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Mar 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. Self-Doubt 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
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Mar 30, 2005
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