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Licking the Procrastination Habit
by Jeffrey J. Mayer 

Procrastination is by far the biggest waster of time, no matter what you do for a living.We're all procrastinators to one degree or another. Mark Twain offered this piece of advice: "Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

The trouble is, things we put off may never get done. Or when we finally get around to doing them, we're working under the pressure of a deadline, and we won't do them as well as we could have.

A Few Questions
If you're putting in fifty or sixty hours of work each week you probably don't consider yourself to be a procrastinator. You look at yourself as being a dedicated contributor to your company. But let me ask you a few pointed questions:

  • Do you have a tendency to leave your unpleasant projects until the last minute?

  • Do you hope that if you put off tackling some problem, it will go away, or somebody else will solve it? 
  • Have you ever thought to yourself that you could do a better job if you had more time? 
  • When you fail to get a job done on time, do you blame someone else? 
  • Do you set unrealistic deadlines for yourself, which almost guarantee you won't get the job done on time? 
  • Do you overload yourself with work, then complain that there's too much to do? 
  • Are you running out of excuses and alibis to explain why your projects aren't getting done on time? 

If you answer to any one of these questions is yes, you're a procrastinator! If you answered yes to more than a few of them, then your career may be in trouble.

Fear of Failure
Psychologists can cite a whole battery of reasons why people procrastinate, but the number-one reason is probably fear of failure. We postpone doing something because we're afraid we won't do it right. This striving for perfection can stop you dead in your tracks, or slow you down so that you probably will fail. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your fear of failure leads to feelings of guilt because you know you could have done a better job if only you hadn't waited until the last minute.

Has procrastination become a habit?

Procrastination is part of human nature, and we're all human. But when it becomes a habit — a consistent pattern in the way you do you job — it can have disastrous consequences. You end up spending more time in the office, not less, because you're not using your time efficiently.

Your productivity and creativity go down the drain. You're always working under pressure, with a very unpleasant result: You're unhappy with your job — and yourself.

Schedule Your Tasks
One of the ACT! features that I love the most is the Task List. With the Task List you can view, as a list all, of the things that need to be done each and every day. But in order to get the most out of the Task List, you've got to schedule your tasks inside ACT!.

Many people — even ACT! users — keep track of all their tasks, projects, calls, and to-dos by leaving papers in piles on the desktop and Post-it Notes stuck to the walls and computer monitors. And they put off — until the last possible moment — the projects that will take the most thought, concentration, time, and energy.

Put Everything Into ACT! 
Instead of keeping track of things with a paper based system. Put everything in ACT!. Here are some thoughts:

When you speak with someone, and need to do something, schedule it inside ACT!. When someone is going to send you something, schedule a follow-up inside ACT! to make sure you receive it. When your boss gives you an assignment, schedule it inside ACT!, and begin to work on it immediately. When a customer and/or prospect asks you to send/fax/e-mail something, schedule it inside ACT!. Whenever anything crosses your mind that you've got to do something, schedule it inside ACT!

The more things you schedule the greater your control over your time and your daily activities.

Do Your Important Work
View your Task List through out the day and ask yourself this question: "What is the most important task that I must do?" Don't think about it! Just Do It!

ACT!Tip: Set an ACT! alarm, and use ACT!'s Lead Time feature to remind you to start on a project early. Lead Time alarms can be set for days, weeks, and/or months in advance.

ACT!Tip: Schedule an appointment with yourself when your task is going to take some time. Open your ACT! calendar, decide when you're going to do this work, and schedule the task.

ACT!Tip: As a general rule, most tasks take more time than expected, so block out 50 percent more time than you think you'll need.

Planning Your Day
Before you go home at the end of the day, look at your Task List to see what needs to be done tomorrow. Select the most important task(s) and tackle it as soon as you arrive in the morning.

You'll find you complete twice as much work, do it in half the time, keep everybody happy, and beat the procrastination habit. Also, you'll have more time for yourself, and a bit more money in your pocket.

Reprinted with permission from "Jeffrey Mayer's Succeeding In Business Newsletter. (Copyright, 2001, Jeffrey J. Mayer, Succeeding In Business, Inc.)


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