Monday, April 13, 2009

Procrastination - " The Real Villain in Time Management "

Are you always short of time? Do you wish you had more than 24 hours in a day? Well, if you make a list of things which leads to your poor time management, you will find a monster in it - Procrastination!

Procrastination has become one of the biggest challenges for professionals and individuals alike in managing time. The word procrastination comes from the Latin word, ‘Pro’ meaning “in favour of” and ‘Cras’ meaning “tomorrow”. It is defined therefore as “The act or the habit of delaying or putting things off’. No doubt it is a one way ticket to stress, guilt and overwhelm.

Let me share a funny story I read which can be linked with procrastination and it's impact. It's the story of a turtle family. The family consists of Dad, Mom and the Baby turtle. The Baby turtle was very lazy and always postpones anything and everything assigned to him.

One day Mom, Dad and Baby turtle go on a picnic. When they arrive at the park, it appears that it’s about to rain. Mom turtle asks Baby turtle to run home and get an umbrella so that they can enjoy the picnic as planned, rain or shine.
Baby turtle as always said, " No I can't go, why don't you go and get it? ". Dad turtle got annoyed and gives the Baby turtle an angry look. With a pale face Baby turtle finally said, “If I go home and get the umbrella, do you promise you won't start lunch without me?” Mom turtle assures Baby turtle that they will wait for him before eating.
With this confirmation, Baby turtle leaves. Ten minutes go by and Baby turtle has not returned. An hour passes. A full day. Neither Mom or Dad turtle have eaten anything and become very hungry. They wonder what is taking Baby turtle so long, and hope he is okay.

Finally, Mom turtle says to Dad turtle, “Well, he hasn't come back yet. We might as well eat something.” At which point Baby turtle pokes his head out from behind a tree and screams, “If you eat, I won't go! I know you will do this, that's why I was hiding and watching what you will do! ”

Now, I know this is a silly story, but there is some important message in this story. The lesson is in the fact that Baby turtle reminds many of us and our habit of procrastination. His mom told him they would wait for him, but he chose to hide behind a tree and take rest. He wasted everyone’s time, and ruined the picnic that was planned, all because he was lazy and did not take the action required of him.

The question is how can we stop procrastination? If procrastination is a problem for us, it is important that we learn tools to handle our procrastination. Procrastination occurs when we are faced with too many decisions and are unable to complete matters of importance. There are many reasons why we avoid doing things, sometimes it seems strange that, we know what we have to do to be successful but we don't do it.

Mark Twain once said that, if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long! In his best seller book, " Eat That Frog", Brain Tracy talks about several ways to stop procrastination. He says, our " frog " is our biggest, " most important task ", the one we are most likely to procrastinate on if we don't do something about it. It might be the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on our life and results.

Hence the first rule of frog eating is this : if you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first! This is another way of saying that if we have two important tasks before us, start with the biggest, hardest, and most the important one first. The second rule of frog eating is: if we have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn't pay to sit and look at it for very long!

The key to happiness, satisfaction, great success and a wonderful feeling of personal power and effectiveness is for us to develop the habit of eating our frog first thing each day when we start work. Brian Tracy says this is a learnable skill and we can acquire it through practice. According to him here are the great ways to stop procrastinating and get more things done faster :

1. Set the Table : Decide exactly what we want. Write out our goals and objectives before we begin.
2. Plan every day in advance : Think on paper. Every minute we spend in planning can save our five or ten minutes in execution.
3. Apply the 80/20 rule to everything : 20% of our activities will account for 80% of our results. Always concentrate our efforts on that top 20%.
4. Practice creative procrastination : Since we can't do everything, we must learn to deliberately put off those tasks that are of low value so that we have enough time to do the few things that really count.
5. Focus on key result areas : Identify and determine those results that we absolutely, positively have to get to do our job well, and work on all day long.
6. The law of three : Identify the three things we do in our work that account for 90% of our contribution, and focus on getting them done before anything else.
7. Prepare thoroughly before we begin : Have everything we need at hand before we start. Assemble all papers, information, tools, work materials etc. we might require so we can get started and keep going.
8. Take it one oil barrel at a time : We can accomplish the biggest and most complicated job if we just complete it one step at a time.
9. Leverage our key skills : The more knowledgeable and skilled we become at our key tasks, the faster we start them and the sooner we get them done.
10. Identify our key constraints : Determine the bottlenecks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which we achieve our most important goals, and focus on alleviating them.
11. Put the pressure on ourselves : Imagine that we have to leave town for a month, and work as if we had to get all our major tasks completed before we leave.
12. Motivate ourselves into action : Be our own cheer leader. Look for the good in every situation. Focus on solution than problem.
13. Get out of the technological time sinks : Use technology to improve the quality of our communications, but do not allow ourselves to become a slave to it.
14. Slice and dice the task : Break large, complex tasks down into bite-sized pieces, and then do just one small part of the task to get started.
15. Develop a sense of urgency : Make a habit of moving fast on our key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well.
I am sure you must have come across several articles teaching us how to stop procrastination. Sometimes, we follow it, and some other times we loose track after a certain time. It's all about being disciplined and strong willed regarding managing this crucial aspect of our life in an efficient way. The best way to do it is just start the new regime with immediate effect. Once we are successful in overcoming procrastination - " the villain in time management ", we will find more time at our disposal and we will emerge as a winner in every phase of our life.

In the epic " Mahabharatha ", addressing King Yudhishthira, Bhishma said, " the one that provides for the future, and the one who possesses the presence of mind, always enjoys happiness. The man of procrastination, however, is the looser ".

So unlike the Baby turtle, I'm on my way to get that umbrella, and I can't wait to return to a feast with those I love. I better get on it, as they are hungry and waiting on me!

How about you?
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Ways to stop procrastination adapted from: " Eat That Frog " By Brian Tracy


Anonymous said...

good one shamim. The story is simple but powerful message. Your selection of articles are really good. Prcrastination is indeed a monster. Thanks and look forward for next one. Samuel, usa.

Anonymous said...

good one shamim. The story is simple but powerful message. Your selection of articles are really good. Prcrastination is indeed a monster. Thanks and look forward for next one. Samuel, usa.

Anonymous said...

I like your style of writing and your articles are intresting. Keep writing. V. K. Mathur. Delhi

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shamim is a genius. Superb communication skills. God has blessed you with conceiving extra ordinary thiughts fast flowing communication of thoughts and fantastic vocabulary. I keep on enjoying reading your articles.
We are proud to have a Rotarian like you.Rotary has become richer and I wish you write a series of management articles in the monthly Rotary Magazine being published from Chennai.

Anonymous said...

Nice one brother. Will follow what you suggested to stop procrasting. Ranbir singh. Haryana

Anonymous said...

very useful management tips shamim. Let me seek your permission to publish few of your articles in our inhouse magazine. Good luck. Smitha Arora. U. P

Anonymous said...

Dear Smitha, thanks for your feed back. You may use any of my articles. Please do send me a copy of your magazine. Shamim

Anonymous said...

I like your article my friend. Please add me in your follower list.
Thanks- Yu Li - Taiwan

Anonymous said...

visited your blog and all the articles are nice, please update when you post new articles. Mos. South

Anonymous said...

Shamim, good one on time management. I would like to add a few points, though.

A person who procrastinates every job, is simply out of the ambit of this article. It is plain laziness or lethargy. We need a lot more than good articles to motivate him into action.

For ordinary mortals like us, who procrastinate some jobs in between, the procrastination stems from an error of judgement.

When a job is considered simple, we believe we can do it in no time and therefore it is kept for the last moment or tomorrow. When an error of judgement about the time required to complete a job takes place, it becomes a simple job and is kept for the last moment.

For a procrastinator, even the toughest or a maximum time consuming job is a simple one. And therefore he procrastinates. Endlessly.

And, actually when he starts with this job at the last moment, he realises that the job is not all that simple as he thought it would be. That is why he requires more than 24 hours in a day !

Correct assessment of time required to complete each job is a prerequisite to managing time. (Actually this is a misnomer: there is no way we can manage time, since time is finite. What we are actually doing is managing our own self. That is why I call my program Self Manager than Time Manager).

If we allot the real time required for each job more realistically, and then work with a list for the hour or day or week, we will find that we have plenty of time to do all the jobs required. And more, especially time for un-announced visits of our friends in between.

As a person involved with many people and organisations, there is always pressure on my time. But, I always have time for everybody and everything that interests me.

If somebody says he can't do something because he has no time, then, IMHO, it means he is more or less disorganised.

How to stay organised with time is a heavy topic in itself. Perhaps, we will talk about it later. J. Kalassery, Cochin, India.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim

I have posted my comments at 11.26 AM on 14 .04.09


Rtn.K.P Gupta

Shamim Rafeek said...

Dear Rtn.James Kalassery,

Thanks for your valuable comments and I fully agree with your point of view. Procrastination could arise of various reasons and it could happen when: (1)We fear success/failure (2) Our desire isn't strong enough (3)Our Goals/Dreams don't inspire us (4) We loose momentum and motivation (5) We start negative self-talk and beliefs (6) We are overwhelmed with too many options (7) Too many distractions could also cause us to loose focus.
Looking forward for your inputs in future as well.


Anonymous said...

Very good article daddy.samithshamim

Suganya said...

nice tip on time management...

Anonymous said...

nice management tip...