Monday, April 23, 2007

Procrastination Killer

Success University sent me this amazing series of articles on procrastination. I am posting them here as procrastination can be the biggest business killer!

Jim Rohn's Sixth Pillar of Success: Time Management
Part Three - Breaking Through Barriers

Hello, this is Jim Rohn. This month we have focused on the topic of Time Management:

1. Developing a Philosophy of Time Management - Establishing your priorities and values. As important as the "how's" are, the "why's" are first and foremost. Because here's what's interesting, the "why's" are the force that pull us towards our dreams and that in turn determines the "how's". So first we will take a look at the philosophy of time management, and then how to determine our priorities based on the values that we believe in and hold in the highest place. We discussed these things two weeks ago.

2. Creating a Proactive Schedule - Allocating time based on your unique priorities and values. Once you know why you are managing your time and know the priorities and values you strive for, then it is important to understand where you currently spend your time and how to strategically budget for maximum performance. You see, something will always master and something will always serve. Either you run the day or it runs you. We took a deeper look into this aspect of time management in last week's edition.

3. Breaking Through Barriers - Eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination. Many folks know what to do, but it is often the things we shouldn't spend our time on that get us off track. And here's what we need to be watchful of:
don't mistake movement for achievement. It's easy to get faked out by being busy, but the key question is: Busy doing what? This week we will look at how to overcome procrastination and eliminate time wasters.

4. How to Gain More Time - We'll talk about time management pointers on how to add 1-2 hours a day through delegating, skill improvement, multi-tasking and improved focus. These are things that anyone can do to add more time to their day.

Yes, there are only 24 hours in each day, but we can maximize those hours by working "smarter" rather than longer, and employing other skills along with our time management. We will look at these ideas next week.

This week our focus is on eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination. Before we get started I just want to say that I hope you are making strides in developing and implementing your philosophy of time management as well as setting your priorities. You have also had a week to take an inventory of your time usage and begin working on budgeting your time. This should be proceeding nicely for you. Keep working on your time budgeting skills; it may not come overnight, but if you work on it--and yourself--you will get your life under control and see a whole new world open up.

With that being said, let's move on to this week's topic of eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination.

The key to all time management is to stay focused, have a plan based on priorities and actively follow that plan. If you do these three things, you will have your time--and your life--under control and moving along the way you would like it to.

But...just like every now and then when you are driving along and various things can slow you down, sidetrack, or distract you, there are many things that can do the same thing in regard to your time management. Have you ever been driving down the road when you come across a detour because of road work? Or maybe you see a store you would like to stop at... even though you have somewhere to go?

Managing our time is much like that. There we are, managing our time, knowing where we are going because we have our priorities set, and then a "time waster" presents itself. Or we waste time because we simply procrastinate. Either way, the same result happens--we don't get where we want to go.

So let's take a look at the issue of time wasters first, and then at the idea of procrastination.

What are time wasters? You may think they are obvious, but this isn't necessarily true. Time wasters are anything that keep you from accomplishing the proper use of your time based on your priorities and values.

Believe it or not, time wasters can be "good things". Now I don't mean they are good for you, but that they may masquerade as something "good". You may be able to look at them in a vacuum and say that the things you are spending your time on are inherently good... that is until you weigh them against your priority list. Then it becomes clear that these "good" things are actually "time wasters".

Time wasters fall into two primary categories: The urgent and the pleasurable.

The urgent: If we do not have a firm grasp on our priorities, and work hard to develop a schedule that keeps us working on the important things we want to achieve, eventually the "urgent" will be upon us. The urgent things cry out to us, telling us they are important, when in actuality they are not. The power of the urgent time waster is in the dramatic demand it makes on us. When it calls our name and appears to show us just how urgent it is that we spend time on it, it takes away from the very important things we should be working on. And I have found that urgent things can rarely be done in short order. They usually drag themselves out, keeping us even further from our true goals.
Perhaps the best way I have seen this demonstrated is in Stephen Covey's idea of the four parts of the time management quadrant. You have:

1. The important and the urgent
2. The important
3. The urgent but non-important
4. The non-important

The idea is to stay in what Covey calls "Quadrant Two". At first you may be in quadrant one (hopefully you don't spend much time in 3 or 4) but as you manage your time, you will see fewer and fewer urgent matters vying for your attention.

Always be aware of so-called "urgent" matters, because most of the time they are just time wasters. Have the courage to let them go. At the very least, take a serious look at your life and make sure you aren't constantly living in crisis mode. Crisis mode is a very dangerous thing when it comes to making good decisions and managing your time.

The Pleasurable. Pleasurable time wasters are extremely insidious. Sometimes when we waste time with urgent matters, we know we are wasting time and we wish we could get out of them. Not so with pleasurable time wasters. These are the things that we willingly and openly pursue. We know they are time wasters and yet we still pursue them. Why? Because they are Fun! They are pleasurable. We enjoy them, and that keeps us from disciplining ourselves to work on our priorities. It is much like the person who wants to lose weight yet keeps eating dessert night after night - they do it because it tastes so good.

As you think about time wasters, think about which are urgent and which are pleasurable for you. Work to get so far ahead in your priorities that you virtually eliminate urgent matters that call your name. In regard to the pleasurable, this takes brutal honesty with yourself. It takes a real ability to admit to yourself that you are choosing what is fun rather than what is important.

Remember, you don't have much time to waste in the first place. I realize now in the latter years of my life that time moves by quickly. It doesn't seem very long ago that I was only 30 years old! Time is a very precious gift, one that we can and should take seriously because once that moment in time is spent, it can never be retrieved. Stay focused on those very important things you desire for your life. Stay focused on those things that will build your business and fulfill your life's purpose. Stay focused on those things that will bring you a happy and joy-filled family life. Do not waste your time on those things that will quickly pass away and have relative unimportance.

Now, for procrastination. Paul of Tarsus said in his writing that, "the things I want to do, I do not do." This is a problem that is as old as humanity itself. I am sure that the wheel would have been invented and fire discovered much earlier if it weren't for procrastination!

Humans have two incredible abilities: First, they are able to become crystal clear about what it is they want.
Secondly, they are able to completely put off pursuing it!

So what drives procrastination? I believe there are a few primary things that cause people to procrastinate.

Fear. In my opinion, this is the biggest source of procrastination. People procrastinate because they are afraid. They are afraid of failure; they are afraid of success. They are afraid they will do a poor job or of what others will think of them. I want to encourage you to think about whether or not this is an issue for you. If so, do whatever it takes to deal with your fears.

Hard work. Some people procrastinate because they know that doing the work will be hard. Many people have an aversion to hard work so they procrastinate, putting it off indefinitely. Realize for yourself that being successful usually requires a lot of hard work. Sometimes it is physically exhausting, sometimes mentally or emotionally exhausting. But let me assure you of this, if you invest in the miracle of hard labor required to accomplish your goals, the rewards, the gifts, the feelings of increased self-esteem you will reap will far outweigh the pain of labor. For at the end of your efforts you will be able to smile with the deep satisfaction of knowing you have faithfully sowed and that now you can joyfully reap - and reap without complaint or apology! What a powerful opportunity to invest in the labor that creates miracles.

Lack of passion. In other words, whatever it is that they are doing isn't really something they are passionate about. Some people procrastinate because deep down they aren't really passionate about what it is they "should be" doing.
It isn't really a priority for them or for their life, even if they have called it one. This is an issue of going back to the drawing board and becoming clear about your priorities and values, then having the courage to live them out.

An inability to motivate themselves. Some people procrastinate because they do not know how to get themselves going internally. They wait until something externally moves them. You've heard me give the example of the guy who says, "I wish someone would come by and turn me on and get me motivated." Well, what if they don't show up? You've got to have a better plan than that, you've got to be self-motivated because that is ultimately the best motivation. Now, everyone is motivated differently, and it is your job to figure out what it is that really motivates you. And then do what it takes to get there and stay there.

Time wasters and procrastination are the roadblocks that will keep you from reaching your goals. This week work to become aware of what things you waste your time on and what drives your procrastination. As you come to realize these things, as you become fully aware, you will be better equipped to overcome them.

In the next section, Chris is going to give you some thoughts on some of the primary time wasters and some very practical tips on how to overcome procrastination, as well as some questions for reflection and actions points to follow through on.

Until next week, let's do something remarkable!

Jim Rohn

Hi there, Chris Widener here.

The Top 3 Time Wasters and the Top 3 Ways to Overcome Procrastination

I want to take my space this week to talk about what I believe are the top three time wasters and the top three ways to overcome procrastination. Some of these time wasters will be those you find at work and some at home. These are the things that I have found to be almost universal. So, let's take a look:

The Top Three Time Wasters:

1. Television. Yes, the old one-eyed monster. Now, before you write this off, saying, "Chris, I just don't watch much TV," let me have you do a short exercise. Think about how much TV you watch. Go through each day, from Sunday to Saturday. For example: Sunday (one hour on Meet the Press, 3 hours for football). Monday (Half hour morning show, one hour news, half hour sitcom), etc. Add it up. Be honest! Do you know what I found was the average amount of television watched per week in rooms full of "busy professional people who didn't watch much TV?" 20 Hours!

Now think about this. That is 1,000 hours a year or 25 full work weeks! What could you accomplish if you had an extra 25 work weeks a year?

So, how can you overcome this time waster? Here are a few

Get rid of the TV. Yes, that is exactly what I said. I did just that on January 1st, 1989, and have never looked back.
When people ask me how I get so much done I simply tell them that I have 1,000 hours a year more than they do!

At the very least, cut back on your TV viewing. Be proactive and take control of how much you watch. Budget your time.
Cut some shows out (believe me, most shows can be cut out and your life won't suffer!).

2. Telephone calls. The phone is what I call the "great interrupter". There is this very weird, almost magical effect that a ringing phone has: Like pre-programmed zombies, we "must" answer it. Try something the next time you have someone in your office and the phone rings. Just keep talking as though you don't hear it. Watch the person you are with nervously look over at the phone and then back at you before finally asking, "Do you want to answer that?"
Even though it would take away from them, they expect you to answer the phone!

The fact is that you do not have to answer a ringing phone.
Especially in this day and age of voice mail, you can let the phone ring through and schedule a time at regular intervals to return important calls (one side benefit is you will be amazed at how much time you save by not having to work your way off the phone with unsolicited sales calls).

How can you avoid wasting time on the phone? Here are a few

Don't always answer it. 'Nough said.

Schedule your calls into time frames. Make all of your calls during regularly scheduled times. This will keep you from "spur of the moment" calls that distract you.

Know before you call what you want to talk about, talk about it, and then get off the phone. When you call someone, say, "Hi there, I wanted to talk to you about XYZ." Then talk about it. When you are done, say, "Well, I know you are busy and I have some things to get done too, so I'll let you go."
Bingo - you're off the phone!

3. Email. Email is the new phone. Except much worse. Why? A few reasons. Some of it is spam, but the main reason is because people can't type as fast as they can talk. Many times when someone writes me an email that I know will take a long response, I either call them or write an email that says, "Call me. It would be better to talk about this."

Another reason is just the volume of email we get. And the forwarded jokes from your aunt in Omaha. Just sorting through this takes time. (By the way, the best way to get off of Aunt Margaret's email list is to politely ask. Just tell her that you are trying to cut down on email and ask if she will take you off the list. It works! I did it with my own mother and she still talks to me!)

Some ideas for cutting out email time wasting:

Schedule email reading and responding. Depending on how much you get each day, maybe you do it once per day, maybe three times. You don't have to jump every time the inbox chimes!

Be ruthless about what is important. Not everything is.
Delete it and move on. Especially delete anything from Aunt Margaret that says, "Fw: Very funny - you will love this!"

The Top Three Ways to Overcome Procrastination:

1. Overcome your fear. Jim made a great point about fear. He is right. Much procrastination is because we fear things. A lot in life can be accomplished as we dig deep into who we are and what drives us. Do you have fears that cause you to procrastinate? Do some internal work and find out what you are really afraid of. Then face that fear. Get some help from a coach or counselor if you need it.

2. Get motivated. Motivation is something we have to work at. Read books, listen to tapes, go to seminars, and hang out with exciting people. Do whatever you can to stay motivated. It is much easier to get down to business when you are motivated than when you aren't.

3. Just start. Just begin doing what you said you need to do. Tell yourself you are going to just do 10 minutes. Then you'll quit. What happens though, is that you don't quit.
Much of the problem with procrastination is just starting.
So, just start!

Hope these ideas help you this week in getting over procrastination and in avoiding the big three time wasters!

Questions for Reflection:

Q. What are your major time wasters? Why?

Q. Are your time wasters usually of the "urgent" kind or the pleasurable nature?

Q. Of the urgent kind, which come up most often? What about the pleasurable kind?

Q. What is the major reason you procrastinate? What can you do to overcome it?

Q. Of the three best ways to overcome procrastination, which works best for you? Is there a better way that works for you? What is it?

Action Points

1. List the ways you waste time, in the greatest to least order for the problems they pose for you. Spend some time this week being specifically aware of these and do what you can to say "no" to them, focusing instead on your priorities.

2. Take some time to look forward at upcoming things due and work a little on them so they do not become urgent later on.
As you do, work as little as possible on those things that are telling you they are urgent now. This will begin the process of eliminating the "urgent" from your life and moving you to the important.

3. Spend some time this week working against the "pleasurable" that you spend time on instead of your priorities. Specifically turn away from them in an act of discipline.

4. Take specific action this week to watch less television and spend that time on other important things around the house.

5. Work on how well you handle phone and email time. These are major time wasters, so get a hold of them!

See you next week!

Chris Widener

About the Author:

Working from home shouldn't be a distant dream. Make it a reality: