By Paul Chek
Every one of us has 24 hours in our day – no more, no less. Yet some people
manage to get an awful lot done in that time and others just can’t seem to get
anything done. These latter people fritter away their day, finding other things to
do while avoiding the goals and tasks they know they should be working on.
They may even want to get things done, but when the day is over they find their
goals list untouched. Especially in the case of a genuine desire to complete your
tasks, procrastination can be extremely frustrating. So what can you do about it?
How can you move beyond procrastination to become genuinely productive? The
first step is to understand just what procrastination is and where it comes from
and that’s what I want to discuss here today.
In my experience, procrastination emanates from the lack of a clear life’s dream,
a failure to have a scientific goal structure, and inability to manage your self. Let’s
begin with the first of the three components – lack of a clear life’s dream.
Procrastination is usually the result of a desire for short-term gratification. When
you don’t have a long-term life goal – what I call a legacy – the kinds of rewards
and sources of gratification in your life are very limited. There is only the
opportunity for short-term gratification. This is where procrastination enters,
because when you procrastinate, you avoid doing what you need to do for the
sake of instant gratification. It’s easy to avoid doing the things you need to do
when there are other things that bring more instant rewards and those are the
only real rewards you have in life.
Put another way, when you don’t have a legacy to guide your activities your life-
force gets sprinkled into a little of this and a little of that, but not concentrated
enough to create anything tangible that evokes a sense of completion.
Procrastination is a way of directing your life-force just enough so that you get a
trickle of immediate satisfaction from what you do.
To fix this problem, it’s important to spend the time to get clear on your legacy.
Once you have a clear life’s dream you can see how your tasks are connected to
that dream – how they contribute to reaching that dream. The satisfaction that
flows from the completion of your activities, then, is the satisfaction of moving
one step closer to reaching your dream. Your activities have a place in a larger
goal and serve a purpose apart from, for example, just bringing in a paycheck to
pay the bills. The tasks that once seemed like pure drudgery come to have a
value that they lacked before and the desire for satisfaction or a sense of
completion can just as easily be fulfilled now by doing the work that needs to be
Without a clear understanding of your legacy to channel your creative energy,
that energy is all too easily diffused. Concentrated light makes a laser beam and
a laser beam can be used to get work done that can't be accomplished without
focusing the light. Your legacy is the lens through which the light of your being
Having a legacy is the first and most important step in ridding your life of
procrastination, but it isn’t always enough. Many people that have a legacy still
find themselves falling into this pattern of distraction. Often times, people will find
themselves avoiding their real work because they lack a scientific goal structure.
The distance between where you are now and the realization of your legacy can
be daunting, and without a clear sequence of intermediate goals and a vision of
how those intermediate goals will lead you to your legacy, it’s easy to misdirect
your life-force. These intermediate goals plug the task that you are engaged in
now into the positive energy of your legacy. The goal structure allows that
positive energy to flow into your tasks, and this is what creates the sense of
completion and satisfaction when you finish your work projects. Without that goal
structure, the energy can’t flow from your legacy and so the motivation for
completing your projects will still be lacking.
The remedy here is to take the time to write down a goal structure for your
legacy. The structure should include, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
You can then start your day by writing out how the tasks you need to complete
on that day contribute to reaching your legacy. Make the connection explicit and
make it real. Once you can see the relationship between today’s tasks and your
life’s dream, you’ll tap into the energy of your legacy and find that you have the
drive to complete your goals for the day.
Finally, having a legacy and a goal structure may not be enough if you are having
difficulty managing your self. Taking care of your day’s goals is a matter of
channeling your energy in the right ways and procrastination is one form of
energy mismanagement. If you’re tired, sick or stressed out, your ability to direct
the flow of your energy can be greatly reduced and it’s much easier to fall back
into the habit of procrastination. The short-term gratification of procrastination
can be much more appealing in those cases as well, because it acts as a sort of
pick-me-up, giving a shot of satisfaction when you’re down. It’s the same effect
as drinking a cup of coffee when you haven’t eaten all day – it’s an energy boost.
The response to this component of the problem is to take a careful look at your
lifestyle. Very roughly, you can evaluate your lifestyle on three dimensions: diet,
exercise, and the ability to balance the expenditure of energy with the cultivation
of energy. For each of these dimensions you might ask the following questions:
a. How often do you eat quality, organic foods?
b. How many times do you eat each day?
c. Do you skip meals?
a. How frequently do you exercise?
b. What kinds of exercise do you engage in?
3) Balancing energy expenditure with energy cultivation:
a. Are you drinking enough water?
b. Do you get eight hours of sleep each night?
c. How often do you take time out to enjoy yourself?
d. How often do you allow your mind to focus on the negative
aspects of life as opposed to the positive?
e. Do you have a way to relieve stress?
The fundamental point here is there is an intimate connection between the health
of your body and the health and strength of your mind and your will. If you don’t
have a healthy body, it’s going to be much more difficult to focus and direct your
energy. Asking the very basic questions I describe above can help you to see
how your lifestyle aids in or detracts from your ability to focus and direct your
energies. So learn to manage your self and you’ll find that you accomplish your
tasks much more frequently and effectively.
In sum, the formula for removing the control that procrastination has in your life is
to find your legacy, connect everything you do to your legacy, and manage your
body, mind and spirit so that you have the energy and the will to direct your life-
force in the way that you want. When you’ve addressed the factors that I’ve
discussed here, not only will you find that you’re more productive, you’ll be
healthier, happier and much closer to living a life that is genuinely satisfying!