Benjamin Franklin, who knew how to conquer procrastination as well as anyone, said that “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” How do you plan your work? And if you don’t plan, how do you know if you’re reaching your goals? It’s time to find out.
Make a list of everything you’ve been putting off at work. Not just the big things, but all the little things, too. Make another list of everything you’ve been putting off at home-large tasks and small ones. If you can’t think of anything right away, walk around the house. Walk through the yard. It won’t be hard to fill a page with projects that have been talked about, but not carried out.
Make another list of things you’ve neglected to do in the area of your personal relationships. That includes letters, emails, phone calls, visits, family trips, and vacations. Then make a list of all the things you’ve put off doing for yourself-a class you want to take, an exercise program you know you should start, or a bad habit you know you should eliminate.
Don’t worry about priorities. Just get the juices flowing and write down everything that comes into your head. It may be hard to get started, but once you start the ideas will come more easily. Keep writing them down; you’ll be amazed at how one thought triggers the next. Words will start to flow onto your paper or computer screen.
Now let me explain why I asked you to do this exercise. First, you’ve probably been putting off more things than you realized. That’s the first step toward defeating procrastination-recognizing it as a problem. Procrastinators go to ridiculous extremes to explain their inability to take action. Accepting the truth that procrastination is a problem is the first step toward overcoming it.
Second, I hope this exercise has taught you the importance of getting started. The failure to take action breeds doubt, doubt gnaws at your self-confidence and your diminished self-confidence increases your indecision. The result is paralysis-and the vicious circle of inactivity keeps turning. After you recognize that procrastination is a problem, the next step is to focus on one thing you’ve been postponing. Take one thing you’ve been putting off and make something happen. You started your list with one thing; it led to another. Take one action and that action will trigger another.
Ask yourself how much time you waste in a day. Keep a log of how you spend your time. How do you plan your work to ensure that deadlines are met? Always ask yourself if the work needs to be done at all. According to research findings, we spend as much as 80% of our time on tasks that do not contribute to the success of our projects-many people load themselves down with work that is unnecessary, or that could be justifiably postponed. Learn what all successful people know: If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.
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