These three words, in large red letters, sat framed on the edge of a CFO’s desk within a large corporate I worked at during my early career. They were in the corner of my eye throughout my job interview. At the time I thought how out of place they looked in a cheap black plastic frame within a luxurious office environment. Perhaps that was the intention, to make an impact? The words though did not seem important enough to be so prominently displayed and I wondered why this executive needed to be reminded to DO IT NOW.
As time went by and I got to know more about the CFO and his way of doing things, I realised that here was a man with an incredible work load and responsibility who always seemed to be ahead of the game. He was relaxed, confident and inspired his team with his structured approach and sense of control. He was a stickler on deadlines and expected everyone to do what he did. Get the task done. DO IT NOW. Don’t wait until tomorrow for something that should be done today, was the guiding principle.
That DOIT NOW, framed picture sits clearly in my memory and it has helped me to avoid procrastination. Procrastination is a debilitating bad habit. Leaving tasks for later only adds to stress levels as further tasks build up. Delaying decisions is worse as the whole work flow slows down while others wait for a decision or direction. This can lead to frustration and uncertainty amongst staff.
Procrastination may arise from uncertainty. Not knowing what to do or concerned about the implications of making the wrong decision or carrying out a task incorrectly. Being reminded to DO IT NOW; helps to drive forward your first thoughts on how to progress. Sure, it may not turn out to be the best decision but at least a decision was made and the matter progressed. Changes can always be made later if the decision was not quite effective. On important issues, don’t be afraid to ask advice. Once received, push ahead and make the decision NOW.
Procrastination often arises from not wanting to carry out a daunting task or a task that you don’t really want to do. You just don’t feel like doing it.
I have a set routine for getting up early three times a week to visit the local Gym for a workout. On a cold morning I sometimes lie in bed after having woken to turn off the alarm call and procrastinate about getting out of a warm bed or just turning over for a few more minutes. In the past I would often turn over, fall asleep and miss out on a workout. This made me feel guilty and dissatisfied. The DO IT NOW slogan has reminded me lately to just get it over with. I now say to myself, DO IT NOW and I leap out of bed, brave the cold for awhile, while I dress for Gym. After Gym I feel so much better, having achieved something than I would have felt had I not overcome that first resistance to get out of a warm bed.
You may not feel like doing something or you are not motivated enough to get started, so you ignore it. It may be on your TO DO LIST but you just keep carrying it over for another day. You may start feeling guilty about it and this may drive you to eventually doing it. That may be acceptable for the tasks you have set yourself at home. What about work related tasks?
When tasks are put aside within the work environment due to procrastination, your efficiency levels may drop and there may be pressure on you to improve performance, particularly if you are a leader of a team. Important issues cannot wait for too long within the work environment.
A good habit to pursue is to EAT THE FROG.
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Brian Tracy in his book “Eat that Frog” says that your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
“If you have two frogs, eat the ugliest one first” (Tracy 2002:2). If you have two or more important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Start immediately and persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.
Tracy tells us that successful, effective people are those who work steadily and single-mindedly on their major tasks until those are complete (Tracy 2002:3)
Having completed the task, you will feel good about it. There will be a sense of achievement and it may trigger a compulsion for you to continue with another task that you have been meaning to do.
Tasks that you have set yourself to do may not necessarily be that important or urgent. Nevertheless they need to be done. You may have added them to your TO DO list and, for whatever reason, you just have not been motivated enough to get them done. They are either a hassle to do, require some effort or perhaps you are not sure where to start or how to go about carrying out the task.
Do you have items on your TO DO list that have been there for some time? Have some been carried over from old TO DO lists? You may consider a habit I have developed which is to scrub those tasks from your TO DO list and draw up a FROG list.
List any task that you have delayed taking action on, not just important tasks. Prioritise your FROG list and eat the ugliest first. You will feel a sense of accomplishment having eaten your frog and you may be spurred on to eat another. Try it, DO IT NOW.