“How long has the first Thursday of September been on the calendar?” I ask.
“A very long time,” my inner voice whispered.
I probed further, “And how long has the First Thursday Next Level Leadership Lunch been on the calendar?”
Without judgment, the truthful answer comes out, “Eight months.”
Relentlessly, the reflective exercise continued, “And when did you send the reminder?”
With no place to hide, “Less than a week in advance … it was emailed on Friday … Yes, the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend and short work week.”
Looking at the response and wanting an easy out, I wrestled with the question, “Should I just cancel lunch?”
How did procrastination start?
Procrastination is not some new practice of busy people. The noun came into use in the 1540s and simply put, it is “a putting off from day to day.” When you delayed taking the next step on that important matter, you procrastinated.
In Stephen Covey’s model (Habit 3: Put First Things First) we procrastinate when we give attention to the “Not Important/Not Urgent” or “Not Important/Urgent” activities. For example most interruptions, some phone calls, text messages, email, some meetings, popular activities (social media…?) or fun activities.
An article in the Journal of Educational Psychology suggests three criteria that make behavior procrastination. To evaluate, ask yourself, “are my actions: Counterproductive? Needless? Delaying?”
What drives procrastination?
In a recent TIME magazine article, Dr. Sebastian Bailey offers five reasons why we say “tomorrow” to important matters.
This comes from an overly strong sense of self-confidence. It can appear as laziness or general lack of concern.
“It’s easy to do so I’ll fit it in later.”
2. Avoiding discomfort
Focus is placed on the unpleasantness of an activity, particularly compared to a more favorable activity.
“I’d much rather do something easier instead.”
3. Fear of failure
When the fear of not succeeding inhibits you from moving forward.
4. Emotional state
When you’re too tired, too hungry, too stressed to get anything productive done.
“I’m just not in the mood to do this right now.”
5. Action illusion
Where you feel like you’re doing all the right things, but no real progress has been made. This could mean when the project gets behind, the plan gets updated, but no progress is actually made.
“I’m so busy…”
Understanding why we do something can help us change the behavior.
How to move into action
Take your journal and work through these three steps to conquer the quicksand of procrastination.
1) Identify what you are putting off, write it down
2) Consider your story
- What do you know about your behavior or personality style that supports this habit?
- What will the delay cost you if you continue to delay?
- What will you gain when you take action today?
3) Recruit support
- Commit just five minutes to get started and watch what happens
- What’s your reward for movement?
- Who will you tell about your action plan for accountability?
My Victory over Procrastination
My procrastination had arisen from my fear of a less than impressive group. Then I thought about what the people in that group and I would gain from our time together. I immediately told Rita about my plan and began making preparations…
The Next Level Leaders Lunch gathered around a much smaller table at Charleston’s on September 4th. But the depth of connection and leadership development remained significant.
So, which of the five drivers do you most identify with?
Now, when will you take the 3 steps to gain traction and get moving?
Here’s to Creating Space,