On Procrastination

Jim Rohn

Perseverance is about as important to achievement as gasoline is to driving a car. Sure, there will be times when you feel like youíre spinning your wheels, but youíll always get out of the rut with genuine perseverance. Without it, you wonít even be able to start your engine.

The opposite of perseverance is procrastination. Perseverance means you never quit. Procrastination usually means you never get started, although the inability to finish something is also a form of procrastination.

Ask people why they procrastinate and youíll often hear something like this, Iím a perfectionist. Everything has to be just right before I can get down to work. No distractions, not too much noise, no telephone calls interrupting me, and of course I have to be feeling well physically, too. I canít work when I have a headache." The other end of procrastinationóbeing unable to finishóalso has a perfectionist explanation: "Iím just never satisfied. Iím my own harshest critic. If all the iís arenít dotted and all the tís arenít crossed, I just canít consider that Iím done. Thatís just the way I am, and Iíll probably never change."

Do you see whatís going on here? A fault is being turned into a virtue. The perfectionist is saying that his standards are just too high for this world. This fault-into -virtue syndrome is a common defense when people are called upon to discuss their weaknesses, but in the end itís just a very pious kind of excuse making. It certainly doesnít have anything to do with whatís really behind procrastination.

Remember, the basis of procrastination could be fear of failure. Thatís what perfectionism really is, once you take a hard look at it. Whatís the difference whether youíre afraid of being less than perfect or afraid of anything else? Youíre still paralyzed by fear. Whatís the difference whether you never start or never finish? Youíre still stuck. Youíre still going nowhere. Youíre still overwhelmed by whatever task is before you. Youíre still allowing yourself to be dominated by a negative vision of the future in which you see yourself being criticized, laughed at, punished, or ridden out of town on a rail. Of course, this negative vision of the future is really a mechanism that allows you to do nothing. Itís a very convenient mental tool.

Iím going to tell you how to overcome procrastination. Iím going to show you how to turn procrastination into perseverance, and if you do what I suggest, the process will be virtually painless. It involves using two very powerful principles that foster productivity and perseverance instead of passivity and procrastination.

The 1st principle is: Break It Down.

No matter what youíre trying to accomplishÖ the key to achievement is your ability to break down the task into manageable pieces and knock them off one at one time. Focus on accomplishing whatís right in front of you at this moment. Ignore whatís off in the distance someplace. Substitute real-time positive thinking for negative future visualization. Thatís the first all- important technique for bringing an end to procrastination.Ö

One day at a time. Weíve all heard that phrase. Thatís what weíre doing here. Weíre breaking down the time required for a major task into one-day segments, and weíre breaking down the work involved inÖincrements.

ÖDiscipline yourself to look neither forward nor backward, and you can accomplish things you never thought you could possibly do. And it all begins with those three words: break it down.

The 2nd principle is: Write It Down.

My second technique for defeating procrastination is also only three words long. The three words are: write it down. We know how important writing is to goal setting. The writing youíll do for beating procrastination is very similar. Instead of focusing on the future, however, youíre now going to be writing about the present just as you experience it every day. Instead of describing the things you want to do or the places you want to go, youíre going to describe what you actually do with your time, and youíre going to keep a written record of the places you actually go.

In other words, youíre going to keep a diary of your activities. And youíre going to be surprised by the distractions, detours, and downright wastes of time you engage in during the course of a day. All of these get in the way of achieving your goals. For many people, itís almost like they planned it that way, and maybe at some unconscious level they did. The great thing about keeping a time diary is that it brings all this out in the open. It forces you to see what youíre actually doingÖand what youíre not doing.

The time diary doesnít have to be anything elaborate. Just buy a little spiral notebook that you can easily carry in your pocket. When you go to lunch, when you drive across town, when you go to the dry cleaners, when you spend some time shooting the breeze at the copying machine, make a quick note of the time you began the activity and the time it ends. Try to make this notation as soon as possible; if itís inconvenient to do it immediately, you can do it later. But you should make an entry in your time diary at least once every thirty minutes, and you should keep this up for at least a week.

Break it down. Write it down. These two techniques are very straightforward. But donít let that fool you: these are powerful and effective productivity techniques that allow you put an end to procrastination and help you get started to achieving your goals.

To Your Success,
Jim Rohn

Copyright (c) 2004 Jim Rohn International.
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