If you were guaranteed success, would your thoughts and actions be different from what they are today?
Would you take more risks and spend more time taking action and less time talking about how things could be?
Author H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once said, “The biggest gap in the world is between I should and I did.” When you compare today’s activities with what you dream of accomplishing, there should be a clear connection between the two. If your daily activities aren’t paving the way to your dreams – you’re probably putting off what you should.
In a word, I am talking about procrastination!
If you struggle with procrastination, you are not alone. To truly be successful you must learn to close the gap between what you should be doing and what you are actually doing.
Over the years, with the help of a few mentors combined with a few lessons learned by trial and error, I have discovered several exercises that have helped put an end to “woulda, coulda, and shoulda” in my life.
Allow me to share four helpful hints. Start by following the next four steps.
1. DISRUPT YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE
I have learned that it doesn’t matter how hard or long I work, if you are not accomplishing what needs to be done. Sometimes changing how or where you work can increase your productivity significantly. Start by shuffling the order of your daily tasks. If it makes sense, begin your day with a task you normally reserve for the end of the day or vice-versa.
Also, try changing your work setting. Go to the library or park. Work at a coffee shop or on the porch. Break out of familiar patterns. This practice is harder than it might appear especially if you are a creature of habit, which I am. I like my comfort zones.
Another way to get more done is to steal an extra hour each day. Get up an hour earlier. Begin work on a project during an “off” time. The idea is to take the pressure off of yourself by starting a job or doing a task when you are not actually supposed to be working.
2. GET YOUR FIRST FAILURE OUT OF THE WAY
Author Henry C. Link reminded us that “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” Plan and expect your first failure so that you no longer have to fear it.
If you need to make sales calls, dial up your first potential client and expect rejection. Keep calling until you get that first “no.” If you are brainstorming to solve a problem or complete a project, start by weeding through the bad ideas then move on to better ones.
In short, once you have expected – and overcome—one failure, others don’t look so intimidating.
3. BREAK DOWN YOUR BIG TASKS
Several years ago, Professor Gersick of the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA pointed out that the average person doesn’t get seriously down to work on a “big project” until midway between the start of the project and the deadline, whether an hour or a year away.
If the size of the task causes you to procrastinate or completely shy away, break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then give yourself an immediate deadline for accomplishing each task. I found this technique very helpful when it came to preparing my income taxes or writing a book that is in process.
Ray Kroc, whose name is synonymous with the McDonald Corporation dating back to 1955 said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
4. STEP BACK AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE
Don Shula, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, once said, “If you stacked (the mediocre) teams up against one of the perennial contenders, the talent gap might not be as great as you’d expect. It’s the philosophy gap that separates them. The losers lack something vital: a sense of purpose.” I have observed that people often fail to start or complete a task because they do not see the connection between what they are doing and what they really want to accomplish.
If you sense what you are doing is not blazing a trail toward a desired result, it’s probably time to rethink your pursuits. If you know that your work will move you closer to your goals, you will be more inclined to see the task through.
If you are a person who has procrastinated in the past, or even now, you can begin working today with a new outlook on getting things done and use some fresh methods for avoiding procrastination.
Make yourself a promise today to put an end to the phrases “woulda, coulda and shoulda” in your life.
Until next time…
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is also a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.