Any serious discussion of time management includes an examination of procrastination. It’s a growing problem. In 1978, 5% of the population plead guilty to “chronic procrastination.” By 2007, that number rose to 26%. But does eliminating procrastination always go hand-in-hand with increasing productivity?
In this post, you’ll learn that not all procrastination is bad. Let’s take a look at how three mythical characters approach this age-old problem.
“Why put off to tomorrow what you can put off to next week?” is his motto. As a student, Papa Bear pulled many all-nighters as he threw together term papers and crammed for tests. In the office, he is still working on his presentation as colleagues are filing into the board room.
“I work better under pressure” is the dirty little lie he keeps telling himself. Ask Papa Bear’s coworkers and they will tell you he’s bright but his work is always so-so. How can Papa Bear kick the procrastination habit?
- Identify the small steps. Doing what’s easy is human nature. We tackle the low-hanging fruit and procrastinate on what seems complex. So, the trick is to make the complex project easy. Making that one phone call or performing that one online search can be enough to get the ball rolling. Have you experienced this phenomenon? Once you get started, you want to keep going.
- Compose tomorrow’s to-do list tonight. Take whatever you’ve been putting off and place it at the top of the list. Place any paperwork related to it in the middle of your desk.
- Remind yourself why the thing you have been putting off is important. How will life be better when it’s done?
As a student, when the teacher assigned a term paper, she was off to the library that same day. Within a week, the paper is done. Then, the teacher changed the requirements. Mama Bear winds up re-doing much of the work.
In her career, Mama Bear finishes projects well ahead of the deadline. Later, great ideas come to mind that she wishes she had included. She was so focused on getting on to the next thing, Mama Bear never did a quality job on the present work.
Baby Bear understands that good ideas occur at the most unlikely moments. Time is his friend. He wants to know the deadline and strives to complete his project with room to spare. He leaves a cushion in case problems arise or unexpected opportunities present themselves.
But Baby Bear also knows that ideas need time to mature. He knows that his brain’s “reticular activating system” acts like a filter. It seems everywhere he sees new information that feeds his project. Television, podcasts, conversations, magazines…they all seem to be talking about his project. When it’s time to put the project together, he has a boatload of great material.
If you want to be more like Baby Bear, here’s your starter list:
- Put the project on your to do list along with the deadline. When you see all the commitments in one place, you have a better idea how to plan your days.
- Figure out how much time is available and spread out the work. Allows the project to evolve and realizes the requirements may change midstream.
- Have a tool that allows you to trap good ideas as they appear. Whether it’s a pocket notepad, a notebook, or a smartphone, you only have to look one place to find information.
For more on this theme, read “How Procrastination Makes You More Productive.”
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