It is January...a new year...time to get things done...
Unfortunately, getting things done is really hard...so we tend to procrastinate.
Procrastination didn’t make the list of Dante’s famous seven (sloth, greed, envy, lust, gluttony, anger, and pride), but maybe it should. It robs us of our most valuable asset...time.
There are two very different sides of the procrastination coin.
Most people associate procrastination with putting something off, never starting or delaying a project. We fill our time with otherwise meaningless or relatively unimportant tasks rather than spending our time doing important things that we know that we should be doing.
The second, less obvious, definition of procrastination is never finishing a project, task, or goal due to filling our time with too many seemingly important things. We simply try to do too much and never get anything accomplished. Everything is important...but we try to do them all at once. We call this "juggling" or "multi-tasking".
Myself, I tend to think of myself as a doer. Delaying the start of a project is simply not in my DNA. So my biggest challenge in getting things done doesn’t lie in not starting projects but rather starting too many projects.
I truly have a problem saying "no" and end up taking on more than I can possibly do. Over-promising and under-delivering is a recipe for disappointment and disillusionment.
At the end of each day I typically create a new "to do" list that I leave on my desk for the following morning. I note those items which are the most important and/or urgent and tell myself that I will complete those select items first thing the following day.
When I arrive at the office in the morning, I review my list and begin the project I have deemed the most important.
Today it happens to be a marketing project that is a week behind schedule.
I open the project on my desktop computer and review where I’m at...well that is until my phone rings two minutes later...
"Hi Jim...this is Bob from Zephyr Widgets...did you get that new data sheet for me ...I’m heading into a meeting with our engineering team in one hour...you told me that you’d have it to me today...is it ready yet?"
I look down at my "to do" list..."new data sheet for Bob" - item number 5. I was planning on doing it later this morning but now there’s urgency...he’s going into a meeting with the engineer in an hour...I need to get it to him right away!
So I head down to Carol’s office to see if she’s completed the new data sheet. She explains that she was trying to get it finished but that she was having a problem logging onto the server.
"Can you please look at my computer and see if you can get it to work?", she said exasperated.
I sit down at her desk to begin some simple diagnostics and after 15 minutes I find the root of the problem and fix her machine. As I leave her office, she reminds me that I need to finish reviewing the new reports that she e-mailed to me two days ago and that our sales commissions wouldn’t get paid on time if I waited any longer.
I tell her that it’s on my list and that I’ll try to have it completed by lunch.
As I head back to my office, my general manager, Lourdes, calls out to me as I pass her office, "We just got notice that the parts we were waiting for are now in customs, did you complete that "power of attorney" paperwork for our customs broker yet?"
"No", I replied, "but it’s on my list...I’ll get it finished by the end of the day".
"The end of the day?!!...our customer has been waiting for two weeks for these parts...you need to finish it and e-mail it back to me right now!".
"Ok ok...I’ll do it right now".
As I arrive back at my desk to begin the customs paperwork, the phone rings.
"Hi Jim, this is Vince...I’ve got John and Susie here with me...we just had a chance to go over your proposal but we wanted to clarify a few things before we sign it and send it back to you...do you have two minutes to talk with us?"
"Um...sure", I replied into the phone, "I guess I can spare a few minutes since you’re all together".
Twenty minutes later, I’m still on the phone trying desperately to find a way to eloquently excuse myself from the impromptu conference call.
While I’m on the conference call, Duane, our inside sales rep, comes into my office and lays a note on my desk. It seems that one of our customers is unhappy about a cosmetic change we made to a part that they’re using. They want me to call them back right away to resolve the issue.
...and so it goes...
At the end of the day...I sat down to rewrite my "to do" list for the next day...I scratched off 14 things that I finished that day but ended up adding 16 new items ...I wasn’t able to devote more than 10 minutes to that important marketing project that I had intended to complete that day...it simply got pushed aside for more urgent and/or important matters...I tell myself that I’ll get it done tomorrow for sure.
I console myself a bit by rationalizing that I’d get some "quiet time" this weekend to "catch-up"...that is if I can rearrange some activities that I already had planned for Saturday and Sunday. In truth...I don’t think I’ll ever "catch-up".
Such is the case of running a small business...or a family...or a sales territory...or design team...
There is never enough time to do everything on the list...but everything on the list is important in its own way...all we do is put off one item of importance for another of similar importance...it becomes one emergency after another.
We need to just put one foot in front of the other as we travel down our own paths...at our own speed...just hoping that we don’t stumble or get lost along the way...
Life can be overwhelming at times...it’s no wonder we procrastinate...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we try hard to make time for the important stuff.
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