Procrastination A recent consumer report on the amount of time people in Britain wastemakes startling reading. The report indicated that they spend on averageeach week 1 hour, 30 minutes stuck in traffic jams; 36 minutes waiting forpublic transportation; 1 hour, 24 minutes dealing with bureaucracy; 1 hour,12 minutes waiting in line at shops or banks; 1 hour, 24 minutes looking forthings at home; and 1 hour, 18 minutes shopping for things without success.In total, they waste about seven and a half hours each week in the aboveways, which adds up to about two and a half years over the average person’slifetime. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that this informationtook the wind out of my sails. Dr. Piers Steel is known for getting to the heart of the subject ofputting off until tomorrow what should be done today. The Gail KasperConsulting Group revealed a panorama of details in 2002: 40% ofAmericans wait till the last minute to file their taxes. Procrastinating onpayment costs people an average of $400, and makes the country richer byover $473 million in overpayments. The survey also found that 42% ofrespondents delay saving for the future, and 43% put off going to the doctor.“A diversity of other professions follows this idea, that procrastinationbrings untold suffering,” says Steel. How many times have you procrastinated in life, or how many timeshave you flirted with the idea of postponing things that should have beenstarted at the right moment? Without exception, procrastination is a complexpsychological behavior that affects everyone to some degree or another.(Checking e-mail from your friends instead of drafting important officialletters is procrastination.) With some people, procrastination can be a minorproblem; with others, it is a problem for their lifetime. The more weprocrastinate, the bigger the task ahead becomes, and the harder it is to takeaction. The long and short of it is, procrastination impedes your growth inlife. An ancient proverb states: “It is not the size of the tree but the depth ofits roots that make it strong.” Procrastination usually has very deep roots. Now comes the burning question: How is procrastination defined?Procrastination means putting off a task until the eleventh hour. The worditself comes from the Latin word procrastinatus, which means “forward totomorrow.” When you procrastinate, you are caught up in an unclearsituation as to whether you want to progress or stagnate in life. You are
consciously rhapsodizing about the joys of making progress, butsubconsciously you view the matter with a different lens, i.e., wanting tostay in the same place. From a subconscious point of view, you arepreventing yourself from taking steps that you know you should take toachieve the outcomes you desire consciously. Procrastination is anunintelligent method of hoodwinking ourselves. It is a common timemanagement problem. Some folks slip into the “procrastination mode” intheir professional lives, while others do it in their personal relationships. Theannoying thing about procrastination is that even though you are well awareof your goals and the steps necessary to achieve them, you still remainlackadaisical and helpless. Even in ancient Rome, procrastination was disparaged: The greatstatesman Cicero, in one of his philippics attacking his rival Mark Antony,harangued that “in the conduct of almost every affair slowness andprocrastination are hateful.” The student population has a hard time dealing with procrastination.They consider it as the killer of dreams, ambitions, and achievement. Astudy by Fuschia Sirois and Timothy Pychyl shows that students whoprocrastinate in their schoolwork are more likely to have health problems,such as suffering from insomnia, and issues related to diet and exercise. As alarger problem, many students have committed suicide because theyreceived low grades or failed exams on account of their procrastination. Thisexposes the dark underbelly of academic procrastination. At the surface level, procrastination may appear as an ordinary,harmless thing. But there is more than meets the eye. If truth be told, it is ahazardous, life-threatening addiction. It is more difficult to put the kibosh onprocrastinating than to relinquish boozing, binge eating, smoking, and takingdrugs (not in that order). The dominance of procrastination Sixty percent of people surveyed claim to be moderate procrastinators. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed indicate that they procrastinateoccasionally.
Forty percent of people have experienced some form of loss due toprocrastination. Just over twenty-five percent of people engage in debilitatingprocrastination. Talking about time management, Douglas Adams, a British writer(who passed away in 2001), was just beating a dead horse. He had a hugeloyalty to procrastination to the extent that he could not complete writing abook despite having spent a decade on it. He never said, “I’d better get towork, I have got a lot to do today.” Adams, whose works include TheHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was a poster boy for procrastinatorseverywhere. “I love deadlines,” he once said. “I like the whooshing soundthey make as they fly by.” Admonition: Start. Continue. Finish. Basketball luminary I have always been a huge admirer of Michael Jordan. He facedcrushing failures with a smile and transformed the raw material of them intohis success. Admittedly, he is a veteran of failures. If you do not concur withme, then read the following quote: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lostalmost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. And I have failed over and over and over againin my life. And that is precisely why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan Never allow procrastination to block you from ambitiously pursuingyour goals. You may go through a huge ordeal in your quest for success, butI never said it would be an easy journey. Muster the courage. Believe in can-do-ism. William James said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging onof an uncompleted task.” How true!
Words to forget (1 ) If only (2 ) I’ll try (3 ) Could have (4 ) I can’t (5 ) Should have (6 ) Yes, but Earth-shattering revelation Psychologist William Knaus, who has written several self-helpbooks on fighting procrastination, mentioned one businessman who spent 40hours of delay time to avoid five minutes of work. Wonder how much losshe incurred in his business! Being purposeless, visionless, and directionless can sound the death knellfor your forward-looking journey Once a young man finished his degree in astronomical engineering at theUniversity of Arizona and decided to board a train, with no set destination,to look for a job. He entered a local railway station, approached the ticketcounter, and asked the person at the counter for a train ticket. Thecounterperson enquired, “Specify your destination.” The youngsterremarked, “I don’t have a clue. Simply give me a ticket to anywhere.” Heended up crashing in different places. In the above case, the young man only knew the starting point of hisjourney but not the end destination. Bear in mind that the journey is moreenjoyable and can conclude in the shortest time span, provided you knowwhere you are going. This is the advantage of having an ambition and clarityabout your future direction. The trappings of a procrastinator – (1) Allowing the less significant tasks to get in the way of the most important ones.
(2) “Vegging out” for long periods of time. (3) A minuscule piece of work snowballs into a titanic task. (4) Heartbreak due to unfulfilled commitments. (5) “Today” and “now” are not part of his lexicon. Procrastinator at work (1) He has a messy workspace. (2) His “To Do” list balloons in no time. (3) He always loafs around and cannot finish his work before the deadline. (4) He is bugged by reminders from his boss. (5) His inbox is inundated with important official emails that he hasn’t checked. (6) He is under constant pressure, and is apparently racing against time. Baptism of fire Jace was given a maiden, gazillion-dollar project to be completed ineight weeks. He thought, “Eight weeks, that’s plenty of time,” so he threw itin a drawer. A few weeks later, he looked at it again. “Lots of time for this,”he thought, and tossed it back in the drawer. In the seventh week, Jace’s bossheld a review meeting. He took a potshot at Jace: “What on earth were youdoing all this time?” Jace manufactured excuses and inveigled his boss intoextending the deadline by another 15 days. Jace worked away for hours buteventually fell short in his project. The boss couldn’t condone Jace’s attitudetoward his work, and cut him loose. (Jace sent a groveling letter ofatonement to his boss, but it didn’t work at all.) This was a major blow toJace’s career as he lost a “plum job.”
Now is the right time, not tomorrow. If you keep on accumulatingtoday’s work for tomorrow, when will you do tomorrow’s work? Please dotoday’s work today, so you can do tomorrow’s work tomorrow. W. ClementStone, who built an insurance empire worth millions of dollars, made all hisemployees recite the phrase, “Do it now!” again and again at the start ofeach workday. What did I learn from a horse race? In a horse race, the first horse may earn a $60,000 purse, and thesecond horse may earn a $30,000 purse. The first horse gets twice as muchmoney as the second horse. This was not because it ran twice as far or twiceas fast, but because it was only a “nose ahead” of the competition. Effectiveutilization of your time helps you to remain one step ahead of yourcontenders. Who would not want to occupy the highest position in hisprofession? Unquestionably, everyone would! Types of procrastinators (1) Thrill seekers: They kid themselves into believing that they work well in pressure-cooker situations. (2) Avoiders: They avoid dreary tasks. They find it absolute drudgery to get started on them. (3) Perfectionists: They keep redoing the same tasks to reach the “picture-perfect” level. There is always an “I could have done better” aspect to their thinking. (4) Overdoers: They deplete their physical and mental energies by handling multiple tasks at the same time. By multitasking, they don’t focus on their priorities. They have difficulty saying “No.” (5) Worriers: They fear, “What if things do not go my way?” They are always sensing dreaded things. They are branded as compulsive negative thinkers.
(6) Dreamers: Their minds are filled with ideas that can “move” the world, but they avoid putting them into action (no convergence of ideas and actions). “Forming a mental picture” is their forte. Alas! This alone won’t help much. Costly outcome from procrastination A trauma surgeon at Hamilton Health Science Center (HHSC), Dr. “Xavier,” was at home at 2:30 p.m. when he got the call: “Hurry up doc! A profoundly hypothermic teen has arrived. Gone into cardiac arrest during intubation. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation started.” The doctor, instead of rushing to HHSC (just a 5-minute drive from his house), delayed his arrival by one hour, and by the time he got there, the patient had breathed his last breath. This lax action from the doctor forced him to cough up around $2 million as remuneration—a ballpark figure. As a larger issue, people lost their good feeling about HHSC (in general) and the doctor (in particular). Excuses made by a procrastinator (1) This task is too difficult to get started. (2) I can relax a bit today and get things moving tomorrow. (3) The world will not come crashing down on me, if I do not do the job. (4) I’ll wait for suitable opportunities to come my way. (5) I have got plenty of time to do the work.Replace the above “Excuses” with the following “Success” statements. (1) I am a person of action. (2) I get into the work mode right away and slog through it tirelessly. (3) I am full of energy to do tasks.
(4) I am lively, determined, and motivated. (5) I take action now. Benjamin Franklin—Workaholic of the first order Benjamin Franklin was born in poverty and obscurity, but he became one ofthe most important founding fathers of the United States. He inspired me tobe like a clock (i.e., I always keep on “ticking” by involving myself invarious things and soaking up new skills like a sponge). Success comes topeople who work like ants. Those who amble along the beach find conchesand shells, but those who dare to venture into the depths of the oceandiscover precious pearls. Work—The cure for procrastination Jabari assigned the manuscript of his second book to an editor and toldhim to finish the editing by a specified deadline. The editor mothballed theproject in the hope that “someday” he would attend to it. Well, this isnothing but “protracted inertia.” Time flew by, and the manuscript remainedunedited. Upon realizing his lack of time, the editor at last stepped on thegas and compromised on the quality of his efforts. This example clearly tellsus that if you increase the proportion of a situation beyond its normal limits,it becomes the size of a mountain, which would have been a molehill in thefirst place. A nugget of truth: No one will come and do the work for you.You have to push yourself, get the ball rolling, and finish the task. Inaction = Desperation and frustration. Sample weekly list of to-do workSunday – Go to the supermarket.Monday – Reorganize the office, which has several layers of dirt and dust.Tuesday – Pay bills.
Wednesday – Return books to the library.Thursday – Write notes to friends. Note: For decades, a growing network ofscrapbookers in America has refined and updated English commonplacebooks and turned scrapbooking into a folk art.Friday – Online buying and selling (through eBay, a major auction serviceon the Web. Millions of items are offered, and billions of dollars worth ofmerchandise are sold every year through this service.).Saturday – Wash car Work does not burden our mind. It’s the worry that weakens us. Andthe worry would vanish if we worked as hard as possible and carried themomentum forward. Utilization of time or lack of it All these years, I wondered how come some people have that “Midastouch” and others are coasting through their lives. It was a mystery to me.Not anymore, as I have discerned that the key to their success, more thananything else, is effective time management. They know when to work, andhow much work is too much in a day. They believe in putting quality hoursinto their work. This way, they work efficiently. People who spend time oninconsequential matters have little time left for important activities. Theirgoals are hindered by time constraints. As a result, they are tut-tutting. Manypeople have failed not in defaulting on their ability but rather by theirunderutilization of time. So wrote Chesterton, “How true, how true.” Time-wasters Paola has placed a moratorium on her cooking so as to catch up with herfavorite television series. She parked herself in front of the television andstayed there all afternoon, not preparing any dishes for lunch or dinner. It issafe to make a hypothesis that: A person becomes stymied by a timewaster(s). By the way, a time waster is a person who intrudes into anotherperson’s life. You can identify and sort out time wasters by carrying out thefollowing exercise –
Name of the activity Number of hours spent on an activity i n a d ay Sleeping --- --- --- --- Eating ------------ Commuting ------------ Running errands ------------ Studying ------------ Working ------------ Relaxing ------------ Annotation: I want to acknowledge that we have 168 hours at ourdisposal, of which 56 hours are spent sleeping and 50 hours working;therefore, 62 hours per week are still unaccounted for. 62 hours per week equal 3,224 hours per year. 3,224 hours per year equal 134 days. 134 days of the year equal 37% of the year available. More than half your time is spent working and sleeping, but that stillleaves you with large chunks of time to do something different. Managing your time requires an understanding of where your time isgoing and how to outline your priorities and define a time schedule and plan,even if it means changing some of your behaviors and monitoring theresults. List of time-wasting activities (1) Daydreaming (2) Not setting priorities right (3) Drop-in visitors (4) Failure to delegate (5) Postponing decisions
(6) Messy environment (7) Attempting to do too much at once (8) Telephone interruptions (9) Menial tasks (10) Scattered mind When I saw the area where I grew up becoming modernized andgentrified, I realized that time never stays still. Time belongs to the categoryof air, water, and food. Think about it. How long can we survive without air?At the most, 3 minutes. How long can we survive without water? For about2 weeks, depending on atmospheric temperatures. How long can we survivewithout food? For about a month. Now, answer this tricky question, “Howlong can we live without time?” The answer is—we can’t. Death cannot beavoided. We cannot rebel at God’s calling us. Nothing is in our hands. Time is a fascinating thing. We cannot touch it, feel it, smell it, or tasteit, yet it is there, in the back of our minds. When people are young andlissome, time is never a factor. Young people are brash and feel they haveplenty of time in their pockets. The old and infirm are the most susceptibleto worrying about time. “When my time will be up?” is always on their lips.Stand-up comedians even use old people as the subjects of their dark humor(blame it on their warped minds). I call stand-up comedians “transmissionspecialists”: They can make something, they can fix something. Conclusion People who have the proclivity to dawdle will never rise above thelevel of mediocrity. A last-minute rush leads to a weak performance.Procrastination is dangerous territory. It is a never-ending fight between youand time. What is worse is that by procrastinating, you not only lose time butit also affects all other spheres of your life. That is why it is often said thatprocrastination is not only the thief of time but also the thief of life. Goodnews:- People are not born procrastinators. Incidentally, there is noprocrastination gene in the body. Surely the habit of procrastination can be
broken. Follow my blue-chip advice: Become determined, put in effort as ifthere is no tomorrow and reach the dizzying heights of your life.