Afraid to start

Procrastination is a problem we all have to deal with every day. It is like the hydra, the multi-headed creature from Greek mythology. Cut off one head and another sprouts in its stead, more ferocious and cunning than the one before it. One form that procrastination takes is fear: the fear to get started on a task. An individual may delay getting started on a task simply so they can think about all the ways it can go wrong. If you have found yourself doing this often, rest assured chances are you are chasing phantoms. Even if you fail, the outcome is rarely as bad as you imagine. How do you defeat that fear?

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That mountain of paperwork isn’t going to take care of itself
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Know the difference between a fact and a problem

Procrastination takes many forms. Sometimes, it hides in the form of a fact disguised to look like a problem. Think of a lazy Saturday Morning towards the end of a month. You need to withdraw some cash from the ATM. Your bank is about a 30-minute drive away. However, you are still at home lying in bed and staring at the ceiling because you know salaries got paid yesterday and there will likely be a long queue at the machine. It’s also a weekend. Therefore, chances are the machine will run out of cash before it gets to your turn.

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Stop reading, Start applying

Every year, hundreds of books get published that claim to have the magic method that will solve all your productivity issues. Thousands (millions?) of articles get written on the topic. These materials are read by plenty of well-meaning people seeking to become just a little bit more efficient at work, or looking to achieve a better work-life balance.

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Dead-line

I once heard an amusing story about a company won the bid to create a new IT system for a Government Department. When the Company finished the job, they ran into an unexpected problem. The Government Department, having gotten used to Companies asking for extensions to project deadlines, had assumed this one wouldn’t be any different. As such, a team hadn’t been put together for the Company to hand over the project to.

When did you get started?
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Start first, Correct Later

Plans are often the missing link that turn ideas into reality. They are a necessity if you ever wish to turn the wishes in your head into realistic goals. A goal, written down and accompanied by a plan has a greater chance of being achieved than one which stays an unwritten, fuzzy idea in someone’s head. In fact, you are 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you regularly write it down.

While planning is crucial, there can be such a thing as over-planning. There comes a point where one is planning for planning’s sake. At that point, planning becomes an excuse not to get started. When you reach that point, what you are doing is PROCRASTINATION.

Don’t overdo it
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Deadlines hit fast

A humorous anecdote goes that a project team once finished a Government project on time only to find out that no one from the Government was ready to accept the finished product because the Civil Service had assumed based on wealth of experience that the project will not be finished on time. The Story may or may not be true but it serves as a useful reminder of a tendency among many people to underestimate the amount of work required to get a task done. This is especially true at the beginning of a complex task when you may only have a vague idea of the requirements.

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Complex tasks seem easier at the beginning
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Seize the hour (not the day)

The Latin expression “Carpe Diem”, often translated into English as seize the day is first attested by the ancient Roman Poet, Horace. The idea behind the expression is that since the future is uncertain, it is best to prepare for every situation by taking action when you can instead of leaving it up to chance. In other words, do what you can now to make the future better.

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Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

Allegedly a Chinese proverb

The sentence that often accompanies procrastination is “I will do it tomorrow.” In this case, tomorrow is not the next day but that mythical destination where all human creativity, effort and productivity resides. If you think really hard you can almost feel it. Infact, you are sure with just a little more time you will be able to reach it. So does everyone else. So far, no one has reached it.

Never underestimate the power you have over what happens today
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Are you doing life or is life doing you?

Personal development icon

One of the easiest things in life is to do nothing. No challenges mean no reward and no fear of failure. It is possible to get by in life without being concerned about the future. Making decisions only when circumstances compel you to and reacting to situations only when you don’t have the choice of staying idle. For a long time in humanity’s history, people were only concerned about being able to feed themselves and surviving. As long as that need was met, they were happy. While that life still remains the norm in many parts of the world, including where I come from, as conditions of living continue to improve, people will seek other ways to find fulfilment.

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Tomorrow takes care of itself

Tomorrow

“The future is to be lived, not prearranged.”

Luke Skywalker (In Star Wars Legends)

It seems counterproductive to suggest you should not spend too much time planning for the future. Productivity is all about making plans and breaking them down into as many small steps as possible so you can follow through. Let me make it clear that I am not saying you should stop making plans and just wing it. I’d never do it and I’d never ask you to try that too.

There is such a thing as a planning horizon though. If you plan too far ahead into the future, you are more likely to be wrong. Experts tend to agree that a planning horizon beyond two weeks is likely to be wrong. Most people have a pretty good idea where they will be for the rest of the week but don’t do so well when trying to predict where they will be a month or two from now. Life throws up so many complications and unexpected events that you are likely to be wrong. An extreme example of this happened early this year. People made plans. The pandemic wrecked those plans.

a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.
How long will you chase the myth?
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