15.4  How Procrastination Wastes Your Time and Your Life

Delay, delay, delay… we all do it. We avoid doing what we should be doing, putting it off until later. Everyone knows someone from the neighborhood who is still sitting on the couch with their parents at age 35. Like in the movie Failure to Launch, they just never reach their potential. Procrastination disrupts your ability to be successful.

Procrastinators delay a lot of things thinking that they have unlimited time to recover and do what is important in life - later. Well it doesn’t really work that way. There are things that need to happen at different stages of life or they are just not going to happen.

This life has a beginning, a middle, and an end. At each stage there are milestones to be met. As life expectancies have expanded, people often believe they can extend the deadlines for accomplishing things or realizing their full potential. It is not impossible to do what you want later, but it is a whole lot harder if you start from zero at 25, 35, or 40, than if you have a planful life with accomplishments all along the way.

Procrastination actually takes a whole lot more energy than just doing it. But what should you be doing? That is the big problem. People don’t really know what they should be doing at any given time unless they have developed a plan for what they really want in life.

The same thing is true with career actualization. Actualization is a term used in psychology to describe the drive that we each have to do well in life… to reach our full potential. Gaining traction in your career starts early and needs to progress all along the way with the acquisition of experiences that enhance your focus and your employability.

If you want to get some where in life it is essential to focus on a goal, that you can develop into a plan, and organize into tasks and activities, that can be accomplished.

List your goals and set your priorities. Every six months make a list of what you want to accomplish. Then set your priorities. You cannot do everything, so go through your list and mark an A next to your highest priority goals. Then assign a number to each "A" goal – A1, A2, A3 etc. Next, run a line through any non-A goals (they will surface on your next 6-month list if they are important enough). Next, take your A1 goal and make a list of the tasks you must complete to make it happen.

Develop a plan with a timeline. Your plan is your dream of how life will be if you take control of your time and your life and decide that you want to move forward on your goals. Once you have outlined your plan, decide how you will accomplish the goal with a timeline of milestones you will meet by certain dates. For example, if getting a professional license is on your list of goals you will need to meet deadlines: register for the exam, register for prep classes, post the exam on your calendar, set up a study group to review the material, join professional organizations, network with professionals in your field, get a career working in an environment that allows you to accumulate qualifying hours, etc.

Get organized! Make a to do list. Every day make a list of the things you plan to accomplish. Mark each item with how long it will take (Call Sam - 3 minutes). Then plow through your list. If you are tightly scheduled look for gifts of time where something changes or is cancelled. Then make a quick call or send a quick email. Everyone is busy. Work around your busy schedule to find time. Use your time to to move your A1 goal forward.

Schedule your time. Each and every one of us has 24 hours in a day. Everyone has discretionary time. That is the time you are not sleeping, not in class, studying, or at work – time you control. Use your discretionary time wisely by planning ahead and scheduling important tasks that move your A1 forward.
Don’t waste your time! Time is ticking on your A goals. There is an "expiration date" timer that is ticking. At every stage in life you have things that must be accomplished… crawling, walking, talking, grammar school, high school, college, internship, career, house, spouse, mouse, promotion, travel...

Once you get your degree it is important to get a job as soon after graduation as possible. Six months is the deadline. It is also critical after job loss that you move back into employment with in six months. If you have not obtained a job after six months, employers are going to wonder what is wrong with you and what have you been doing with your time. Forget about the recession… if you are failing to get a job or develop some other productive use for your time you are going to be damaged by this.

Procrastination is both about failure to plan and wasting time. It is also about laziness. Procrastinators are fooling no one. Procrastinators show up late for everything and they fail to deliver. And everyone knows it. They think they can get away with it because no one calls them on it. But reality is, everyone notices. Every time you fail to deliver, you are casting an impression of incompetence. Every time you show up late, you are casting an impression of inconsideration.

Excuses, excuses, and more excuses... people tell me they want a change - they hate their job or whine that they don’t have a job, but they don’t go to job fairs or look for work because they don’t have time... Really? With a 24/7 Internet and email you can research companies and jobs, link with professionals on Linkedin, write a resume and get it to employers who are hiring right now. There really are no excuses.

Why do people procrastinate? Procrastinating is a problem for everyone at one time or another. It becomes a serious problem when it keeps you from getting to the important things in life. Disorganization, overbooking, wasting time doing unimportant things, lack of focus, fear of rejection, fear of failure are all part of the problem.

Fix it, get over it, and get on with your life! If you cannot do it alone, find a career counselor or career coach who will help you.