Q: I wonder how anything gets done in the summer. I find that in the other times of year it is pretty easy for me to tackle projects and get stuff done, but once the good weather hits it’s as if a switch in my brain clicks on and momentum clicks off. I wish I could change this pattern but it seems too ingrained.
I have been meaning to answer this question for a while now, but I just haven’t gotten around to it until today.
You bet, procrastination is a problem we all seem to have to one degree or another and I think that’s true now more than ever because we are all so busy these days, there’s so much information and communication available, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Whatever the reason, procrastination is an issue most of us deal with, or, rather, don’t deal with.
On the far end of the spectrum is an artist friend of mine. We were chatting recently and he was bemoaning the fact that a big shipment of his was just returned by the buyer.
“Why did they return it?” I asked.
“I guess it was because I shipped it late,” he said.
“How late?” I asked.
“8 weeks,” he replied.
Now that is taking procrastination to a whole new level, and it does serve as a reminder that failing to get done what we are supposed to do can have some very real, real world consequences. I remember one time I was supposed to get a proposal to someone and by the time I finally sent it a few weeks later, that person was no longer at that position in the company.
Lesson hopefully learned.
So what do we do about not getting things done, about putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today? Here are a few ideas that seem to work (several of which I learned from marketing expert David Ward):
Get into the MIT habit: A MIT is a list of your Most Important Tasks. Each night, make a list for the next day of the two or three most important tasks that you have to get done and then use it to start the next day of work.
By keep the list short and making this a daily habit, it becomes very difficult to procrastinate on any one issue too long.
Calendar deadlines: Another option is to add a deadline to your To Do list and then schedule it in your calendar. Personally, this works very well for me. Looking at your daily schedule and seeing a deadline that you created a few weeks before sort of forces you to take the project (however big or small) seriously.
And remember, your deadline not need be two weeks out. What about giving yourself 48 hours to complete it? Or two hours?
Have someone else do it: If there is consistently a task that you find yourself not doing, then maybe the best option is to not do it since it’s not in your wheelhouse or whatever. In that case, find someone who will do it – a staff member, another committee member, an intern, etc.
Take a look: Often, the reason we put off doing something is not that we are too busy, but rather, that we simply don’t want to do it. The deeper question then is why. Yes, it may be that you just don’t like that task or that you really are too busy, but it also may be that you don’t like that task because of X, Y, or Z. Getting to the bottom of it can help you not repeat the pattern.
Be like Nike: When it’s all said and done, maybe Nike has the right idea.