Priorities and Procrastination
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
There is an old saying that goes, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” This is a perfect example of bad advice. First of all, I do not agree with that statement simply because of the absolute word “never.” My second issue is with the word “can.” We can all spend our day staring at the wall, but just because we are capable of doing this, certainly does not mean we should. These “words of wisdom” contained in that old saying that was written to battle procrastination, ignore one of the very important principles of success: spend each day doing what you need to do, should do, and want to do, in that order. In other words, prioritize.
Once again, we see the 80/20 rule in effect. In respect to time management and the average person, 80% of one’s productivity is a result of 20% of one’s time. Conversely, 80% of one’s time is spent on only 20% of the activities that are considered productive. The key to greater achievement, productivity, and success is being able to shift the scale, so more of your time is spent on more productive activities.
Easier said than done. The biggest challenge we face as mere mortals is having the discipline to do what needs to be done, when it should be done, rather than do what we want to do when we feel like doing it. At times, we choose to do the less important tasks of our day simply because we do not look forward to doing the tasks that really need to get done. This is actually a very common example of procrastination, or the act of needlessly postponing or delaying.
There is only one real reason we procrastinate: we associate more pain with doing what needs to be done than not doing what needs to be done. Therefore, the key to avoiding procrastination and focusing more on the tasks that need and should get done, is associating more pain with procrastination of your priorities, and more pleasure with getting them out of the way. Here are some facts to consider about priorities and procrastination:
- Procrastination contributes to stress. Dreaded, but necessary tasks are like dark clouds that follow you around wherever you go. Realize that once these tasks are out of the way, you will be able to relax more. Your days will be less stressful the sooner these tasks are completed.
- Procrastination affects concentration. It is more difficult to concentrate and focus when your priorities are not being taken care of.
- Procrastination takes away from your happiness. Realize that every thought you have of what you should be doing but are not doing takes away a bit of your happiness. There is also happiness that comes with the feeling of accomplishment, or knowing that you are doing just what needs to be done and doing it when you need to do it.
- Anticipated pain is often worse than pain itself. You may think dealing with your important tasks right away may be painful, but when it comes down to actually doing it, you will realize that it was not that bad. Procrastination actually causes unnecessary pain.
- Taking care of priorities makes room for more priorities. When you get the more important tasks out of the way, you make room for even more important, productive tasks. This is the formula for increasing productivity that leads to greater success.
- You do not have to eliminate your wants. Go ahead and do what you want to do, just don’t spend as much time doing it. If your day consists of two hours of mindless organizing that you enjoy as “downtime,” try gradually reducing that time.
Priorities take precedence over that which you “can” do today. Priorities are those tasks or activities that you need or should do today. Rather than accepting clichés such as “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” you are better off adopting the philosophy, “Make the best possible use of your time,” which does require sacrifice and self-discipline. The overall goal is not to deprive yourself of the more pleasurable activities, but to substitute the wasteful activities with more productive ones that give you the same or even greater pleasure. At the very least, simply prioritizing the tasks and activities you are already doing by doing what needs to be done, what should be done, and then what you want to do, in that order, will make a world of difference and lead you to greater success.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)