It's now or never!

It's now or never!
Don’t act all holy-saintly. You’ve done it before, so just admit it. No squirming, no twiddling of fingers, no shaming others. You love the sound of a countdown, you sit tight as the minutes tick away, you think you have it all under control even when the finishing point is just a few metres away, and then finally, at the eleventh hour, you realise the enormity of it all. But the deadline has gone past you making a swishing sound and you have let it pass. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the biggest bane of the world — procrastination.

Oscar Wilde famously remarked, “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do — the day after.” We love the P word, right? Toying with it all along is our favourite thing to do; we test our own limits until the deadline looms over our head like Damocles’ sword, and there we are, hitting the panic button, botching up our work and fuming like Mount Vesuvius.

Why? Why? Why?
Ask anybody if procrastination has helped him/her in any way and the answer is a resounding NO. Follow it up with a do-you query and the same heads nod in agreement. Sandhya W, who is a teacher, says that she regularly speaks to her class kids about not procrastinating, but she is invariably guilty of doing it all the time! “I can’t seem to help it. Of course, I have a list of to-do things but the ones I push back are not on the basis of importance but on the basis of what I like. An unpleasant task or a huge class plan is usually pushed back. Even though I may have to submit it in a week, I keep trying to convince myself that I still have a lot of time,” she says.

My mom’s thumb rule is: Begin your list of tasks with the most difficult one first. So whether it was during the exams or while finishing up journalistic assignments, worst one first was the thing I followed. But wiring your brain to do the most cumbersome one initially and, therefore avoiding procrastination, is a tough task indeed.

Karen C, a Mumbai-based writer, says that procrastination is indeed the biggest monster she is fighting right now. She has been delaying the launch of her dream project because, well, she is overthinking it. “And do you know over-thinkers are in fact the biggest procrastinators. So that makes me one. So, who is this amazing person who is delaying my pet project — it’s me!” she says wryly. Over-intellectualising is a huge problem and when you start dissecting every single aspect of what you plan to do and how you wish to execute it — be assured that the task will hardly get done on time, if it gets done at all.

A cue from non-procrastinators
There are people who don’t procrastinate? Difficult as it may be to believe, the tribe exists, and they are not just organised, but also largely successful. One entrepreneur whom I met recently says she always stuck by this rule: Do it now or let it go. “The thing is that we are a dynamic generation. We have a million things waiting to grab our attention. So when I am not answering my work mails, I am on Skype with my team in Canada or attending a client meet or addressing the media. Now can you imagine what would happen if I start putting off work? I can’t afford to do it! My business would take a beating,” questions Rishika Gurnani.

“I never ever even put off a task till later in the day or even after 30 minutes, all because I am sure there will something pressingly important happening that time.” Even though she is the founder of her company, she takes no longer than five minutes to respond to every single email. “It doesn’t matter if the person thinks I have nothing better to do. If I were the other person, my impression would be that this lady is so efficient!”

Many reasons
In our head, we are pretty clear that life is going to get more sorted if we complete our tasks ahead of time (or at least on time) vis-à-vis putting them off till the last minute. Yet, we procrastinate. Ever wondered why? Well, there are a lot of reasons: Thinking of your task as one huge one rather than breaking it up into manageable bits, over analysis, handling unpleasant tasks, trying to be a perfectionist and underestimating your time requirement for a task, are just a handful of them.

“With me it’s just the worry that I will not be able to do a good job of it, especially first-time tasks or larger assignments. I think putting it off will give me a better handle over it. It never really happens. I am running crazy at the last minute and stressing myself out. To admit the truth, I keep telling myself that I am spending time researching but it is all hogwash 90% of the time,” laughs Ritu Doshi, who works in a PR agency.

Side effects
Procrastination doesn’t look good. Period. The earlier you admit that the better it is for you. “I realised I had to change this habit when I got marked down in my appraisal. My work was praised initially, but I would keep deferring it and that led to a lot of stress. Consequently, all the last minute work began to show up on my quality, and I was asked to straighten up,” says a floor manager for a store. When he was asked to pull up his socks, he realised that putting off work has never helped him. “It was an overnight decision. I now make lists with to-do activities. At the end of the day, I tick them off. My daily target is 80% of my to-do list. Below that, I know I am getting off-track,” he adds.

Karen, who admits she is a victim of over-analysis, says she is not able to pull herself out of the rut. “I have read all the self-help and management books and I know that over analysis leads to paralysis but here I am, not able to let go off procrastination.” Is it a fear of the unknown that she faces considering she has to put out a dream project? “Maybe it is. Sometimes I worry what will happen if it doesn’t take off, at other times I am just thinking and planning the execution,” she shakes her head.
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