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TM Article 1

How to Slay Your Procrastination Monster

by Rajen Devadason

Tomorrow, every Fault is to be amended; but that Tomorrow never comes.

Benjamin Franklin


When most of us hear the term ‘time management’, deep inside us one of these two responses stirs:

1.     Yup! I need me some of that; or

2.     Nope! I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for me!

My collaboration with consulting clients over the years has taught me that most of us know what should be done to accomplish more during our work hours. That’s not our problem.

The real issue is a devastating lack of purpose.

This ‘vacuum of intent’ is a chronic malady that attacks our daily schedules. It festers and becomes a breeding ground for four time-sapping maggots:

procrastination, apathy, inertia and nuisances.

In my time management workshops, I use the acrostic P-A-I-N to help participants remember these foes of effective, purposeful living.

The head honcho of that fiendish foursome is our ancient nemesis the ‘thief of time’ – procrastination!

And just as cutting off the head of a fairytale monster is the key to killing it, eliminating procrastination has the predictable result of rendering those three other time thieves – apathy, inertia and nuisances – impotent.

Unfortunately, procrastination exhibits powerful Phoenix-like
tendencies: It is a trait so fused onto our human DNA that it
refuses to stay dead. Which, incidentally, is why so few of
us accomplish great things with our lives.

Benjamin Franklin observed way back in 1756, “Tomorrow, every Fault is to be amended; but that Tomorrow never comes.” Therefore, the most effective human beings are those who have learnt to deal with the chronic malady of procrastination on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

Here are my five steps for doing so:

1.     At the end of each working day, in the fifteen minutes before you tear yourself away from the office, focus (and refocus) on why EXACTLY you are paid to do what you do;

2.     With that reason seared into your mental pathways, decide on the three or four major tasks that MUST be accomplished the following day to justify your existence as an economic entity;

3.     Set your priorities, while relinquishing your posteriorities, in terms of specific tasks. Then go home to your loved ones;

4.     The next day, get to the office early; aim to be the first in; and

5.     Before the distractions – ‘nuisances’ like ringing phones, persistent emails, and meetings – set in, start on your number one prioritised task. Stay on it, like a ravenous dog on a bone, until it’s finished or you can’t move it any further along that day! Then begin immediately on the next most important task. Keep going until a quarter of an hour before knocking off time. Revisit step 1.

Steps 1,2,4 and 5 are straightforward. But the central Step 3 warrants elaboration.

Remember our purpose here is to defeat personal procrastination and thus become more effective. To do so, paradoxically, we should harness our natural procrastinating tendencies! Let me explain:

Our goal in Step 3 is to set priorities and relinquish posteriorities.

A priority is something more important than something else. For instance, exceeding your boss’s expectations is a higher priority than going for that second latte of the day. But because each of us has only 24 hours a day, there’s no way we can get everything done that clamours for our attention.

Management guru Peter Drucker, therefore, coined the term ‘posteriority’ to refer to relatively unimportant things that should be dropped from our lives to clear space for what is important. In this area – and this area alone – we need to exercise intelligent procrastination!

Therefore, giving up that second coffee break with colleagues in favour of creating time in your schedule to begin a high priority task is a classic example of wise posteriority setting.

The five steps outlined above form a structured, practical blueprint for overcoming procrastination.

Try my blueprint every day for a month; see what happens.

© Rajen Devadason


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Rajen Devadason, CEO RD WealthCreation Sdn Bhd & RD Book Projects
349, Desa Rasah, Jalan Bayan 7, 70300 Seremban, NS, Malaysia
Tel/Fax: +606 632 8955