Positive Path Recommended Reading

Procrastinate! – Who, Me?
By Robyn Pearce

I regularly ask participants at seminars and workshops what their big issues are, and procrastination always rears its ugly head. But – is it always ugly? Did you know there’s such a thing as creative procrastination?

In this issue let’s poke a stick at the topic, and see if we can’t find some new angles. (They’re excerpts from my latest book ‘About Time – 120 tips for those with no time’)

Procrastination is not the key problem with time management. The key problem is lack of clarity about what's important.

Have you got a clear idea of exactly everything you want to achieve in your life for the next 12 months? If so, is it written down? I ask this question of most of the groups I work with, and typically about 5% of the room will have any written goals. (Maybe that's why they're with me!)

Think of it this way. Picture a very rainy day and a house with blocked guttering. It's a while since anyone cleared the sticks and twigs in the spouting. Therefore it can't cope with the deluge and water is everywhere - spilling over the gutters, flooding the paths and gardens. However, if someone were to clear the blockage in the guttering, very quickly the water would drain away.

I see our brain working the same way. So often our minds feel overwhelmed with too many choices. It's as if we're punching cotton wool. Result - overload, confusion, lack of focus, no clarity and indecision. Our mental drains are blocked. The fastest way to unblock them is to pick up a writing stick, (otherwise known as a pen or your fast-flashing keyboard fingers) and jot down everything currently rattling around in that neck-top computer of yours. As soon as things are down on paper (or the electronic equivalent) the flood of ideas is channeled and easy to manage. There is an immediate reduction of pressure (stress) and we're in control.

People are usually reasonable at doing planning the small things in life. How silly not to do it with the things that really matter. Otherwise we may wake up when we're old, going "I wish I'd done….". Bit late then, my friend.

So, what excuse have you got now? Get to it - it'll only take you about 20- 30 minutes to write down what you'd like to achieve, in all areas of your life, for the next 12 months. Be spontaneous, go with the top-of-mind ideas, and have fun. Try these headings - they cover everything - Self, Well-Being and Spirituality, Business and Career, Home and Family, Community and Humanity.

‘OK’, you say, ‘it’s not to do with planning and goals – I really get stuck’. Try these next two tips.

Eat your vegetables first! Do the hard thing first and the rest is a breeze.

Ever procrastinated on something, even though you know it's important? By doing the most important thing, or sometimes the hardest thing, first thing in the day, we experience more job satisfaction, less stress, and do a better job.

Think of the last time you dragged the chain on a tricky task, put off something unpleasant, deferred deadlines, used side-stepping avoidance techniques that would make a football player envious?

How did you feel? Heavy, lethargic, guilty sometimes, generally less than top class?

And conversely, ever noticed the rush of adrenalin when you finally tackle a task that's been hanging over your head for ages?

Learn to actively seek the feelings of success by taking action quickly. It releases endorphins: they make us feel more energetic and able to move faster, and we actually get more done.

Beware of majoring in minor things

The easy tasks can very easily seduce us into wasting time. I guess this phrase is a new take on 'fiddling while Rome burns'.

Sometimes we find ourselves doing low priority low value activities just to have a break. Or we've moved up the ladder of our industry but enjoy doing some of these routine activities, and don't really want to let go. Or, it may be that we haven't yet learnt how to delegate and train effectively.

Ask yourself, 'What hourly rate is this work worth?' If it's worth less than the rate you're earning, or can earn, look for ways to outsource or delegate it. Whilst you do work that's worth a lesser amount, you're effectively earning that lower figure (or you're a very expensive resource to your organisation).

However, you also need to be aware of the benefits that you gain by involvement in the activity in question, and find other ways to get those benefits.

The CEO of a middle-sized company enjoys helping to load the trucks at the factory door from time to time. He learns all kinds of useful information. The downside is that he's working ridiculous hours to get his 'real' work done. He needs to decide which activities are the ones only he can do, and how else he can receive efficiently the information he wants. It may be that a truck-loading session still occurs from time to time, but he gets more help with executive tasks.

Only the person in that position can assess the pros and cons. The answer may not be simple, but it is waiting to be discovered.

So, what was this creative procrastination I mentioned, you may be wondering?

Enjoy creative procrastination. Put off until tomorrow that which won't advance your life plan by being done today. Give yourself the gift of prime time to do whatever you like, including doing nothing - if that's your choice.

Procrastination is not all bad - there's good procrastination as well! Learn to focus on the activities that lead you toward your goals and block out or procrastinate on the trivial, time-consuming minutiae. 'Stuff' (great word) is never going to go away.

My friend Mary Henderson, who with her husband Tony heads an enormous network marketing company, says, 'Will it make a difference in 5 years' time?' If it won't, she doesn't let the 'busy work' get in the way of enjoying life, family and friends. This has been Mary's philosophy right from the early days of her business, and a key part of her success.

Work the 80/20 rule to your advantage. After all, Pareto said that 20% of our activity would generate 80% of our results, and conversely 80% of our activity would only generate 20% of the results. Next time you think of keeping going, when your intuition tells you its time to stop, think to yourself, 'What's important here?'

And what about this 'doing nothing' idea? Well-balanced people with healthy relationships and family lives know that time for themselves is also important, and just as vital as working productively and spending time with others. It's not selfish to give yourself quality time. In fact, I believe it is selfish not to, for someone who never takes time to recharge ceases to be effective in their other responsibilities.

About the author: Time Management specialist Robyn Pearce is the Managing Director of TimeLogic Corporation, an international productivity consulting company, who also run top quality time management programmes. Robyn can be contacted by email at: robyn@gettingagripontime.com. And don’t forget to check out all the help available on the company website – you’ll find all manner of useful resources there.

To purchase Robyn’s book ‘About Time – 120 tips for those with no time’, or best-selling 'Getting a grip on time', now in its 6th reprint, order online at: www.gettingagripontime.com

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