When I start working with people on their goals, my priority is to have them start doing something. Anything, even if it’s a mistake. I don’t care if they don’t have the time, the resources or the perfect idea. I just want them to get moving.
Procrastination is the act or habit of putting off or delaying. This is one of the biggest human challenges. We are all guilty of procrastinating from time to time and it can be very frustrating.
Yet, the problem with procrastination is not that people don’t do what they should be doing. The real problem is that most people don’t do what they really want to do.
Our lives are filled with stuff we don’t want to do. Who wants to work out ? Do the laundry, study, write a letter or clean the attic ? Nobody wants to do that! Unless someone programmed you with this kind of behaviour, probably by shaming or brainwashing you as a young child.
There is a cool time management tool called the Eisenhower’s matrix. This tool prioritise tasks by urgency and importance in 4 different categories or quadrants: the important and urgent, the important but not urgent, the urgent but not important and the not urgent and not important. This tool has been declined in many different variations and is used in many fancy ways to improve productivity, reduce stress and address some executives burn-outs.
The biggest take-away from this matrix is that there are two types of tasks you have during your day. The urgent tasks that you need to process asap as they can have a big impact on your day. And the important tasks that really don’t have a great impact on your day but will have a tremendous impact on your life in the long run. One good example of the latter is working out. This is rarely an urgent matter and you can always put off working out. However, the compound effect of working out regularly on your mood, your health, your sleep, your productivity and almost any other aspect of your life is in the long run colossal. (The compound effect book)
So do we want to be working out ? Of course we do! The problem is that we have all this urgent stuff to do, so we keep putting off going to the gym. Do we have to do the urgent stuff ? Unfortunately yes. As I said earlier, the problem is that most people don’t do what they want to do. Why ? Because once we have done all the urgent tasks, our day is usually over. When I have done my work, paid my bills, cooked food and bathed the kids, I don’t have any energy or motivation left for working out.
Now, is it really an issue ? Is it really that important ? At least I am doing what I can, and I still get a lot of things done. I am not doing bad compared to others…
If you feel you could accomplish more and that you don’t have time to pursue what really matters to you. If you think that some of your results are not good enough or are lacking in some areas of your life. Then you might want to ask yourself, what is important to me ? And have I been putting it off recently ?
If there is something really important to us that we keep delaying thinking that we will get to it when we have more time. We are in trouble. It means we will never get to it. There won’t be “more time”. In life, our time is the scariest resource we have, how we spend it is crucial to not having regrets and not being frustrated. To be able to go to bed looking at our day saying: “I have done well today” is priceless.
So here is the first pearl of wisdom from Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th president of the United States of America:
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
What does that mean for us ? We want to do the important stuff first. What really matters is almost never urgent, so as long as we get it done first, we will live without regrets and achieve what is really important to us. Somehow the urgent stuff will always get done. If you don’t believe me, look at exams or bills or taxes. Most people always manage to get these things done, no matter how late or busy they are.
Practically this means: book the first one or two hours of your day for your long term important goals. It could be working on your health, your long-term career, your dreams, whatever will make you happy in the long run.
Now how do you know what goals are important to you ? Maybe you feel that you have many different goals and you cannot choose between them as they all are very important to you.
How to choose ?
Here is what Warren Buffet told his personal pilot Mike Flint to do when he asked him. "how could I achieve more in life?".
He asked him to write down his top 25 goals in life.
So Mike went home and thought about it and the next week he came back with a list of 25 goals. Mister Buffett then asked him to choose the 5 most important goals on the list and circle them.
Next week, probably on a flight to Honolulu (with lots of champagne I’d imagine), Mike came back with the list and the 5 chosen goals. He had the first 5 goals and he said he would work on these right away, then he would work on the other 20 from time to time.
This second pearl of wisdom is from Mister Warren Buffett, most successful investor in the world and one of the world’s wealthiest people:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Mister Buffett told Mike that everything else than the 5 most important goals are the things he should “Avoid at all cost”. No matter what, these things should not get any attention from him until the first 5 are done and finished.
Being able to focus your attention only on your most important objectives makes a big difference in the results you get daily. Avoiding the secondary and less relevant hobbies, passions and projects will free up time for what matters first.
This kind of goal setting exercise can be done on a long-term basis (5 or 10 years) or even on a weekly or monthly basis (What do I want to focus on in October ?).
How to combine the two to get rid of procrastination ?
1. First pick your 5 most important goals out of 25 on a specific timeline. (Week/month/year)
2. Then use your first hour every day for your most important tasks before you start looking at the urgent stuff.
If you do this consistently and develop the habit of prioritising your goals and organising your day with putting what’s important first, you will experience a radical change in your achievements.
Let me know if you have any insights or comments.
Performance coach, world traveler, tribe builder, NLP enthusiast and mnemonist. I am passionate about self-development and life changing coaching tools.
Defusing The Past