Sunday, January 31, 2010

Procrastination, the killer of success

At the start of 2010, I set myself a goal of writing a guide book for A level tuition students. Yet everyday, I reached home, tired, sleepy, wanting to look at my equities portfolio, watch some youtube videos to relax, before calling it a day. I tell myself, I will do it tomorrow.

But tomorrow never comes.

And so, that's how procrastination began for me. For the whole month, I did little to push myself forward to complete this goal, giving myself excuses that I have to do this first, do that first. The result? 0.001% accomplished on this goal.

Indeed, procrastination is a sure-fire way to avoid success. It is the act of not being productive. Procrastinators sabotage themselves, put obstacles in their own path, and choose paths that hurt their performance. Procrastination can be blinding. It blanks out one's sense of priority and overtakes one's reason. Unimportant things take precedence, while important things are left aside undone.

Studies show that procrastination is the greatest enemy of all productivity and inner motivation. When you postpone any work or goal, you are burdening yourself with guilt and work that should already be done, but still undone. The thing is, things that are not done now will still have to be done eventually... so why wait to do them? It is very easy to say "I will start doing it tomorrow". It's still acceptable if that's occasional, but if it becomes the rule, you might as well forget about the goal; your drive to complete it isn't strong enough.

So how to reduce or eliminate this deadly sin of procrastination?

1) Make your goal a must
How many times have you found it hard to wake up in the morning to go to work? You off the alarm, and tell yourself you will take just another 5 minutes more of sleep. The cycle repeats, until suddenly, you are extremely awake! Reason? You are late for work!

Another example I experienced personally. In schools, project work are usually given at the start of the semester. There's more than sufficient amount of time to do. Yet.... such projects are usually left undone, or progress at a very slow pace... until just a week before the deadline. Within that one week, the team is suddenly able to finish the project whose timeline was originally 2 months. 1 week to finish a project that's given 2 months time.

Why does this happen? In the first scenario, initially, your alarm is ringing early enough, so it's not a must for you to get up immediately. But when you are late, it then becomes a must. Immediately, you become wide awake, ready to rush out to work.

In the second scenario, initially, you feel that there's a lot of time, so there's no need for rushing. Yet when it is very near the deadline, it becomes a must to finish the project asap.

By making your goal a must, you will have a motivation to accomplish it. You know you have to complete it.

2) Set a timeline
Without a timeline, one tends to postpone their goals as there are no urgencies. "I will do it tomorrow" comes ever so commonly.... and as mentioned earlier, tomorrow never comes.

Set a realistic deadline for each goal and outline the rewards/consequences of doing and not doing it respectively. As humans, our inertia to change or move is usually large. It's very easy to procrastinate and continue doing it forever. Yet once you start, your momentum will continue to push your forward until your goal is accomplished due to the same inertia.

Moral of the story, just start. As Nike puts it: Just Do It.

3) Make your goals clear
Have a very clear goal. Without a clear goal, you wouldn't be able to go about achieving it properly. Imagine you are going to build a house, yet other than laying bricks, you do not have a clear plan on how to build it. You do not have a floor plan, an electrical plan, a piping plan, etc. What would you get in the end? Perhaps a mess, or just a brick wall, but definitely not a house.

Nothing comes out of thin air without planning. Do you think any of the successful people you know got there and discover themselves in their shoes one fine day after waking up?

This reminds me of my junior college days. I applied for scholarships, and went for interviews ill prepared, without knowing much about what I should do. I didn't have a clear goal of what I wanted. On the other hand, my friend planned for his scholarship since his secondary days. He joined CCAs, worked hard for leadership positions, worked hard for good results, and continued with this all the way to the end of junior college. In addition, he knew which scholarship and career path he wanted, and worked towards it. Needless to say, I didn't get any scholarship at that time. My friend got the prestigious Singapore Police Force scholarship.

With this lesson, I planned and prepared for my next application. I took up German as a soft skill because I know I'm not as good in communications, and German classes would help in that as well. In addition, I prepared extensively for my interview, researching on the company and it's career paths. Finally, for the interview, when a mini presentation was required, I put in extra effort to ensure mine was unique, interesting and catchy. In addition, I rehearsed my presentation over and over again to make sure I will be smooth in my delivery and able to match the 10 minutes time given. This time round, I got my scholarship. I knew what I wanted.

The above are 3 basic ways of reducing or eliminating the act of procrastination. Remember, if you are going to do something, make sure you do it. ASAP. Not tomorrow, not later, but ASAP. No one will help you if you procrastinate.


  1. Hi WB,

    I suffer from the same problem as you. Procrastination....

    I always put off things that I can do today till tomorrow.

    All my new year resolutions are in place but come end of Jan 2010, I realised that I am still not much closer to any of my goals.

    Arggh...so frustrating

  2. Procrastination is actually the cousin of Parkinson's Law - go read up about it and you'll be amazed at how human beings behave. Work indeed "expands" to fill up all available time. Haha.

    Good luck on your goals!


  3. Hi SGFF,

    good luck on your goals!

    Hi MusicWhiz,

    Thanks! Good luck on yours as well!!!

    P.S. I think I'm procrastinating again :(

  4. Getting started on something seems like such a simple thing but doing so is really another thing. If you do not take action nothing will happen. One must make things happen otherwise nothing will ever happen.


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