Stop Harming the Future You

Productivity tipsYou’ve made some pretty important plans. You have goals, or at least some pretty good ideas about what person you want to be in the future.

Picture that person for a second. Visualize him/her as if you’re looking into the fortune teller’s crystal ball. Now, make that person have a grim look. They are stressed. That person is frantically trying to catch up to something they should have done a while ago (actually now).

That Future You is not any closer to your goals than you are today. It’s a frustrating thought, isn’t it?

This is a new way of looking at procrastination.

When faced with procrastination, try recognizing the trouble you’re causing yourself tomorrow, or next week, or next year. When you put off something important you are setting in motion a chain of events that is typically irreversible.

It pushes back your to-do list, which ultimately affects all facets of your life. It can reduce quality time with your kids, it can alter your career progress, or it can cause arguments with your spouse.

This should be motivation enough for you to get going, but here are three more effective ways to set yourself up for success and eliminate procrastination:

1) Jump in the pool.

When swimming with my kids, I despise that moment before I first get in the pool. That glimmering water is always just cold enough to shock my system. I used to hesitate, and linger, and avoid. I would circle around the fact that I’m going to have to eventually get in and swim with my young kids. It is my responsibility and it’s inevitable.

So, I’ve taught myself to hold my breath and jump. Don’t think. Just jump in. Before I know it, I’m swimming and the hard part is over. Getting started on a task sometimes requires the same mentality. You can dance around it all day, or you can just bite the bullet and bear down.

Remember: when you choose the important tasks in your life by making a to-do list and setting goals, you are making a commitment to yourself and the Future You to do what is right.

2) Take small bites.

I always think about watching my young daughter eat an apple. She loves apples, especially the big red Delicious ones. You’d think that upon looking at the apple’s gargantuan circumference, far exceeding her tiny mouth, she’d get discouraged and put the fruit down. Instead, she has a method where she breaks the skin with a small chew from her side teeth. Then she takes another bite, and another.

This is a great metaphor for breaking down your daunting project into less-intimidating, actionable steps. Do this by listing all of the steps associated with a task, and assigning those as tasks themselves.

For example, the task of writing a presentation now becomes:

• Write an outline
• Gather presentation data
• Write slide copy
• Find presentation images
• Format slides

Start off boldly and methodically by biting off a small piece of your project. Then take another, and another.

3) Motivate yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Today you may not be moving mountains or curing cancer, but greatness lies in your own personal achievement. Everything you do should be a stepping stone toward reaching your goals.

Never underestimate the power of motivation. People make whole careers out of it. There are plenty of ways one can get motivated, including listening to music, reading inspirational quotes, or speaking with a mentor. Choose a method that fires you up and make it a serious part of your preparation.

You may dislike — or even hate — whatever task that sits in front of you, but it plays a significant role in your life. Even if it’s not what you see yourself doing in the future, it is what you need to do to successfully move forward today.

Example:

One of my favorite sayings surprisingly comes from the actor and fitness buff Matthew McConaughey. Once when asked how he stays motivated he said he simply tells himself to “just tie your shoes.”

This means quit whining and deliberating because you ultimately know you’re going to go on that tedious run, or take on that undesirable task. You know it’s important to you, so just get going. We all must learn to motivate ourselves.

Remember: The Future You depends on your effectiveness right now.

[photo by christopherbaan]
Jeff Doubek Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at [email protected]

3 thoughts on “Stop Harming the Future You

  1. Thanks Jeff – that’s a really interesting perspective on procrastination. Loved the concept of looking at yourself in the future, then realising how the actions that you choose today will create that future.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed, Olwen. We always look at ourselves today and wished we had done more in the past — so why not look forward before it’s too late. Thanks for commenting.

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