Ephesians 6:7-8 says: "With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord..."
Our quote for today is from Dale Carnegie. He said: "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are continuing with Part 3 of our series titled, “Overcoming Fear of Failure”.
In our last episode, we talked about how successes tend to occur in fixed proportions to attempts. The more often you try -- and the more failures you chalk up -- the more successes you have. Thus, if we want more success, we must simply make more attempts at doing things. We must ‘make a pile of chips.’ Today, we are going to consider how we can overcome the ‘vague dread’ of failure.
Sometimes, dealing with fear of failure isn't as simple as just forcing yourself to "make chips." Sometimes a vague dread of what might happen causes you to keep putting off the desired action. How do you deal with that?
That term vague dread holds the clue. As long as your fears are vague and undefined they are impossible to deal with, so the first step is to make them specific, concrete, identifiable. Pin down exactly what it is you're afraid of.
This is another application of Pigeonholding. The point is that it's difficult to deal with something that's hazy and general, whether you're talking about fear, procrastination, or any other problem. If you go for a medical checkup and announce that you don't feel well, you aren't given a prescription. Instead, the doctor begins to probe for more specifics. Until a precise label can be attached to your ailment it's pointless even to think about remedies.
Although, in this case, we've already identified the ailment and labeled it: the label is fear. Fear of failure. But you must push beyond that; it's still too general. Exactly why do you fear failure in this particular case? As you dig deeper you may realize, for example, that what you really dread is the embarrassment that would result from that failure. You would have to admit to your associates that you bombed, and that's what's really bothering you.
Now you have put your problem into a pigeonhole labeled Embarrassment Before Associates. You still haven't solved your problem, but you have at least isolated it. Now, instead of trying to deal with a generality -- fear of failure -- you are dealing with a specific -- your embarrassment when your associates would become aware of that failure. Now you can ask yourself some pertinent questions...
Proverbs 12:24 says: "The hand of the diligent [the faithful worker] shall bear rule: but the slothful [lazy worker] shall be under tribute."
Our quote for today is from Paulo Coelho. He said: "Have pity on those who are fearful of taking up a pen, or a paintbrush, or an instrument, or a tool because they are afraid that someone has already done so much better than they could."
Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are continuing with Part 2 of our series titled, “Overcoming Fear of Failure”.
In our last episode, we identified healthy and unhealthy responses to fear of failure, and we also talked about how failure can actually be a good thing if we learn from it. Today, we will pick up with that discussion.
Okay, let's admit that valuable lessons can be learned from failure and that surviving failure can strengthen the ego. Aside from that there isn't much to be said for it, is there?
Yes, there is one other important benefit connected with failure. In many situations, successes tend to occur in fixed proportions to attempts. The more often you try -- and the more failures you chalk up -- the more successes you have.
Would you illustrate what you mean by that?
Suppose your job involves calling on customers, selling on commission. From analyzing your records you learn that on the average you make one sale out of every five calls. Of course, anything you can do to increase that ratio is desirable. But aside from that, even without improving your technique, you can increase your income simply by increasing the number of calls you make -- in other words, by getting more "failures." At your present rate, to make one more sale per week you need make only one more call each day. Each of those extra calls, even though unfruitful, should be thought of as an accomplishment and not a failure because it has moved you one step closer to your next sale.
Proverbs 12:24 says: "The hand of the diligent [the faithful worker] shall bear rule: but the slothful [lazy worker] shall be under tribute."
Our quote for today is from Napoleon Bonaparte. He said: "He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat."
Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are beginning with Part 1 of a new series titled, "Overcoming Fear of Failure".
Is there any one emotion that, more than any other, causes procrastination?
Yes. Fear in its various guises is at the bottom of much of our procrastination. It figures especially in our putting off really important things, as distinguished from simply bothersome chores like cutting the grass or washing the car.
What kinds of fear preclude action?
Fear of failure, fear of self-disclosure, fear of ridicule, fear of the unknown, fear of falling short of perfection, fear of confrontation, fear of pain, fear of risk, even fear of success, to name just a few.
And the most common of these is fear of failure. The realization that what you want to do may not work out, and that you will then have to admit to yourself and possibly to others that you didn't succeed. Many people are immobilized by such thoughts.
But that's understandable, isn't it? You can't blame people for being afraid to stick their necks out when there's a chance they may lose them.
True, but one's neck is seldom at stake, although we often act as if it were. Failure doesn't mean annihilation or disgrace or an end of opportunity. It usually means a temporary setback and nothing more. Thinking of it that way can preserve your morale, your optimism, your zest. In short, it can change your life.
As a matter of fact, not only is failure seldom a disaster, but it can actually have a benign aspect. It can serve a useful function, and can be thought of as a plus rather than as a minus.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
Our quote for today is from Paul J. Meyer. He said: "Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort."
Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are continuing with Part 9 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
In our last episode, we talked about the pros and cons of talking to others about your goals and asking other to hold you accountable if you struggle with procrastination. Today, as we conclude this series on Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination, we are going to consider how prayer can help you kick the procrastination habit and start getting things done.
The philosophy of self-reliance is sound, no doubt, but what about the possibility of seeking assistance from a higher source? Doesn't prayer deserve a listing in our catalog of anti-procrastination techniques?
Certainly. It would be folly to overlook a practice that has helped billions of people throughout the ages. If what you are procrastinating on is something important, and if you have religious convictions, by all means use prayer as a means of strengthening your resolve. We've spoken of the benefit you can get from making a commitment to a friend. Obviously, if your commitment is to your Maker instead of to the person sitting at the next desk, your sense of obligation will be infinitely stronger.
Philippians 2:14-15 says: "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."
Our quote for today is from Babe Ruth. He said: "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."
Today, we are continuing with Part 8 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
In our last episode, we talked about the merits of recording the talks you have with yourself as a way to get over inertia and procrastination and begin doing the things you know you ought to be doing. Today, we are going to talk about the type of questions you should ask as well as the value or lack thereof in talking with friends and family about the goals you wish to accomplish.
It isn't your self that you want to analyze, but your behavior. Remember that the goal isn't analysis, but change.
When people try to analyze themselves they begin to focus on the past, and when they do that they always find many places to put the blame for their shortcomings -- parents, siblings, teachers, fate, the company, the boss, the economy, the system. Even if the analysis happens to be correct it isn't very helpful. So instead of asking such questions as "What's wrong with me?" or "What made me the way I am?", it's far more helpful to ask, "In what ways would I like to change my behavior, and how can I?"
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 says: "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread."
Our quote for today is from Thomas Carlyle. He said: "Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
Today, we are continuing with Part 7 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
In our last episode, we talked about the option of talking to yourself as a way to get over inertia and procrastination and begin doing the things you know you ought to be doing. Today, we are going to expand on that topic with the suggestion that you record these talks you have with yourself. When Edwin Bliss published his book in 1984, he recommended using a cassette tape recorder. Of course, today, you can do the same thing with your smartphone, a microphone hooked up to your desktop computer, or the built-in microphone on your laptop.
Just talking to yourself can have a powerful effect, but some people get even more benefit from a self-lecture if they record it. Then, whenever they are tempted to goof off, they can just play back what they said when they were in a more buoyant mood, thus getting the needed shot in the arm -- or kick in the rear, as the case may be.
Besides being a reusable medium for self-motivation, the recording has another advantage: some people find they simply can't talk to themselves out loud as we've discussed -- they feel self-conscious when pacing the floor soliloquizing, Hamlet-style. But with the recorder they are, in effect, dictating a memo to themselves, making the process more acceptable.
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 Jaachynma Agu. She said: "Satisfaction in life doesn't jump on you. You work for it, you earn it. You will not sit in a place, fold your hands and expect to be satisfied with life.”
Today, we are continuing with Part 6 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
In our last episode, we talked about the option of keeping a journal as a way to motivate yourself to accomplish the things you have been postponing. In this episode, Edwin Bliss shares with us the option of talking to yourself as a way to motivate yourself to get things done.
When you find yourself repeatedly postponing something you know you should do, go to a private room and talk to yourself out loud as if you were the proverbial Dutch uncle. Be blunt, direct, honest. Ask yourself what is going on, and why you have failed to do things that you know should be done. But don't just make it an exercise in self-flagellation: your message is not "I am a slob," or "I am a no-good procrastinator." Instead, it should be along the lines of, "This continuing procrastination is unacceptable, and it's going to end immediately. Here is what I am going to do to get started..."
Tell yourself what you are going to do, not what you should do. Commit yourself to a specific action at a specific time. Make it a pep talk: assure yourself that you can do it. End on a positive note.
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 Booker T. Washington. He said: "You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals."
Today, we are continuing with Part 5 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
"Another thing that helps break the procrastination habit is keeping a journal. I’m not talking about making a daily record of your experiences. Most of us have little need to know what we did on Tuesday, April 7th. The kind of journal I'm speaking of is primarily a record of thoughts and feelings, rather than just activities. It's a great way of getting your act together -- clarifying goals, analyzing motives, planning corrective action, reinforcing desired behavior, getting to know and like yourself better, and thereby changing your attitudes."
Proverbs 22:29 says: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."
Our quote for today is from Scott Belsky. He said: "It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen."
Today, we are continuing with Part 4 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
In order to get momentum, is it always a good idea to "ease in" to a task, doing the simplest and most pleasant part first?
Usually it is, but sometimes the exact opposite works. Sometimes it pays to identify the most difficult part and take care of it first. I call this the Worst First approach.
That doesn't make sense. You can't have it both ways. If one way works, the other one shouldn't.
Actually, there are three ways of reacting when you are confronted with a complex task. One way is to get your foot in the door by doing the easiest part first and building some momentum. The second is to tackle the hardest part first and get the smug feeling that comes from getting something unpleasant out of the way as soon as possible (the old idea of eating your spinach first and your strawberry shortcake second). The third way -- the way of the procrastinator -- is to do neither, just leaving the task in limbo because it is unpleasant and because instead of choosing either of those plans of action you've chosen a plan of avoidance.
Suppose you have a group of volunteers, each of whom is supposed to call a list of people for donations to a political campaign. This is the kind of task most people find distasteful.
Some in the group will find it easiest to begin by contacting the most likely contributors -- the good friends of the candidate -- first. Then, warmed by the positive reception they are likely to get, they will feel less reluctant about calling those prospects on the list who are more likely to be grumpy, tightfisted, and obnoxious.
Others in the group (and many experienced salespeople will choose this approach) will find it preferable to select the grumpiest person on the list and make that call first. When it is completed they can say, "I've got that out of the way; from here on it will be a breeze!"
Either system will work; it's a matter of individual style and, of course, the nature of the task. In either case, you have made a commitment and you have adopted a definite game plan. What will not work is the third alternative, which is to postpone the chore until tomorrow in the hope that by some inexplicable miracle it will then become easier.
We're building up quite an armory of techniques: so far we have Pigeonholing, the Salami Technique, the Leading Task, and the Five-Minute Plan. Are there others?
Yes, indeed. One is the Balance Sheet Method.
Select some task you've been putting off. Now take a sheet of paper, and on the left side of the page list the reasons you are procrastinating. On the right side of the page list the benefits of getting the job done. Now compare the two lists. Generally, you'll find the reasons for procrastinating so insipid, and the reasons for action so compelling, that you become disgusted with your indolence and swing into action.
But doing it on paper is the secret. Excuses that seem quite adequate when they have not been clearly enunciated are exposed for the frauds they really are when reduced to writing.
Of course, sometimes the reasons for postponement may, on examination, be found to be quite valid, in which case you won't need to feel guilty about procrastination. The Balance Sheet Method, in other words, can be an excellent tool in reaching sound decisions about whether or not to take a certain course of action.
Benjamin Franklin often prepared a Balance Sheet when faced with a difficult decision. He wrote: "...all the reasons pro and con are not present to the mind at the same time; but sometimes one set present themselves and at other times another, the first being out of sight. To get over this, my way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one 'Pro' and over the other 'Con.' Then during three or four days' consideration I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives that at different times occur to me for and against the measure. When I have thus got them all together in one view I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal I strike them both out. If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies... and come to a determination accordingly. And, though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better and am less liable to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation in what may be called moral or prudential algebra."
The weighing of alternatives is what we will do every time we approach a decision; the only "new" element is doing it on paper. And if Benjamin Franklin, one of the great achievers of all time, found it worth his time to reduce the pros and cons to writing, perhaps we all could benefit from such a practice.
There is an alternative to the Balance Sheet Method that works even better for many people. Instead of making a pro and con list, you simply sit down and write out your feelings about the thing you are postponing. Talk to yourself on paper. Since you are writing only for yourself, don't worry about syntax and don't pull any punches. How do you really feel about the task? How do you feel about yourself for postponing it? What constructive steps might you take to get the show on the road? What, exactly, do you intend to do? When?
This may be done as an isolated exercise, or it can be one aspect of keeping a journal. Many psychiatrists and psychologists are taking renewed interest in the power of a journal to cause behavior change.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Our quote for today is from Richard Bach. She said: "You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however."
Today, we are continuing with Part 3 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".
Couldn't the process of making a list turn into a way of avoiding action? If instead of just going ahead and doing the job, one sits down and makes a detailed list of all the steps involved, doesn't that constitute delay? You seem to be encouraging -- of all things -- procrastination!
Not at all. What I am encouraging is an orderly approach. One of the principles of management is that, to be effective, planning must be separated from execution. Failure to do this generally results in poor results in both functions.
A good example of this is in the planning of a day. In the study of time management, we have found that scheduling the day early in the morning is not nearly as effective as doing it the preceding afternoon. In other words, the best time to plan Tuesday's activities is not the first thing Tuesday morning, but the last thing Monday, before leaving work. If you do your planning on Tuesday morning, you are "planning under pressure" the day is under way, the phone is ringing, there are insistent matters clamoring to be taken care of. Your inclination is to roll up your sleeves and start doing things, instead of calmly and objectively analyzing which things you should be doing. And the things you are most inclined to begin doing often are not the top priority ones. You begin spinning your wheels. The important fact that can be postponed tends to be postponed because of our compulsion to skip the planning and get the day started by doing something -- "getting busy" -- instead of acting out of long-term considerations.
If you plan Tuesday's work on Monday afternoon, however, you are in quite a different mood. Knowing that whatever you plan doesn't have to be done now, you are more objective. You assign yourself the tough tasks, knowing that a good night's sleep stands between you and the execution of your chore. You feel almost as if you were planning for someone else, and the tendency to postpone tasks until some vague future time is diminished
This principle applies not just in planning a day, but in any kind of planning. Treat planning and doing as separate and distinct aspects of the job. One way to accomplish this is to plan, on paper, what you intend to do before even getting started -- providing the task is a complex one, or one you are tempted to put off.
But suppose for some reason -- laziness, time, pressure, or simply because it doesn't seem worth the bother -- a person doesn't want to take the trouble to write out a sequential list but is still bothered by the specter of procrastination. Any alternative suggestions?
Yes. Instead of the systematic assault on the task we've been talking about, another approach is just to make yourself to do something -- anything -- in connection with it. I call this the Leading Task. It has also been referred to as the "Swiss Cheese Method," the idea being that you poke holes in the task until it resembles a Swiss cheese. Another writer calls it the "nibbling" approach. Others call it the "bits and pieces approach, the "start-up task," or the "baby step method."
Suppose you are putting off writing a letter. Instead of trying to force yourself to write it (you've already tried that and it didn't work), just make yourself take one small step, with the understanding that after having done so you will decide then whether or not to proceed. That one step might be looking up the address, or rolling a piece of paper into the typewriter, or getting out the file, or writing down the three points you want to mention -- anything, just so it's an overt action, something physical. It's a way of breaking the psychological logjam, and it's based, of course, on the fact that things at rest tend to remain at rest, while things in motion tend to remain in motion. Newton's laws apply in human behavior as well as in physics.
But some undertakings don't lend themselves to being broken down into smaller tasks. For example, suppose you should tackle a big backlog of filing that has accumulated, and it will take about an hour. There isn't any convenient way to break that kind of job down into "instant tasks."
In that case you may want to try the Five-Minute Plan. Make a deal with yourself, as in the preceding example, only this time instead of promising to do one segment, promise yourself that you will work on the task for five minutes. At the end of that time, you are free to turn to something else, if desired, or you may decide to spend another five minutes. No matter how distasteful the task, you can usually talk yourself into committing a mere five minutes to it.
Some people find this method works best with a timer. Set your timer for five minutes and resolve to see how much you can accomplish before it sounds.
At the end of the five minutes, if you don't feel like continuing, don't. A deal is a deal. But before setting the task aside, jot down a time when you will invest another five minutes.
This procedure is similar to the one followed by Alcoholics Anonymous. They have found that most alcoholics are discouraged when they think of promising never to take another drink; they can't commit themselves to such a seemingly unattainable goal. So they are encouraged instead to make a commitment to stay on the wagon for just a short period. Anybody can resist temptation for just five minutes. When they've done so, they try for another five, and this time it's a little easier, because they've demonstrated to themselves that they can set a modest goal and successfully meet it. Gradually they begin thinking in increments of a day or a week, and then they're well on their way to sobriety.
It works. Try it right now. Select one of the tasks you've been putting off, and at the end of this episode, set the timer for five minutes, and commit yourself to work on that task intensively to see what you can do in that time. Try racing against the clock by going all out during that period, the way a sprinter does in a race.
You will find that it won’t be so hard. And you will feel good about yourself. On top of that, you will feel an urge to continue while you have some momentum.
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.
Proverbs 6:6-8 says: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
Our quote for today is from Thomas Edison. He said: "Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."
Today, we are beginning a new section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination" Part 1.
A positive attitude about overcoming procrastination is fine, but it doesn't solve the problem. Let's get down to the nuts and bolts. Exactly how does a person translate that positive attitude into reality?
First, you must stop thinking in generalities, and focus your attention on one specific task. Then the problem is not "How do I stop procrastinating?" but "How do I make myself start painting the house?" You can't get a handle on a generality; a specific problem you can deal with.
Having selected the behavior you want to correct, the next step is to analyze the problem and decide what's causing the delay. Such varied causes as fatigue, lack of information, fear of failure, distraction, shyness, conflicting priorities, and so on, obviously will all require different approaches. In most cases, willpower alone won't do the job!
People have a tendency, however, not to look for the "why," or not to look deeply enough. In other words, they procrastinate on analyzing the reasons for their procrastination! Unconsciously, they recognize that focusing attention on the cause of a problem is the first step toward solving it, and they quail at the thought that they might be about to take that fateful first step.
Why do you say that? If a person sincerely wants to solve a problem, and knows what should be done to solve it, it would be illogical not to take the necessary steps.
True, but who said people behave logically? Most don't, which is the reason for books like this one. Somehow we must counteract that streak of masochism that causes us to close our eyes to the real reasons for our procrastination.
So try to categorize your problem, and clarify what it is that has been causing you to procrastinate. And remember, no generalities, no lame excuses such as, "I just have a habit of putting things off." Ask such questions as, "Honestly, what's my problem? Indecision? Shyness? Boredom? Inability to tolerate unpleasantness? Lack of needed tools? Ignorance? Disorganization? Fear? Fatigue? Is there any one word or phrase that sums up why I haven't been able to get this particular task under way?"
I call this process Pigeonholing, because it is an effort to put your problem into a very specific category, zeroing in on the cause rather than the excuse. When you attach an accurate label to a problem, the solution frequently becomes self-evident.
For example, if you establish that indecision is the cause of your problem, you have put your finger on the solution and you are likely to sit down and make some decisions. If you put your problem in the mental pigeonhole marked "Inadequate Information," you'll start looking for the additional data you need. If you recognize that your procrastination is caused by fatigue, fear, poor self-image, environmental problems, poor time management, etc., you may begin addressing those factors individually.
The first step is to find the right pigeonhole. Put the real reason for your delay into words. The precise statement of any problem is the most important step in its solution.
In the search for causes, however, be careful not to mistake excuses for reasons.
Don't let yourself get away with such cop-outs as, "I just haven't been able to find the time," or "There aren't enough hours in the day," or "Things keep coming up." Dig a little deeper. Face up to the real "why," not the rationalization. Be honest with yourself.
As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Proverbs 6:10-11 says: "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man."
Our quote for today is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said: "Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it."
Today, we are continuing with part 7 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
Edwin Bliss writes: Suppose you feel depressed, so you frown and act grumpy. Suddenly you are put in a situation requiring you to smile and be pleasant. You find your depression diminishes, and soon you are smiling not because you are forcing yourself to but because you feel more cheerful. The change in behavior has caused a change in attitude.
How does this apply to procrastination?
Suppose, for example, you are tempted to put off the writing of a difficult letter of apology . If you can somehow force yourself to write it anyway—and before you are compelled to—your attitude changes. It still may be an unpleasant task, but you get a sense of self-satisfaction from having tackled a tough chore promptly. Your self-esteem goes up a notch. The next time you are tempted to procrastinate on an unpleasant but necessary task you are a little less likely to succumb to the temptation.
So we are going to consider not only how we can change our attitudes toward procrastination, but how we can change our attitudes despite our attitudes. If we attack the problem from both ends, we increase our chance of success.
The first step is to change the way we think about procrastination itself. We must recognize it for the evil it is. We must think of it not as a trifling weakness to be brushed off with a joke but as a malignant tumor on our psyche, which must be excised if we are ever to become the person we would like to be.
It would be no exaggeration to say that for millions of people the tendency to procrastinate is the primary reason for their failure to achieve a rich, fulfilling life. So instead of saying to ourselves, "This is a weakness I happen to have, and I guess I am stuck with it," we must say, "This is the culprit responsible for putting a ceiling on my achievement. It is a deeply ingrained habit—but it is only a habit, and habits can be changed. I can lick this thing, and so help me God, I will."
When you begin talking to yourself like that you are on the threshold of a new era in your life. Until you make that commitment, you are destined to continue sputtering along at a fraction of your potential.
The choice is yours. Which will it be?
As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Genesis 2:3 says: "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
Our quote for today is from Margaret Thatcher. She said: "Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it."
Today, we are continuing with part 6 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
"Doing It Now" is written in a conversation format, and today’s conversation starter is: Let's grant that faith in yourself is a big plus; the fact still remains that sometimes your faith may not be justified. People can't do things beyond their powers, and they know it. In such a situation how can they engage in "possibility thinking"? You are asking people to close their eyes to reality.
Not at all. You see, there is little danger of people setting goals for themselves that are truly beyond their reach. It does happen, but very rarely. For example, I might fantasize about myself as a great movie star, or as world heavyweight boxing champion, or as the world's greatest detective, but I would never set those things as goals. Knowing that I don't have the required attributes, and knowing that my interests lie in other directions, I would never commit myself to them.
No, the problem isn't in setting goals that are too high; the problem is setting goals that are too low. And most of us do. Consequently, we achieve only a portion of what we could.
It's anybody's guess. But the greatest psychologist-philosopher, William James, estimated that most people use only about one-tenth of their potential powers. He said, "Everyone knows that on any given day there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are dampened, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources."
A modern-day philosopher, Linus (alias: Charles M. Schulz), puts it more succinctly: 'Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears that we never use."
But how does all this relate to procrastination?
When "our fires are dampened," and we use only part of our potential, procrastination is nearly always a factor. Shyness, laziness, indecision, indifference, fear, negative thinking, dissipation, fuzzy goals, poor self-image—these and many other things can put a ceiling on our level of achievement. But the mechanism through which these inhibitors manifest themselves is usually procrastination. Our shyness, laziness, indecision, fear, or whatever causes us to postpone doing the things we know we should do, and the result is failure, total or partial. As someone has said, "People don't fail because they intend to fail. They fail because they fail to do what they intend to do."
So you're saying, then, that procrastination is not so much a disease as a symptom.
In that case, shouldn't we be concerning ourselves with the causes rather than with the effect? Shouldn't we be figuring out what to do about shyness, laziness, indecision, fear, etc., rather than dealing with the procrastination that results from these problems?
We are going to do both. Obviously, if we can identify and eliminate the causes that is the way to go. But behavioral scientists have shown that the reverse procedure also works—even better, in many cases. Changing an undesired behavior can alter the attitudes that caused the behavior in the first place.
As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Proverbs 14:23 says: "In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (poverty)."
Our quote for today is from Edward Everett Hale. He said: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
Today, we are continuing with part 5 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
"Doing It Now" is written in a conversation format, and today’s conversation starter is: Suppose you lack the attribute of self-discipline that is supposed to be so essential, how do you develop it?
For starters, you change your attitude toward difficult tasks, and admit to yourself that postponing them will not make them easier. Tell yourself that from now on you are never going to put anything on the back burner without running the rationalization through your mental computer for careful analysis. As you weigh the reasons methodically and objectively, you will begin to spend less of your time in the fantasy world of the procrastinator and more in the real world where the penalties of postponement are recognized and unacceptable.
You'll start also with something even more basic: an attitude of affirmation. You must tell yourself that you really can change, if you want to. The tendency to procrastinate isn't something one is born with, like color blindness. It is a habit and you can alter habits. The way you begin is by admitting that you can and resolving that you will.
This "attitude of affirmation" you speak of—isn't that just another term for "the power of positive thinking"? And isn't that pretty old stuff?
The answer to both questions is, yes. Norman Vincent Peale calls it positive thinking. Robert Schuller uses the term possibility thinking. Clement Stone talks about PMA—positive mental attitude. Maxwell Malt coined the term psycho-cybernetics. Wayne Dyer speaks of becoming a no-limit person. An earlier proponent of positive thinking, Jesus of Nazareth, put it this way: "According to your faith be it unto you."
So, it's nothing new. But one of the ironies of the human condition is that old verities are suspect. A truth that has been proven millions of times through the ages will be questioned because of its very antiquity. We have to learn it all over again sometimes dressing it up in new garb. Thus each generation and each individual has to be convinced anew that love is better than hate, that peace is better than war, that virtue is better than vice, and that positive thinking brings success and negative thinking produces failure.
Sophisticates may scoff at what they describe as the simplistic message of Robert Schuller, but even they are awed by the magnificence of the great Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, which "possibility thinking" produced. Even more important, they must be impressed by the changes that have occurred in countless lives because of the "simplistic" message of affirmation.
In the words of Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, "Attitudes are more important than facts." Those six words express a profound truth. Change your attitude toward procrastination and you will have taken a major step toward overcoming it.
But to change your attitude by a mere act of will seems impossible. It's like lifting yourself by your bootstraps. If you don't honestly believe you can overcome procrastination, how do you trick yourself into believing you can? How do you convince yourself of something that simply isn't so?
You don't. Because it is so. You aren't tricking yourself or lying to yourself—you are stating a truth. Remember, we are not talking about just procrastination but about the things you are procrastinating on. The skill you want to develop, the weight loss you would like to achieve, the language you would like to learn, the house you would like to build—all of these things are attainable once you get it through your head that they really are, and that the only thing blocking them is your own negativism: your refusal to believe in your own capacity and then to act on that belief.
Proverbs 12:24 says: "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute."
Our quote for today is from Thomas Carlyle. He said: “Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It's a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment.”
Today, we are continuing with part 4 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
"Doing It Now" is written in a conversation format, and today’s conversation starter is: Surely you have heard such phrases as “Go with the flow,” and “Don't push the river.” Don't these admonitions suggest the wisdom of accepting what life has dished out to us and enjoying it instead of going on a binge of self-admonition?
Not at all. Those phrases are perfectly valid in the proper context. It is foolish, of course, not to yield to the inevitable. But what is inevitable? One is reminded of the well-known Serenity Prayer by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr:
O God, give us serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
Courage to change what should be changed,
And wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
As far as our own behavior is concerned, when we achieve the wisdom spoken of in that prayer, most of us will emphasize the courage part more and the serenity part less.
Life is not a situation, but a process; not static, but dynamic. Its essential element is change, and the great question facing each of us is whether we will channel that change in the direction we want to go, shaping our destiny, or whether we will permit our activities and our character to be determined by those random forces we call fate. To the extent that we procrastinate, we are following the second course.
But this all sounds like such a chore! To fight procrastination—along with all the other imperfections we all have in our makeup—seems like a never-ending process. It seems as if you are asking people to be constantly at war with themselves.
In a sense that is true. The concept of an eternal struggle within us, between good and evil, between self-mastery and self-indulgence, goes back to the Garden of Eden; it is the great theme running through life and literature. But the testament of the human race is that the battle is worth fighting, that it gives zest to life, and that victory is sweet. In the words of the Roman poet Publius Syrus: “The greatest victory is victory over self; to be conquered by self is of all things the most shameful and vile.”
Yes, it is a battle. But it can be a very satisfying one if one is on the offensive and winning victories. Remember, when one begins to win, subsequent victories become easier, as the enemy weakens. Our strength and ability to overcome procrastination grow each time we chalk up a triumph, however small.
One of the notable achievers of recent years is Ray Kroc, chairman of the board of McDonald's, the man who parleyed the humble hamburger into a fortune. He says: “The longer I live, the more importance I attach to a man's ability to manage and discipline himself...The man with the capacity for self-discipline can tell himself to do the truly important things first. Therefore, if there is not enough time to go around, and something must be neglected, it will be the less essential task. Here is the most interesting thing about the capacity for self-discipline. He who wants it may have it!...The one ingredient we most need for success is ours for the asking, for the wanting, if we only want it enough!”
Self-discipline. That's where it all starts. There's no substitute.
In his book, Excellence, John Gardiner, founder of Common Cause, puts it this way: “Some people may have greatness thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly, by doing what comes naturally; and they don't stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.
Proverbs 13:4 says: "The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat."
Charles Wesley wrote:
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will!
Today, we are continuing with part 3 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
"Doing It Now" is written in a conversation format, and today’s conversation starter is: You mentioned the varieties of procrastination. Isn't there just one variety—namely, putting things off?
No. There is one result, but there are a number of causes. I think the causes of procrastination can be grouped into four categories:
First are the attitudinal factors, which include such things as: unwillingness to tolerate discomfort or unpleasantness, fear of failure, fear of success, low self-esteem, depression, boredom, shyness, and feelings of guilt.
Second are the cognitive blocks such as: inadequate information, unclear priorities, indecision, uncertainty about how to attack the problem, and failure to appreciate the importance of timely action.
Third are environmental conditions or external factors that encourage delay. They include: clutter, disorganization, noise, unmanageable workloads, diversionary activities, lack of needed tools, and friends or relatives who lure one from the chosen task.
Fourth, there are the physiological barriers to timely action, including fatigue, stress, and illness.
Each instance of procrastination involves one or more of these. If you can pin down the cause of your procrastination, you will have taken a big step toward overcoming it and replacing it with the habit of prompt action. Then it won't be necessary for anyone ever to say of you:
He slept beneath the moon,
He basked beneath the sun;
He lived a life of going-to-do
And died with nothing done.
Such as the belief that one is "just a born procrastinator," the assumption that we are dealing with an innate character defect that we are helpless to correct. We must stop excusing ourselves with the fallacious argument that we are the victims of genetic or environmental factors condemning us to the role of the legendary character who goes through life "a dollar short and a day late."
But isn't there considerable truth in the assumption—for some people at least? Aren't all of us born with certain weaknesses? And if our weakness happens to be procrastination, shouldn't we accept it and just try to make the best of it? Why this compulsion to make ourselves over, instead of relaxing, and enjoying life? What's wrong with the philosophy of the old song, "Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be..."?
Que sera, sera is a lovely song, but a lousy philosophy. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished by anybody who met life with a shrug and an attitude of "whatever will be will be." There are plenty of people who do choose that approach, of course, but they are the zombies. Instead of that motto, your slogan should be, "Que quiero sera"—whatever I will, will be.
As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Colossians 3:23 says: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
Vince Lombardi said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”
Today, we are continuing with part 2 of the section titled, "Attitude Adjustment".
The book is written in a conversation format, and today’s conversation starter is: So procrastination is bad and we should all try to do something about it. But it still seems that with the innumerable problems besetting each of us, the question of whether we do something today or tomorrow is hardly a primary concern.
As a matter of fact, it is. So often it is the key to those other problems, large or small. Consider, for example, typical procrastinators whose problems are either created or intensified by delay:
These people and institutions wouldn't see themselves as having much in common, but they share several things:
All varieties of procrastination, in fact, involve self-delusion of one kind or another. They involve denial of reality, and refusal to weigh penalties and alternatives objectively.
In other words, you are saying that procrastination is stupid.
Exactly. It's a form of game-playing. And idiotic game-playing at that, because we ourselves are invariably the losers. In the words of the poet Robert Abrahams:
Some men die by shrapnel
And some go down in flames,
But most men perish inch by inch
In play at little games.
Overcoming procrastination means giving up the games and being honest with ourselves.
Thank you for tuning in to the "Get Things Done" podcast. The simple purpose of this podcast is to help you get things done every day so that you can accomplish something worthwhile with your life. I am a firm believer that God has put each person on earth to do something great for His glory. My name is Daniel Whyte III, founder and president of GLM Omnimedia Group LLC.
In this podcast, we are going through the book "Doing It Now" by Edwin C. Bliss. I had just finished speaking at a meeting in Philadelphia many years ago, and as I was walking through the airport, I picked up this little book and read it in its entirety. It is one of the best books that I have ever read on this subject, and along with prayer and the power of God, it is one of the reasons why I have accomplished so much in my life. Today, I want to share with you some of the principles that Edwin C. Bliss talks about in his book.
As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Leonardo da Vinci said, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
The first thing Edwin Bliss talks about in his book is "Attitude Adjustment". The book is written in question and answer format, as though he were sitting down talking with you over lunch.
The first question is: Procrastination seems to be a universal fact of life. Shouldn't we just accept it as part of human nature and let it go at that?
Not at all. Some people do, of course, but they generally turn out to be the ones who are defeated by life.
But when something is so widespread, isn't it rather pointless to fight it?
No. Disease is widespread, but we don't shrug our shoulders or ignore it. The important thing is not how widespread a problem is but whether something can be done about it. And in the case of procrastination it can.
Are you sure? Where is the evidence that this problem can be overcome?
The evidence is found in the life of every successful human being. Successful people do not procrastinate—at least in matters relating to their field of achievement. It's as simple as that. Procrastination prevents success.
Wait a minute. Surely you can't mean that. Practically everybody admits to being a procrastinator. It's the common denominator of the human race.
Not really. It's the common denominator of people who fail to live up to their potential. It's true that nearly everyone will jokingly admit to procrastination. But when successful people do, what they are really saying is that there are some things that they would like to have done that they haven't done. That isn't the same thing as procrastination.
Maybe a definition would clarify things. Exactly what do you mean by procrastination?
I mean postponing something that you know in your heart should be done now instead of later. If you postpone a task in order to do something that really has greater importance and urgency, you can't accuse yourself of procrastination.
So what you're saying is that procrastination and justifiable delay are two different things.
Of course. And learning to distinguish between them is what this book is all about. That, and learning what to do when you catch yourself committing the sin of procrastination.
Did you say 'sin'?
Isn't that putting it a bit strongly? It's a bad habit, admittedly. Even a peccadillo, perhaps. But surely it can't be called a sin!
It certainly can. As any theologian will tell you, sin comes in two varieties. The sin of commission gets all the attention, but in the words of Ogden Nash:
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you get really painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and
the checks you haven't added up the stubs of and
the appointments you haven't kept and
the bills you haven't paid and
the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red letter day
Or night every time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse
Or forgot to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry,
“Whee, let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home,
And this round of unwritten letters is on me.”
No, you never get any fun
Out of the things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do
Give you a lot more trouble than the unsuitable things you did.
In this matter of doing things when they should be done, I think that if we can become saints instead of sinners, we will live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.
- - - - - - - - -
We will continue this discussion regarding an attitude adjustment toward procrastination in our next podcast.
Now, let’s pray together --
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Now, the greatest secret to getting things done with your life for the glory of God is to have the Lord Jesus Christ in your life. When you have Jesus in your life, you can say with Paul in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can have a home in Heaven. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
God bless you, and remember: if you have something to do, there is no better time to do it than now.