“Procrastination is the Thief of Dreams”, Richard Paul Evans
How many times do we put something on the long finger because we just don’t want to do it? Maybe we think we’ll fail, or embarrass ourselves, or there’s no point, or we’re not able. It’s not a strength or something we enjoy, or it’s just plain boring. But it still has to be done. Every day we wake up and it’s still on the To Do list, looking at us, taunting us, and not going anywhere.
It’s not a new concept but it’s called Swallowing the Frog. It’s one of those standard tips you get at a time management course when they advise you to complete a task that you don’t like/find difficult first thing in the morning as the sense of achievement it gives you will set you up for the day.
I’ve been there lately so I thought I’d write about it and maybe it’ll strike a chord with some of you. I was in my friend’s house having coffee and a chat, when we started talking about how our respective businesses we’re going. We both pulled faces as we recalled all the things we hadn’t done. Easily glossing over everything we had achieved needless to say, but that’s for another blog. The focus of our chat that day was on a few things we had been putting off. In her case, she said that even when she was in school, if something bored her she simply didn’t do it. And that’s what was happening here only this time it wasn’t maths homework, it was failing to do something that was directly impacting her business and her ability to operate professionally and efficiently. In my case over three months had gone by where I had neatly moved three action points from my To Do list from week to week, without every actually doing them. I was too busy, I didn’t feel well, I’d just make a cup of tea and then I’d do them, nothing would come of them anyway. We both knew that we were overthinking things and the longer we put them off, the more unpalatable they became.
If we were to ask the time management guru they would challenge if these actions even needed to be done at all. And they would be right to do that. If three months could pass without consequence, were these tasks really necessary? Couldn’t I just delete them and in one fell swoop reduce my To Do list, and magic away that awful feeling that they were continually hanging over me? Well, I suppose I could have done that. But I knew there was more to it than just completing the tasks. Half the lesson was in getting the guts to have a go, because whether you’re building a business or reaching out to an old friend you’ve lost touch with, or sorting out your tax return, sometimes you just have to take the bit between your teeth, stop thinking about it and just go for it.
So my friend and I made a pact to commit to following up on our actions. “Shouldn’t we give ourselves a deadline?” she asked? She could have been a coach. Yes, of course the key to success was setting a deadline so we agreed by the end of the week, we’d both be neatly ticking off what we had signed up to and we’d be feeling great. And that’s exactly what happened.
For me, I took a deep breath and made some phone calls I didn’t want to make. I may have blushed furiously while making them but the person on the other end of the phone didn’t know that. And what’s more the outcome was unexpected. One was a big fat no. Fair enough. The other was a resounding yes and I found myself a really interesting new client. From a simple phone call.
For her, she put the kids to bed, poured a huge glass of red wine, settled on her couch and started putting some manners on her invoicing system. The stress of not having a system but knowing it was slowing her down was gone all of a sudden as she started to make in-roads to becoming more organised and generally just making her life easier.
They were small things on paper, and we’d both made up every excuse under the sun to put them off, but we learned two important things: 1) It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and even on the off chance that it is, at least it’s done and over with and 2) Something really good might come of it.
So let’s you and I make a pact right now. Write down one thing you’ve been putting off, set a deadline to do it, don’t over analyse it anymore, and let me know how you get on! See can you swallow that frog.