As the summer months approach, we think about lazy days, floating down a river or enjoying time away from the daily grind. There are definitely times to unplug and get away. There is a big difference between spending time away and putting off time to do what is required. Getting away is refreshing. Procrastinating is exhausting.
I am guilty. I procrastinate.
I have put off balancing my checking account and gathering the necessary information for my tax return. For the record, I did file an extension. I have delayed tough conversations. I have sidestepped making career decisions. I even put off writing this blog post. Many of us, it seems, have a certain procrastination gene.
And we are not alone. Many institutions do the same. As a society, we seem to be good at putting a lot of things off. Just look at the stalemates in Congress and how we tend to kick problems down the road for someone else to solve.
Decisions are often tough yet delaying them just makes matters worse. Few delayed necessary decisions lead to better things. Think about it.
- Delayed savings turn into a catch-up mode retirement plan
- Delayed payments turn into large debt burdens
- Delayed focus on vital infrastructure turns into accidents and higher costs of repair
- Delayed balanced fiscal budgets turn into large deficits and big interest payments
- Delayed action on troubled team members turn into a greater HR mess
- Delayed critical team conversations turn into messy internal politics and lower productivity
- Delayed planting of seeds turns into a skimpy harvest
- Delayed voting to the next election turns into unexpected victories or losses
Putting things off creates a burden we carry longer and gets heavier along the way. In other words, procrastinating never makes the action easier.
How can we turn the corner on procrastination?
Starting with ourselves is always a good place to begin. When we set the example of overcoming procrastination, society may begin to change as well. We need to step forward and work through our procrastination. Here are five steps to get started.
Step 1: Take a piece of paper and write down the decisions and actions you have been putting off. Yes, use paper so the list is more tangible, more real. Be completely honest with your list.
Step 2: Rank order them in a priority list. The best way to do this is to rank them in order of difficulty with the most difficult one first. When you address the most difficult one early on, you will feel more empowered to tackle the smaller ones next.
Step 3: Within 24 hours, take the first one on your list and make the decision or take the action. Don’t do it in a lackadaisical way. Do it in a fully engaged way.
Step 4: After completing one, write down what lessons you learned from by doing it. What went well? What didn’t? How did you feel afterwards?
Identify ways to tap into the good feelings of taking an avoided action and focus on gaining this feeling more often. Identify the awkward feelings you might have had and find the best way to release them. I like to walk around the building a few times or go for a run after work. Find what your positive release valve is and use it.
Step 5: Take the next one on your list within 72 hours. And, every month, start at Step 1 again. Timely attention to what you are avoiding will keep your list short. Most importantly, you will be living fully in the present instead of kicking yourself later on for what you intentionally avoided.
Let’s eliminate putting off important things, lighten our burden, and lead in a way that delivers more meaning earlier and more often.
Are you ready to stop putting off? I know I am ready to begin today.
How do you resolve your urge to procrastinate? Let’s share ideas and continue to make timely decisions and take timely actions.
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.