Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Sunday, December 9, 2007



Most of us, are suffering from this evil syndrome called “Procrastination” in our day to day life. It refers to the practice of always delaying what should have been ideally done now. And the victims have more than one reason to justify their decision of delaying,. “I don’t have time” is the most common reason. If there’s something to be done now, the right time for that is “now”. If you delay it even a one second, you are under the influence of Procrastination Syndrome.

I have met many people in my life, who always keep saying things like “Who got time to do all these things?” “I don’t have time” “Oh! You got extra time to chit chat with your friends on Messenger, but I’ve got work to do”

But, actually you’ll realize, at the end of the day those people haven’t completed a single thing, that they are suppose to do within the day. They come up with excuses “Because of task X, I had to delay task Y”. Then you have to ask “So, why haven’t you finished the task X?


The reality is, those people affected by procrastination keep delaying everything, giving one reason after another. At the end of the day, they have not been able to finish at least a thing, which they are supposed to finish. But, all day alone, they have been shouting to others “I’m busy! I don’t have time!
Study them carefully. These are the sad victims of Procrastination Syndrome. I used to be a one. But now I’m recovering, slowly but steadily!! But, I know, I have a long way to reach "full recovery".

Documented Procrastination

How many times you have started planning your day, with a “to do” list posted on your desk? How many times, you were advised by some time management expert, to maintain a planning diary?
If you are like me, I’m sure you would have received such advises once every two months or so, and tried such tactics to better plan the days work.

But, very few people actually end up in adopting it as a routine practice. Why? Because, for some reason, regardless of how organized we are with our “to do” list for the day, we fail to do most of the things written on that list, at least within a week from the originally planned date. Sometimes, we do better when we have no plans at all.

I think, the problem here is with a small psychological thing which goes with this whole concept of “plans”. When we “plan” something, unknowingly to us, our mind start to take the things we planned for granted. “Ah ha! It’s in my plans. I’ll do it”.

But when?

Planning is important. But it’s not important or even useful, as long as it stays as a mere piece of paper (Or a PDF document, for that matter).

But more than the plan itself, the execution of the plan is more important. In management, and in life, people give higher emphasis on plans, than to the execution of those plans. In fact, some people wrongly assume “Management is all about Plans”. Some companies hire “Managers” to create “Plans”. They enjoy, putting up MS Word documents and MS Excel sheets, full of “plans” and then formatting it with different font types, and sometimes with different colors!

In many of our companies, we have plans for almost everything! A plan for next years sales, a plan for employee motivation, a plan for a corporate social responsibility project, a disaster recovery plan (Well you can’t execute it anyway, until you face a disaster), a 5 S plan, a plan for customer acquisition, a plan for change requests, What a waste of papers!!! (Hard Drive space!!!)

Sometimes, plans can be interpreted as “Documented Procrastination”.

So, what’s actually wrong with Plans?

When some one gets heavily focused on plans, he tends to visualize those plans in action, inside his own mind. This state of the mind, will create a self satisfaction in the mind of the planner that “Ah! I have already planned it. I’m a better organized person now” or “Our Company has a plan for that!” That self satisfaction will deteriorate the urgency of putting the plan into action, at the right time. Every time he thinks of the plan; he will say to himself “Oh It’s in the plan. I will not forget it. Will do it later”.

This is where people get it wrong most of the time. Most people tend to think, when put into a plan “it’s done”. But it’s not. You have to make sure it for yourself that it’s actually “finished”. Otherwise, that thing will hang on your desk, in those sticky note pad things, for ever and forever.

But in contrast, if you start putting more weight on the execution part, you are always under pressure to put the plan into action.

Next time when you make a “to do” list, say to yourself that “It’s not a 'DONE' list, until I finish it off my self”. And all the time, include your method of how you going to do it within the day. Not just a couple of words to remind you what to do.

For example instead of writing “XYZ Ltd Invoice” in your to do list, for reminding you about a follow up with your accounts department on settling an invoice of a supplier, write down it as “Call John Doe and remind about XYZ Ltd invoice”. In this case, you know exactly what to do with “XYZ Ltd Invoice”, rather than noting the supplier’s name as a clue.

Two Minutes Theory

A good approach to tackle this problem is the “Two minutes theory”. If the thing that is pending to be done, takes less than 2 minutes to finish, do it now. Don’t delay it even a one second.
It may be an important telephone call to a client, replying to a mail from your boss, replying to a mail from a customer, a follow up call with one of your colleagues from another department, sending a fax to a supplier, checking a quotation and approving it, settling your phone bill through internet banking, doing a Google search about something your kid asked you last night and you promised to teach him/her it tonight; so on and so forth!

There are whole lot of official and personal matters, listed in your “to do” list, which can be finished off within 2 minutes. If you start cleaning those things off, that’s your first step towards fighting procrastination. When you finish those things off, you might be surprised how much extra time you have to do the rest of the work.

Now. Never say again “I don’t have time to do all these stuff!”. We all are born with 24 hours allocation per day. So there’s no reason why Bill Gates can do better than you, in time management.

"Procrastination is 'the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.' "- Wayne Dyer

Want to learn more about Procrastination Syndrome?

http://www.employer-employee.com/procrastination.html

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro02/web1/jmaryasis.html

http://www.whatithinkabout.com/killing-the-procrastination-syndrome/

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