do-to list except everything on it is prioritized in order of importance. Successful people use those all the time, like on a daily basis. (guess that’s how it got it’s name) They also don’t allow themselves to work on the second highest priority until the highest priority task is complete. 

That takes some pretty strong discipline which is another topic I should post about someday. 

I would write the procrastination post today except I’m really busy. There are a whole bunch of decisions I need to put off. I also need to come up with excuses for why I didn’t get yesterday’s work done and my fantasy football team needs work too. 

Plus, I’ve got to get to the gym. I’ve been putting that off too long and the last time I was there I left my brand new iPod Nano behind. I hope it’s in lost and found…they wouldn’t throw it away after only 14 years would they? 

I’m thinking I’ll close the post by reminding people that they won’t find “someday” on a calendar. They won’t actually find tomorrow either. 

I learned that whole tomorrow lesson thing by attending baseball games in my hometown in Minnesota. All the beer vendors wore t-shirts that said “free beer tomorrow.” I went to something like 18 games in a row until I finally figured out that if you always wait until tomorrow you’ll be waiting one heck of a long time. Alas, there would be no free beer for me. 

I can only hope people will read the post on procrastination as soon as they first see it but something tells me many of them will put it off until later. What they won’t be able to answer however is exactly when “later” is. 

 

I also hope you’re not one of those!

Last Second Sam

There are people who claim to believe that procrastination helps them be more successful. To them I would say that once you become comfortable misleading yourself you can, and most likely will, mislead anyone. 

 

Procrastination will kill your opportunity for success. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but eventually it most definitely will. That much is certain!

 

People who believe procrastination helps them because they think better under pressure are not being honest with themselves. People who believe they are more productive when working under stress are fooling themselves. 

 

Approaching deadlines do not make people smarter, calmer, more productive or more logical. They make everything more challenging.

 

The real reason many people procrastinate is that they see low value in the task. It’s either not fun enough or they see no reward for doing it. Some people procrastinate because they do not have confidence in their ability to complete the task. Fear of failure is a driving force behind many a procrastinator’s behavior. 

 

For some people procrastination is part of their personality. They are just more impulsive than other people. These are the people I call last second Sam or last second Sally depending on…well you know what it depends on.

 

One of the most effective tools for overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is a Prioritized Daily Task List. A prioritized task list is a to-do list on steroids. You list all the things you need to accomplish on a given day but you list them in order of importance. You DO NOT do the second most important thing until the most important thing is accomplished. 

 

Don’t worry about working on one thing all day if it’s truly the most important or most productive thing you could do that day. You’ll still be better offer than if you spent the day doing a bunch of unimportant or unproductive things. 

 

Many procrastinators put off doing things that are quick and easy to do. They don’t see a lot of fun or reward in doing them so they just put it off. Answering an email is a good example. A quick answer might take only a minute but they still open and read the email several times before answering it. 

 

So here’s a good rule of thumb to help stop at least some procrastinating. If a task takes a minute or less to do then do it immediately. No delay, no hesitation, and NO PROCRASTINATING! You will be amazed at how many things you do in a day can be completed in under a minute. 

 

Don’t kid yourself into thinking being a last second Sam or Sally has one ounce of benefit. You will not find even one very successful person who will tell you their success is due to putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. 


And you’re highly unlikely to be the first.


Stop Waiting and Start Doing

I once changed roles in a company I was working for and I had the opportunity to review the team I was leaving behind with their incoming leader. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses and how he could help each of them to continue to grow. 

When discussing a particular employee I made the comment that this person would do anything you asked them to do to the very best of their ability. That was their strength. Their weakness was that if you didn’t ask them to do anything then nothing is exactly what they would do. Nothing! The person completely lacked initiative. 

That’s a huge challenge for many people in the workplace today. They wait and wait to be told what to do. When they are told what to do they will need explicit instructions on when to start and how to do it. You may tell them to do something every Monday morning for a year but the first Monday morning you fail to tell them to do it do not be surprised when it doesn’t get done. 

There are lots of reasons some people lack initiative.

Some have what’s called Bounded Rationality. That’s a fancy way of saying they can’t even consider doing something they are not told to do. If it is something not entirely within their comfort zone they won’t even consider doing it unless they are explicitly directed to do it. They may not feel especially qualified to do it and unsure where to start. That’s an initiative killer too.

Some people are lazy. They expend the majority of their energy finding ways to NOT accomplish something. But as a leader you should know this: they were not born lazy. Somewhere along the way they lost their motivation and with it their initiative. Perhaps a former boss or teacher told them they would never succeed. Maybe someone told them they didn’t have what it takes to excel. Sadly they may have believed that.

If you have the audacity the call yourself a leader then never give up on someone who may be lazy today. Discover their motivators and help them find their initiative again. That is not a burden for an Authentic Leader, it is a challenge they enthusiastically accept. 

Some people who seem to lack initiative have learned that if they wait long enough to take action that someone, likely you, will come along to rescue them. Their lack of initiative is strategic. 

They know that you or someone else you assign will swoop in to get the work done. In these cases you as a leader are at least party responsible for their lack of initiative. You have taught them that they do not need to be accountable. You deny them the opportunity to learn and grow. You limit their opportunities to learn decision making and correcting mistakes they may have made. 

If they are thinking they cannot succeed you have solidified their thinking. That’s not effective leadership. 

Sometimes too much initiative can actually lead to what appears to be a lack of initiative. When a person says yes to more than they can handle they may become so overburdened that they don’t know where to begin…so they don’t. 

As a leader you must not allow your people to become so weighted down with work that they can’t maintain their forward momentum. When that happens most leaders wonder what happened to their former top performer. What they don’t realize is that what happened to them was inattentive leadership. 

If you’re not yet a leader but you want to be then you must make taking the initiative a habit. If you hope for greater success in the future then stop hoping and start taking the initiative. 

 

Make no mistake about this absolute fact: if you always wait for someone to tell you what to do you can be certain that someone will always be telling you what to do.

Today is the Best Day to Do It

The problem with doing something tomorrow is that when tomorrow comes it’s today. Then what will you do… push it to the tried and true tomorrow again? 

 

How many tomorrows does it take for tomorrow to become the day you actually take action? There are probably many people who can’t answer that question because they don’t know how many tomorrows it will take. They don’t know because they haven’t taken action yet. They are still counting tomorrows. 

 

Successful people will miss few opportunities today. Less than successful people will miss many opportunities tomorrow. 

 

For the record, someday, the perfect day, and the right day are just as bad as tomorrow. Today is the only someday for successful people. You can make today the perfect day, you can decide today is the right day. Yesterday’s tomorrow is today. 

 

You are out of excuses. 

 

You may not realize it but all that stuff you “plan” to do tomorrow weighs you down. It is a drag on today’s productivity. Each day you delay taking action on “tomorrow’s stuff” the weight becomes heavier and the drag greater. 

 

Here’s an idea: if something takes less than a minute to do then do it immediately. Do it right this second. You’ll be surprised how many things you put off that could be done in less than a minute. 

 

Most of the things we put off are not delayed due to a lack of time. We put them off because we don’t like doing them or they make us uncomfortable. We use time as an excuse. 

 

You should know that one of the biggest differentiators between successful people and less successful people is that successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 

 

Success is far more about possessing the discipline required to take action than it is about anything else. You can be the smartest person on earth but if you don’t use your brains what does it matter. Lack of initiative kills far more opportunities than lack of money. 

 

Do you have the discipline required to invest a handful of minutes a day to stop putting off those things you don’t want to do? Even the ones you know would make a positive difference for you?

 

When you start doing the things that require less than a minute pretty soon you’ll have enough momentum built up to tackle longer and tougher tasks. Before you know it, nothing can stop you. 


So what do you say? Got a minute to succeed? 

30 Seconds to Success

I’ve known many a procrastinator through the years (myself included) but I’ve known few people who were procrastinators by choice. They were all mostly procrastinators by chance.

 

Most procrastinators have more to do than they know how. They almost get paralyzed trying to figure out where to begin and the result is often that they just don’t…begin that is. They just don’t begin. They don’t get much finished because they don’t get much started. 

 

This much is certain, you will never finish what you never begin. 

 

So the first step to overcoming procrastination is to simply begin. But the question remains; where to begin.

 

Here is one piece of advice I received years ago that has really helped me overcome my procrastination tendencies: If you have something to do, anything to do, and it takes 30 seconds or less to do it then do it now, RIGHT NOW.

 

Now the best procrastinators out there will tell you that you can’t get anything done in 30 seconds or less. They would be wrong about that. 

 

30 seconds is actually quite a long time. 

 

In 30 seconds you can make a prioritized task list of the things you must accomplish today in order to be productive. Then you’ll know exactly where to begin.

 

In 30 seconds you can answer an email. If you don’t believe that then time yourself when answering a few. You’ll find that most, the vast majority in fact, take less than 30 seconds. Most people read the same email several times before finally answering it. That’s called procrastination and it’s a waste of time.

 

In 30 seconds you can delete about 60 emails from last year that you never did get around to answering. 

 

You can respond to several text messages or send one to someone, like mom or dad, that you’ve been meaning to send for a while. 

 

In 30 seconds you can set a meaningful goal. 

 

In 30 seconds you can pay a bill online.

 

In 30 seconds you can say thank you to someone you’ve intended to thank for days.

 

In 30 seconds you could pay someone a sincere compliment. 

 

In 30 seconds you could make a decision that changes your entire life.

 

You can do a lot in 30 seconds if you choose to be productive instead of busy and overwhelmed. 

 

It should take you substantially less than 30 seconds to decide which one will lead you towards greater success.


The Truest Secret to Success

There are many factors that come into play when determining a person’s potential for success. Those factors vary depending upon the type of endeavor the person is trying to succeed at. There are some commonalities across all fields of endeavor but each one has their own set of unique requirements.

There is however one sure way to greatly limit your chance at success. It makes no difference what your trying to succeed at, this one thing will almost certainly limit your chances at success if not outright kill them.

This one thing is called procrastination. 

Procrastination prevents even the most accomplished people from reaching their potential. It is simply amazing how quickly, and consistently procrastinating will kill your chances for success.

Research shows that a leading cause of procrastination is a lack of passion. It’s pretty simple really, we do the things we like to do and look for reasons to put off those things we don’t like doing.

The research shows that people who make decisions and take action quickly are more successful and wealthier than people who procrastinate. There are very very few exceptions where a chronic procrastinator has been able to overcome that handicap and still have huge success. Those exceptions in fact are so rare that it’s safe to say that procrastination not just might, but absolutely WILL damage your chances for success.

Procrastination limits every area of a person’s life, from business relationships to personal relationships. It limits the trust that other people will put in you and even limits the trust you’ll have for yourself. 

Every person hears the beckoning call of procrastination but highly successful people have learned to drown out the noise through planning and hard work.

One tool many people use to try and overcome their propensity to procrastinate is a to-do list. I’ve tried that but a simply to-do list is no match for my procrastination abilities. So I use a Prioritized Daily Task List. This is a to-do list on steroids. I rank everything I want to get done on a particular day by order of it’s importance. I do not allow myself to move from my highest ranked task to a lower ranked task until the higher ranked one is completed. That requires discipline.

Discipline, for those of you who believe you don’t have any, comes from wanting something in the future more than the something you want today. To develop discipline you simply have to identify what those things are that you want in the future. When you keep those things in the top of your mind it becomes much easier to have discipline.

I have one other “rule” I use to overcome procrastination. It’s my 30 second rule. It too is pretty simple, if something takes less than 30 seconds to do then do it NOW. You’ll be surprised how many of the things you put off actually take less than 30 seconds, it just seems like they take forever because you endlessly put them off.

Those 30 seconds can be the difference between your success and settling for less than you want and deserve. You probably won’t like this but here is a fact: if you can’t find 30 seconds in your day to accomplish something important then you can’t succeed. You probably don’t deserve to either.

The truest of all the secrets to success is to stop procrastinating. Don’t stop tomorrow, stop today and understand that anything else you can do today should be done today. 

“Do it today” is the mantra of all truly successful people! So, what are you doing today?