As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Proverbs 13:4 says: " The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat."
Our quote for today is from Florence Shinn. She said: "Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement."
Today, we are continuing with Part 2 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
The reason for delaying a task may be that the job is overwhelming. For example, suppose you would like to design and build your own house. However, you realize that there will be countless difficulties with financing, zoning, utilities, style, materials, location, contracting, subcontracting, landscaping, etc., and the whole undertaking seems mind-boggling. And since a boggled mind isn't conducive to action, your dream house remains just a dream. How do you cope with this?
One way is what I call the Salami Technique.
Whenever a task seems overwhelming, pause for a moment and do a little thinking on paper. List chronologically every step that must be taken to complete the job. The smaller the steps, the better -- even little mini-tasks that will take only a minute or two should be listed separately.
I call this the Salami Technique because it seems to me that contemplation of an overwhelming task is like looking at a large uncut salami: it's a huge, crusty, greasy, unappetizing chunk; you don't feel you can get your teeth into it. But when you cut it into thin slices you transform it into something quite different. Those thin slices are inviting; they make your mouth water, and after you've sampled one slice you tend to reach for another. Cutting up your overwhelming task into tiny segments can have the same effect. Now, instead of looking at a gargantuan project, you're looking at a series of tiny tasks, each of which, considered separately, is manageable. And you begin to realize that they will indeed be considered separately.
The maxim of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step doesn't really help us much until we know precisely in which direction we want to travel. With our list in front of us, we have a concrete idea of what that first step will be, and also the second, and the third. We have a road map that will guide us to our destination. Since each step completed leads logically to the next, we quickly establish momentum, and the job is under way.
It all sounds so simple. And, if you'll forgive a candid observation, it seems rather elementary. Don't most people do something like this? Does anyone ever build a house, for example, without making lists?
Of course not. But too often our dreams wind up in limbo without the list even being made. Or a list is made, but it isn't the kind we're talking about. A meticulously prepared step-by-step list of small tasks that need to be done -- not just a random jotting down of a bunch of major things to do -- seals the commitment, provides a blueprint for action, and triggers that action. But to be effective it must be chronological and it must be detailed. It must be a compilation of "instant tasks," so that you are dealing with salami slices, not a salami.
Remember that while this approach is especially helpful in getting started on overwhelming tasks, it also works with smaller ones that don't really seem to call for a sequential outline of actions.
For example, suppose you want to make a certain suggestion to your boss, but find yourself putting it off because you are afraid it will be rejected. It may seem that what is indicated is a simple one-step action -- just go in and make your suggestion, and see what happens. And if you can make yourself do so, of course, that's the way to go. But if you find yourself procrastinating, try breaking that one-step action down on paper into tiny increments. Your "salami slices" might look like this:
1. Check file to refresh memory of pertinent facts.
2. Outline presentation.
3. Mentally rehearse presentation.
4. Identify possible objections.
5. Determine response to each objection.
6. Arrange time for presentation.
7. Make presentation.
But those are the steps one would naturally take anyway, aren't they?
Of course. You're not doing anything you wouldn't do anyway, except for one thing: the actual writing of the list. Making a sequential list is an easy thing to do. And once it exists it acts as sort of a detonator, launching you into the task you were putting off.
It also serves another purpose. If you are interrupted during the performance of the task, you will know precisely where to pick up when you return. Without a written list, you often experience a mental block about resuming the activity. You've forgotten just where you were and what was to come next.
Properly used, a pencil can be one of the most effective weapons in the battle against procrastination.