Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

A company president had little tolerance for procrastination. In an effort to increase organization efficiency, she hung up signs throughout the building that read, “DO IT NOW.” Within 24 hours, her vice-president quit, her assistant got married and the custodian stole the company van.

This story is not entirely true, especially the part about the van. But I suspect the president found a more specific way to motivate staff to achieve their goals.

All kidding aside, procrastination is a thief. It robs you of the one commodity that you just can’t buy back: time. It throws off schedules. It replaces accomplishment with inaction. It turns dreams into nightmares. One of the worst things you can do when faced with a difficult decision in almost any endeavor in life is to procrastinate.

Wikipedia states: “The pleasure principle may be responsible for procrastination; one may prefer to avoid negative emotions by delaying stressful tasks. In 2019, research conducted by Rinaldi et al. indicated that measurable cognitive impairments may play a role in procrastination. As the deadline for their target of procrastination grows closer, they are more stressed and may, thus, decide to procrastinate more to avoid this stress. Some psychologists cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.”

Let’s face it … given a choice, most people will perform the least important task first, and the most important last – if at all. That’s why one of these days becomes none of these days.

Here are some tips to stop procrastinating and join the TNT Club – Today Not Tomorrow:

  • Deal with your fear. Fear of failure can be crippling, but fear of success can paralyze your efforts just as severely. Avoiding success may seem irrational, but success brings change, and change is often threatening. 
  • Make a to-do list with specific deadlines. List what you want to accomplish with a detailed timeline you want to meet. Projects often take longer than expected to accomplish so add in some extra time. I make my to-do list every morning by working backwards: What do I need to accomplish by the end of the day? By the end of the week? The end of the month? That tells me where to focus.
  • Break your work into smaller steps. When you look at a big project, it can be overwhelming, so break it down into more manageable parts.
  • Don’t get frustrated. Seriously, has frustration ever improved a situation? Better to take a break, collect your thoughts and redirect your attention to a positive first step. Then go on from there.
  • Stop overcomplicating things.There is never a best time to accomplish a project. Perfection is a big reason for procrastination. You must dig in. Getting started is often the hardest part. Remember the old saying: Well begun is half done. Once you are off to a good start, it’s much simpler to see the light at the end pf the tunnel.  
  • Eliminate distractions. Interruptions and distractions are productivity’s number one enemy. I’ve even gone as far as hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door. Set aside a period of time each day – even if it’s only 10 minutes – when you are unavailable for anything less than a four-alarm fire. That goes for office visitors, telephone calls, email and carrier pigeons. 
  • Reward yourself. I’m a big believer in rewarding myself for completing a challenging task or a big project. I’ll go out and play golf or attend a sporting event or take some time off to relax. Rewards are good motivation. It also clears your mind for the next challenge.
  • Hang out with go-getters. I only hang out with positive people who inspire me to take action. Their spirit and drive rubs off on me. It’s like having motivation buddies. And I like to announce what I’m trying to accomplish, because they will check up on me and make sure I’m doing what I said I would do.

There is an anonymous poem called “Mr. Meant-To” that goes like this:

Mr. Meant-To has a comrade

And his name is Didn’t Do.

Have you ever chanced to meet them?

Have they ever called on you?

These two fellows live together

In the house of Never Win,

And I’m told that it is haunted

By the ghost of Might-Have-Been.

Mackay’s Moral: Never put off until tomorrow what you should have done yesterday.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.