My newest book is finally available! I am excited and the preliminary feedback is overwhelming positive. Here is an excerpt. It's the chapter "On Procrastination". Hey I put this off long enough...so here you go.
Take a good look at the picture above. How many legs do you see? It's confusing isn't it. It's an optical illusion. An elephant is supposed to have four legs. How many did you count? Have you ever heard the statement, "An Elephant in the Living Room?" (negative) or "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer? Cut him up and eat it a bite at a time.
I recently went through my inbox and found a notice that the tabs were due on my son's car. I made a mental note (big mistake). "I will do that tomorrow" (bigger mistake) then I forgot. Evan calls me a week later to tell me he just got a pulled over and received a ticket for $124. The tabs would have cost me $39. There is a price to procrastination. We all do it. Big things. Little things. Unpleasant things. You see, I am looking to make NEW MISTAKES, not the same old ones. So I am writing this for me. To remind myself what I need to do daily.
Procrastination wears many masks: laziness, indifference, forgetfulness, overwork. However, I believe it is usually a single word, FEAR. Analyze your fears. Precisely what are you afraid of? Is your real or imagined? Is it criticism? Poverty? Ill-health? Loss of love? Death?
Ben Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac, "We procrastinate on any project that the direction is unclear and will take longer than forty-five minutes." That is so true. Who procrastinates? Each and every one of us.
It's a long and painful list: Clean out the closet, mow the lawn, do your taxes, lose 30 pounds, write that book, organize your desktop, office, car.
What are the true emotional costs of procrastination? Doubt, fear, anxiety, resentment, self-pity, uncertainty and lowered feelings of self-worth and esteem. They hold us back from reaching our potential. Our habits and feelings betray us.
Each of us moves toward pleasure and away from pain. It's how we are wired. I had to get real as to what was holding me back. I was making excuses. I was creatively avoiding this unpleasant elephant.
As I faced this giant pachyderm head on, I began to brainstorm in my journal some solutions. I hope it helps you. I know it will help me...
Change your belief and self-image. Write out a goal, a new declaration. How about:
"I keep my word to myself. I have integrity and I finish what I start. I tackle uncomfortable projects with enthusiasm. I just do it!"
Repeat that affirmation 5-50 times a day for 30 days! Now, the process for getting unstuck. It works.
- Make a list in a journal of all the projects and tasks you have been putting off.
- Prioritize the list in order of importance.
- Take your #1 elephant and brainstorm, asking yourself on paper:
- What exactly needs to be done?
- Why am I putting it off?
- What are the benefits of getting this done?
- What will it mean to me once I have completed this?
- Make a long list of little action items (sub-goals) to take and put them in order of importance.
- Estimate how long each little action will take (20 minutes) to the right of the item.
- Pick a date and put it on your calendar, two options here:
- Tackle it all in one day.
- Do an hour a day for however many days it takes to finish the task.
- Hold yourself accountable by telling someone you respect that will do it.
- Determine a reward you will give yourself when you have completed this project, make it special and significant for you.
- Get started and do the thing you don't like first.
- If you get stuck or frustrated, ask for help from someone that has done what you want to do and been where you want to go.
Remember when you were a kid, you ate the vegetables first? Maybe you put ketchup on it or lots of butter, but you ate them first. Then you could enjoy the rest of the meal.
When I decided to write "Freedom from Fear" twelve years ago, I got up at 0500 every day for a month. I wrote first thing in the morning. Three pages or two hours, whichever came first. I have done that with every book I have written. I did the same thing with this book. Three pages a day or one hour, whichever comes first. It's amazing. The book writes itself.
Consider these words from great men from antiquity:
"We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going. Concentrate on something useful."
Arnold Bennett, from the book How to Live on 24 Hours
"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain."
William James, Father of American Psychology, 1896
"How soon 'Not Now' becomes NEVER."
Elbert Hubbard, Publisher, Author
"Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried."
Neil Armstrong-Astronaut, Author, Speaker
"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste o moment on yesterdays."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Philosopher, Essayist, Author
"An adventure is the deliberate, volitional movement out of the comfort zone."
James Newman, Author of Release Your Brakes!
"Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning."
John Henry Newman
Is it time to acknowledge the elephant in your living room? Hand me that knife...I have got some carving to do!?