The title of this blog post comes from a fortune cookie I ate a while ago, and it is a solid reminder to me to live now rather than putting things off until later. How many times this week have you decided to wait to do something? We tend to have excuses for everything whether it be putting off going out to dinner with our friends, waiting until next week to start our new workout regimen, or avoiding pulling those weeds out front. Why is it that we delay acting even if we know the benefits?
The answer to this depends on the task that’s being avoided. Often the reason for the postponement is that the effort is outside of your comfort zone. Of course, you don’t want to do 40 lunges, 40 squats, and 40 push-ups, because that’s way harder than laying on the floor and playing with your dog. In most cases, we’re comfortable being where and who we are, even if there are things we don’t enjoy about the situation. And although we know we would get some benefit and satisfaction from taking action, the effort it takes to complete said action pushes us into our growth zone, and the results may not seem worth the discomfort. So you have to figure out whether the gains from change are worth the effort and how to motivate yourself to take the first step. After looking at the situation again, you may find that things aren’t greener on the other side and decide to continue with the status quo. Make sure this isn’t a fear-based decision!
“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with that quote, and it is by far one of my favorites of all time. So many decisions are overturned because of fear of the unknown or of failure. We can’t even imagine how amazing the world would be if we didn’t let that one emotion hold us back! Unfortunately, fear doesn’t just come in one form. You don’t always have a panic attack when you’re experiencing it, and sometimes you don’t even know when it’s around.
Remember when you got that gym membership at the beginning of the year and you promised yourself that you were going to go regularly and lose those 10 pounds by the time the weather got nice enough to wear shorts? But after the first couple of times, you stopped going. Why? You say it was because you didn’t have the time, but how true is that really? Maybe deep down you were afraid of failing and not being able to reach your goal. Or perhaps subconsciously you didn’t think you looked as good as the other people at the gym and you were worried about what people may think of you. It could be that you’re a little clumsy and you were concerned about tripping while using the treadmill causing people laugh at or judge you. So rather than risk having any of those situations occur, you focus on all of the other things you have to do and claim you don’t have enough time to continue your regular workouts. Although none of those examples use the word “fear,” they are all fear-based and are preventing you from losing those 10 pounds and being more healthier and confident. So take a hard look at what’s actually causing you to avoid certain situations and deal with it head-on.
Waiting isn’t all bad, though! Studies have shown that people who practice delayed gratification are the most successful in many areas of their life - relationships, health, career, etc. Rather than choosing an item that will fulfill your craving immediately, choose something that will help you in the long run. For example, I love sweets after my meals. Regularly I’m craving a giant dessert like a banana split. But I know that if I had one every time I ate, I would definitely be overweight and not reaching my fitness goals. So instead of having a big bowl of ice cream, I do something else that takes my mind off of my craving because I know it’ll go away within 15 minutes. Or I’ll have 2-3 peanut butter M&Ms if the desire for sweets is powerful, to take the edge off.
Procrastination can assist in some situations and can be useful in helping your employees (or kids) be more independent. Say you’re in a meeting and an employee messages you asking a question. Whether you’re screen sharing or just profoundly engaged in the conversation, you are unable to answer the IM at the moment. By the time you respond to them after the meeting, they could have answered their question. Not only does that save you time, but it also helps the employee utilize other resources they have at their fingertips (or find new ones) to help them achieve their goal. Allowing employees to realize their potential in solution-gathering will ultimately help them be more successful as they grow their toolbox and research or networking skills. You can also use this same tactic with your kid who always asks you questions while you’re on the phone. Set up a “no questions while on calls” policy and your child will find what they need while you’re busy if they genuinely need it.
The bottom line is: figure out why you’re procrastinating. If putting off tasks is serving you well, awesome! If it’s preventing you from being or doing what you want, get some help to work through what’s holding you back. Check out my time management presentation for more information on procrastination and other time-saving tips and tricks.