Procrastination and progress in life – Part 1

Procrastination and progress in life – Part 1

You’ve heard that procrastination is the thief of time but do you know what it is? The dictionary says “If you put off doing what you ought to do, you will end up not having enough time to do it properly”. But you need to think things through before you do them, don’t you? This last sentence is the procrastinator’s prayer.

I’m all for thinking things through. Half-baked ideas cause misery, loss and disastrous morale. Thinking things through is a Good Thing. But procrastinators don’t think; they pretend to. They mutter about ‘having a chance to really get down to it’ when all the time they are putting off the decision they know they will have to make sooner or later. Any excuse to avoid deciding. Some people even work really hard to avoid making up their minds. Procrastination is a pathetic game. What causes it?

Collecting the information on which to base a rational decision is far less time consuming than it used to be. What you need to know is there on the internet. But you do have to read, understand and evaluate it. Then you must reflect on it and assimilate it into your mind. That’s hard work. It’s what a manager is paid to do and every thinking person must do if they are to keep up in today’s fast-moving world.

Serious decisions call for serious, dedicated time, not just snatched moments in between meetings. The more difficult the decision, the more focus will be required to get it right. You will have noticed, however, that really big decisions often get made by default. Easier to discuss the colour of the bicycle shed than to decide whether to enter a new market. The trivial have a special place in our hearts; banish the serious.

The area of greatest procrastination is about ourselves. It is catastrophic when we put off decisions about what we want to do until it is too late to do them. We see it all the time. Here’s how life should happen. Up to the age of 25 people should experiment and enjoy, finding out who they are and what they like doing. Clear destinations can be helpful but they are not essential. 12 to 25 is the age of Ferret.

At 25 to 30 you should have a fairly clear idea about what you want to achieve in life. There is still time yet but you must give it some thought. This is the age of Focus. Between 30 and 35 it becomes critical that you know your destination, your Tree on the other side of the Field. Not to do so risks having a drifting and pointless life which will be fundamentally unhappy as you get older. This is the age of Find.

Between 35 and 40 you are wasting your life unless you have a clear purpose. The age of Frustration has arrived. It is true that some people do drift fairly happily through life, seemingly purposeless. Their happiness is limited and they don’t make the most of the world’s resources. They ask themselves what life might have been.

It is never too late to find a purpose or to get your life working again. After 40 it becomes harder and at 47 a man’s future is usually mostly decided, at least as to the type of life he will have. For a man, 47 is the age of Forecast. A comparable age for women is more variable depending on whether they have children and how they are bringing them up.

Procrastination about your life is clearly very dangerous. How about procrastination about your business decisions? We’ll look at that on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, don’t delay. Today is only today; by tomorrow it has gone.