The thief of time

Defeat Your Lazy Habits Once And For All - How To Overcome Laziness And Procrastination, by Jeff Carter

THIS eBook probably caught my eye only because I had been in conversation with a procrastinator that morning. He was fully aware that he wastes his time and that of others by not getting around to what has to be done. 

This book is slim, so there would be little excuse for him not to get around to reading it, or not finishing it, on the grounds of its length.

I bring this book to your attention even if you are not a procrastinator, because there are some gems in it that are useful to all.

“Laziness and procrastination are part of all humanity,” says Carter, and “even successful people procrastinate at times.”

Laziness and procrastination are an unwillingness to accomplish a task despite having the ability to do so. There are many causes for laziness and procrastination. They range from perfectionism to low self-esteem and fear of failure.

Newton’s law of inertia (loosely understood) applies to conquering procrastination, Carter explains. The law states that a body at rest will remain as is, unless some force acts on it. Once one applies force, it will continue to go in that direction, unless another force stops it.

Many different forces can spur procrastinators to action. Some say that they perform better under pressure. Even where this is a disguised excuse for inaction, it can be useful.

Deadlines can be self-imposed as well as imposed from the outside. Establishing a deadline for yourself – this needs to be complete this morning or I will be encroaching on my leisure time this evening – can have the desired effect.

Then reward yourself for the accomplishment, creating a connection between completion and reward.

Perfectionism, a common cause of inactivity, is a cognitive error and often leads to procrastination.

The desire to do superb work is an admirable quality, but trying to accomplish a task perfectly the first time is rarely possible. Perfectionists postpone doing the work to avoid the frustration of not doing it perfectly the first time.

The cure for perfectionism, Carter suggests, lies in taking the focus off the quality of your initial output. When writing a business report or a newspaper column, the challenge is to accept that there are two phases – creating and editing. First, create the imperfect, then you edit.

Laziness and procrastination are defensive mechanisms that can be masks for fear of failure, Carter suggests. This too can be “cured” by remembering that the great successes of all time failed many times before achieving success.

Carter quotes the apocryphal story of Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb filament. The story is that he failed 9 000 times, but never saw this as a failure. He saw the “failures” as the successful identification of 9 000 ways a filament cannot be made.

I have never met or heard of anyone who has ever succeeded at anything of consequence without many setbacks and failures.

Goal setting is also a useful tool for overcoming procrastination. It is something one desires, simply reminding oneself of it may be the starter. Carter suggests one plans the day specifically, and includes activities that need to be accomplished.

From 9:30 to 11:00 I will make calls, or write the report.

The size and complexity of a task can overwhelm one, leading to procrastination. The remedy is to break the task down into small steps, each of which you know you can accomplish.

The environment in which you work can also get in the way of action, so get rid of the distractions.

Connection to your email account, a phone, the TV and a host of others can be expensive distractions. Before starting to work, arrange for them to be paused until you are done.

A tidy work area is more conducive than a cluttered one, so tidy up before settling into work.

We are social beings, and it is in our nature to help one another, says Carter. “Let your friends and family members know whatever it is that you’re up to.”

In the same way as you might tell a family member: “I want to get fit. If you don’t see me running every day, remind me. Can you do that for me?” do the same for other tasks, too.

Post-bypass patients, who needed to stick to a strict diet and opted for a support programme, displayed success not found in groups that did not seek support. Three years later, about 77% of those who had support were still maintaining the discipline.

The book is a collection of bits of advice. It is unlikely that you will not find a gem or two that seems ideally tailored to your work style.

Readability:    Light +---- Serious
Insights:        High -+--- Low
Practical:        High -+--- Low

 - Fin24

* Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy. Views expressed are his own.   

Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm not really directly affected
18% - 1574 votes
I am taking a hit, but should be able to recover in the next year
23% - 2068 votes
My finances have been devastated
34% - 3082 votes
It's still too early to know what the full effect will be
25% - 2238 votes