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March 30, 2005

Procrastination: Putting Off Today What You Can Do Tomorrow Dr. Kerry Johnsonprocrastination, motivation, sales calls follow ups, marketing techniques, self-business motivation
Are you a procrastinator? Have you ever put off returning a
phone call because weeks have gone by since the person initially
contacted you? Have you delayed doing an assignment for someone and
by the time it was due, told a white lie in an attempt to gain more
time? Most of us occasionally procrastinate, and many of us feel
guilty for this perceived lack of personal self-discipline.
Procrastination is not only an unfortunate behavior, it can also
cost you money. Have you ever been late to an appointment? Ten
years ago, as an aspiring consultant, I was 20 minutes late to an
appointment with a prospect. Before the days of cell phones, I
couldn't call ahead and warn them. So, I just showed up late. My
prospect entered the waiting room and told me that if I didn't have
the courtesy to arrive on time, he wouldn't extend the courtesy of
seeing me. I learned my lesson on the spot. Tardiness is certainly
a symptom of procrastination. In my case, tardiness cost me
thousands of dollars in revenue.
Avoiding Discomfort
There are many reasons for procrastination, the most salient of
which are avoiding discomfort, feeling insecure that you cannot
complete the job, and believing that the task is so simple, there
is no rush to start now. Unfortunately, you may also feel guilty
for your procrastination, having been told by naive, yet
well-wishing colleagues that you just need to do it." Yet, there is
much more to the problem than a simple lack of self-control. The
truth is that you need help in controlling the problem, before it
decreases your financial bottom line.
A few years ago, I was assigned a deadline for writing a book.
When asked by the publisher if I could keep to the schedule, I
said, Sure. After all, I had about four months to do the outline
and another month to actually give them a rough draft. But, as you
might have guessed, I waited until the week before outline was due
to begin the project. I then waited until three weeks before the
rough draft deadline to finally put pen to paper. The project was
completed, but I still wonder what would have happened if I had
taken the time to do the best job possible. I felt terrible. I knew
I was capable of doing a great job, but didn't give myself enough
time to do it. I allowed myself to be fooled into thinking that as
soon as I had done the necessary research, I could begin writing.
The problem was, I even procrastinated with the research.
Another key cause of procrastination is self-doubt, which occurs
when you don't believe in your ability to accomplish a particular
task. Procrastination is a way to avoid the rejection that comes
from failure. I once knew a salesperson who doubted his ability to
complete an advanced sales course that would have helped him
increase his sales to more affluent prospects. His procrastination
significantly decreased his income, since his home market was
slowly eroding. He admitted that if he had completed the training,
he would have increased his annual income by $100,000. Make no
mistake: Procrastination costs money.
At times, self-doubt results from being in a no-win situation.
I've often wondered why people refuse to accept phone calls from
businesspeople who are merely trying to follow-up. It becomes very
apparenteven to the greenest of salespersonsthat the prospects who
do not want to do business with you are also least likely to return
phone calls. The general feeling is, "If I can't say yes, then I'll
avoid communicating at all. I don't want to feel the discomfort of
saying no, especially if the salesperson tries to overcome my
objections." This creates a Catch-22 dilemma, which stems from
avoiding the unpleasant job of simply saying, No.
Overcoming Procrastination
There are four basic steps that can help you overcome
procrastination: Plan, learn, observe and engage. If utilized,
these steps will assist you on the road to getting things done, and
doing them now.
I. Plan
One of the most common ways to self-sabotage is by failing to begin
a project. You have probably heard in the past that "inch by inch,
anything's a cinch," but that first inch is always the hardest. You
can make that initial step easier if you create a game plan for the
project you wish to complete. One tactic that I frequently use is
to maximize downtime. For example, I frequently find myself waiting
in lines, often at airline ticket counters or restaurants. I
recently balanced four months worth of my checkbook during this
wasted time, when most people simply look out the window.
Therefore, start by formulating a plan of what you have to do, no
matter how big and imposing the project. But organize yourself
today during downtime.
II. Learn
After you have formulated a plan, write down what you must learn in
order to complete the project. Sometimes, procrastination occurs
because we dont know what to do first. Recently, I was assigned the
task of writing a series of articles for a major magazine. I wasn't
as familiar with the topic as I would have liked, so as I planned
out the project, I highlighted the areas I needed to research.
During the next few weeks, I found myself talking to many people
about the topic and even thinking about it on my way to work in the
morning. I did spend time researching, but noticed that most of my
initial confusion had simply evaporated. This is a side benefit of
early planning. If you wait until the day your project is due, then
you dont give your mind the opportunity to automatically solve
problems for you. It is said that Thomas Edison encountered many
difficulties during his research on the light bulb. When he got
stuck, he would simply leave his lab and take a short nap. Often,
he awoke with a solution to the problem.
III. Observe
Observation and planning are great for working on projects like a
new marketing technique or painting the house, but what about the
procrastination problems that prevent you from arriving on time to
appointments and cause you to avoid easier chores, like balancing
your checkbook? Get a sheet of paper and list the emotional
benefits you receive from procrastinating. What is it doing for
you? If you think this is a silly request, then think again. I used
this approach to help solve my own problem with tardiness. I listed
the emotional benefits of being late, and was surprised to learn
that I intensely dislike waiting. I have anxieties about sitting in
someone's office, reading a useless magazine until the customer
scrounges enough time to see me. So, I leave myself exactly enough
time to travel. Unfortunately, I rarely estimate drive time and
traffic delays accurately, so I am frequently late. All of this is
due to my fear of waiting, which results in my procrastination.
What benefits do you derive? Take some time to list them now.
IV. Engage
The last step in overcoming procrastination is to engage yourself
with your goal. The most productive achievers work a little each
day on important projects, even if just to open the folder and
review what they have done so far. If you engage yourself with a
high degree of frequency, there is absolutely no way to delay a
project for long.
Procrastination is among the worst problems that individuals
face. It seems to be a prescription for failure in nearly every
career and endeavor. However, by using the techniques discussed in
this article, you'll be able to accomplish more and will certainly
feel better about yourself as a result. This week, write down at
least two projects that you have been procrastinating about. Apply
the Plan, Learn, Observe, Engage strategies, and then secretly
thank me for the extra money you will make.
Dr. Kerry Johnson is a frequent speaker at mortgage industry
conventions and the author of six books including, Mastering
the Game: The Human Edge in Sales and Marketing. He may be
reached by phone at (800)386-1749 or by visiting