At the beginning of this year 2017, I was exposed to the process of self-assessment to identify areas for growth. One of the areas, I clearly needed to address sooner than later was regarding the issue of procrastination. Wikipedia defines procrastination as the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.
The effects of this grave sin have manifested in different forms in my life. Countless times I have lost opportunities due to missed or forgotten deadlines, poor time keeping and disrupting other people’s schedules, a few missed flights, poor or delayed communication regarding an important project, poor resource management, loss of income, poor health, among others.
Aware of the negative effects of procrastination, I set out to deal with this issue once and for all. I began with an honest self-examination of the root causes. A review of my weekly to –do list clearly revealed that my goals can sometimes be very unrealistic. The superwoman syndrome of wanting to do all and end up doing nothing. Not only was I setting ambitious goals, but they were equally too big and intimidating. I could add that they were equally not well thought out and planned. It is not enough to just merely write out what one was going to accomplish without thinking through the how.
For instance, one of my goals at the beginning of the quarter was to raise substantial funds for the organization that I work for. Unfortunately, I did not break it down into details. Actually, it was not clear at all how I would go about fulfilling this goal. What exactly would it take? Would that require writing 10, 5, or 2 proposals? Schmoozing with 10, 5, 3 potential funders, or enhancing the brand and visibility of the organization.
John Maxwell in his 15 invaluable laws of growth illuminates on the law of design as one of the ways to maximize growth. He asserts that more accomplishments in life come more easily if we approach them strategically. Rarely does a haphazard approach to anything succeed. What has been lacking in my case is a failure to develop a system that supports me to address my key tasks in time.
For those who could be struggling with beating procrastination, the first step is to become self-aware of the root causes. Further, we need to develop systems that will help one to become more organized in scheduling and setting priorities. Equally important is to learn from the past failures and design strategies to deal with barriers to personal effectiveness.
At a personal level, I have made a pact with myself that the issue of procrastination must be dealt with decisively. For starters, I am adopting simple systems like setting weekly goals on the first day of the week to offer a minimum agenda. Of course, procrastination will definitely not change in a few days, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with but one.