Have you ever noticed how many little tasks can be completed when you are procrastinating about starting something more important? You wouldn’t believe how clean my office became today. Magazines sent to recycle, binders labeled, notes sorted and filed, and everything dusted. Not only that, but procrastinating helped me finish several “to do” items on various lists. People were called, emails sent, follow-up completed, and a new clean “to do” list created. The only thing better for wrapping up loose ends than procrastination is an impending vacation.
It’s handy to have all the little tasks completed, my desk swept clean, and my task list whittled down. My business improves when I follow through on good ideas by contacting people and following up. For these reasons, procrastination can be helpful, but there is another side to my story. Procrastination also keeps me from building my skills and business as well as I can. The problem with procrastination and deadlines is not finishing the project on time. It’s knowing I could have done a better job. Revisions and improvement need time, and not just the time to do them, but time to realize what needs changing. Too often, I let myself procrastinate until there is no time for improvement.
I wrote about procrastination in a December 2011 post, “An Easy Life”, and noted that being comfortable in your lifestyle allows you to avoid unpleasant tasks. This is a different take. Here I am talking about procrastinating in areas you WANT to improve, in letting yourself stay at status quo when you dream of being a rock star (or a keynote speaker coaching star).
There are many projects for which I have built enough skill to do the job well whether or not procrastination is an issue. My performance is fine and when someone tells me I did a good job I say “thank you “ and smile, even though inside I know it wasn’t my best effort. It feels like I’m putting up a false front, looking good on the outside with so little going on inside. On the other hand, if I accomplish my mission, so what if it isn’t my best effort? What does it matter as long as I do a good job?
It doesn’t always matter. Good enough is good enough in some cases. The disappointment comes when there is a gap between where I want to be and where I am, coupled with the knowledge of an opportunity wasted. I don’t mind performance gaps when I’m working to improve, but it bothers me when I let go of a chance to do better.
What changes when you put time in your most important priorities?
I’m working on whittling down my procrastination habit as well as my never-ending task list. Being a naturally creative resourceful person, I’ve figured out some strategies for making change. One is having an accountability group that teleconferences weekly, another is having my own business coach, and a third is to create additional requirements that force me to finish the primary project earlier. For instance, now I video-tape my presentations, watch them, and then make changes. This means I have to finish my presentations much earlier.
It takes time to undo one habit and replace it with another, but I’ve already proven my willingness to change in other areas. I’ll use those examples as reminders to myself that change will happen if I keep it a priority and find strategies that work for me.
In the meantime, I have a clean, organized office once again, with a shorter “to-do” list. However, the next time I wrap up so many loose ends I hope it’s because I’m going on vacation!