This is part of a speech I gave to my Blue Streak Toastmasters club March 3. Note the dated reference to Charlie Sheen.
Procrastination and I go way back. We have a long-standing relationship – probably one of the longest of my life. I’ve procrastinated over things as small as buying a DVD player (so many choices!) to as large as finishing a work project.
I’ve been concerned about my tendency to procrastinate for a long time as well. In fact, to prepare this speech, I consulted a fantastic book “The Procrastinators’ Handbook – Mastering the Art of Doing it Now” by Rita Emmett. The book is packed with useful tips. Trouble is, I bought the book in May 2003. And I didn’t read it until this week.
The book has lots of funny bits too. Like the Procrastinators’ Club “Top Ten” list:
10. Pet – turtle
9. Food – molasses
8. Sport – fishing
7. Cliche – “better late than never”
6. Appliance – slow cooker
5. Rock n’ roll song – “Yesterday”
4. Broadway song – “Tomorrow”
3. Magazine – Time
2. Movie line – “I’ll think about it tomorrow” (Scarlett, Gone with the Wind)
1. Mantra – “I’ll do it tomorrow!”
Here’s how it usually plays out in my life: I decide, yes, I am going to site down and get a speech written for Toastmasters. Yes, I am, I’m going to do it! I collect my book on procrastination from my dining room table where I’ve left it. Wait – I placed lots of letters and a few bills on that table when I brought the mail in. I better take care of those. Oh, and I left some paperwork on the table still from the last time I balanced my checkbook, thinking I’d file it once I got “a little more time.” Ok, better get that filing done. Hmm, some of this stuff doesn’t need to be filed. Think I’ll shred a few papers. I love operating my paper shredder – it makes me feel like I work for a crooked law firm in a Tom Cruise movie. Shredding complete – good work! Oh, there’s my checkbook. Write out the checks for those bills … where did I put those extra stamps I had left over from Christmas? The whole reason I’m paying bills by snail mail is to use up those darn stamps. Found them! There, got that done. Now I should go online and pay the majority of my bills. So nice and easy, paying bills online. My browser home page is Bing and it lists the top searches for the day at the bottom of the screen. Why is everybody searching for Charlie Sheen? Click … wow! I’ve got to read that … ugh, what a train wreck. Think I’ll just check my e-mails to get my mind off that mess. Oh … look at the time … how did two hours slip away? I need to get ready for this event tonight … guess I’ll write the speech tomorrow.
If I didn’t procrastinate, I wouldn’t know how to describe it so well. Lots of people you wouldn’t think were procrastinators procrastinate, including some high achievers. According to the book, sometimes people will procrastinate in their “unstructured” time – and not in their “structured” time. That translates into goofing off at home and getting it together during the workweek.
It’s so universal we’ve got several sayings about it:
- Procrastination is the greatest labor saving invention of all time. – Anonymous
- Procrastination gives you something to look forward to. – Joan Konner
But it doesn’t help in the long run. So why – why do we put ourselves through this stress?
One theory is that it’s perfectionism run amuck, or as Emmett puts it “fear of imperfection.” We put it off because we want to do a perfect job – and since we’re afraid our best effort won’t be good enough, procrastination gives us a built-in excuse when the final result isn’t perfect.
I like that theory – perfectionism run amuck! I’m not a procrastinator – I really just like things to be perfect!