Get Going On What Needs Doing


Some people in both their personal and professional lives have the tendencies to put off doing things until the last-minute. Whether cramming for a test the night before and pulling an all-nighter or writing up your part in a team assignment at work, they don’t do what needs doing until, well frankly…they NEED doing.

For some people of course, this isn’t an accident but rather the way they work out of choice. Not only is it their preferred method, they don’t stress about looming deadlines and the quality of their work is consistently good. Those of us that might point fingers in their direction and caution them about the dangers of rolling the dice once too often are continually surprised at how well things tend to turn out for them.

However, there is another group of people who leave things until the situation is near to critical and these people don’t meet the same levels of success in the end. The delay in getting going on what they must do is fraught with heightened anxiety and stress. They put off what needs doing which they know isn’t healthy and stew about what they must do. They feel bad they haven’t started, know they are repeating a pattern of behaviour that is harmful to their success but continue to do so nonetheless. Why?

Well that is the question isn’t it? Why? Why would intelligent people with the necessary skills to do the tasks assigned to them choose to put off for as long as possible doing things that they eventually must until the last moments? Why would they knowingly choose to avoid the work knowing as well that they will feel guilt at not having started earlier and repeat this behaviour again and again? Why indeed.

Now from time-to-time I suppose many if not all of us put off doing the odd thing that we know in the end we must. Sometimes it’s laziness or what we have to do isn’t as high a priority at the moment because we still have time to get to it so we do other things. Putting things off here and there isn’t a normal pattern of behaviour however, it’s an anomaly for most and therefore atypical.

You would think that the decision to routinely delay getting started on whatever needs doing would really only be the concern of the people procrastinating themselves. Ah but such behaviours does impact on others around them and yes both in their personal and professional lives. This is the reason – the only reason – that such behaviour is of concern to others. So much of what we do these days involves other people; work is shared and we are counter-dependent on each other to meet common end goals.

When collaborating with others, effective teams that work best together will often divvy up tasks which will use the very best talents of the team members. It’s not enough however to just divide up what needs to be done to assure success. What the truly effective teams also do is make sure all the members know the deadlines for the work to be accomplished and then work backward to the present moment setting up dates and times for updating each other in order to assure work is being done, complications are shared and resolved and help if needed is provided.

When the responsibility for a project is shared, all those involved have to have a certain level of trust in each other that their contributions will ultimately result in a unified presentation which they hope is the formula for success.

This then is the problem when someone puts off doing their part until the time almost expires. Doing so raises doubt in one’s teammates and detracts from their ability to concentrate fully on just doing their piece. They may worry about the productivity of what the procrastinator will or won’t deliver, and wonder if it will be the best they could give or something shoddy done with haste and errors.

I feel for the person who doesn’t want to end up in this kind of situation but despite their best of intentions, always seems to be putting out fires at the last-minute as their motes operandi. For even though they live dangerously working from one deadline to another, the mental anguish, anxiety and stress they feel isn’t welcomed; eventually impacting on their health both physical and mental.

For these people, I suggest a few things. First of all, it is important to decide if you really want to change your standard operating behaviour. If the answer is really a, ‘no’, keep doing what you’re doing. If however, you’d really like to change, understand like any desired change, it will be uncomfortable at first and take work.

You know the absolute deadlines for projects and you’re used to working to those final deadlines so set yourself a series of check-in dates with others and give them permission to ask to see the progress of your work. These check-ins must be more than superficial. Build in some reward for yourself if you’re on track rather than a penalty if you’re not. You’re far more likely to celebrate progress with a treat not penalize yourself for a lack of progress.

See if you’re stress levels decline, anxiety is checked and confidence in you from others improves.

Putting It Off? When If Not Now?


I imagine you’re not unlike most people who have a list of things you hope to get around to sooner or later. No? That I must say I find surprising. I suspect if you give it some thought, you can actually think of not only a few things but perhaps many that you’ve been putting off.

Looking at things in categories; there might be some house repairs on that list of things you plan on getting around to someday. Whether big or small, you just haven’t had the motivation to get to them; or maybe it’s lacking the time or money. Whatever the reason, whenever you pass that area in your house and look at what you’d like to eventually get done, you’re reminded that it’s still there waiting for you; if and when you get around to it.

Maybe it’s mending a relationship with someone in your family that you’re putting off. There are people you know who have had a falling out of some kind with their children, their parents, a brother or sister for example and they plan to mend that relationship before a death makes that entirely not possible, but the time isn’t right; it never seems to be right.

Could it be you’ve been putting off looking for work in a serious way? Sure you’ve opened local papers and had a gaze at the classifieds; even popped on over to a job search website once or twice when you’ve had the guilt trips, but really, you’re not fooling anybody. Looking for work is a full-time job in and of itself and you’ve just been putting off what you just know will be frustrating and lead to feeling more depressed.

Ah, maybe it’s retirement from work. You’ve been talking about walking away from your job for a couple of years now but somehow you keep hanging on. Why is that? It’s not the money so much and the idea of having time to do what you want when you want is appealing. Yet, despite all that talk, you’re still putting off making that big decision to close the employment chapter of your life.

Look it might be any of the above or it could be any number of things you’re thinking of doing but somehow not getting around to actually doing. A trip, starting a family, making the big proposal, coming out, buying your first home or car, losing some weight, joining a gym – the list as you see is quite long. What is it that you’re delaying on actually moving from the, “I’ll get around to it someday” list and shifting to the, “That job is done!” list?

I suppose once you’ve identified what it is that you’re putting off the next logical question to ask is why. Why am I putting off doing what I know needs doing? Why am I delaying doing something I’ve identified as something I want to get done? If you want it and/or you need it done, what’s stopping you?

Usually the answer to what’s stopping you is yourself; yep it’s you. If you want something bad enough you usually find a way to get it done. In fact, some of the things that bring us the most satisfaction when completed are the things that cause us the most anxiety the more we delay actually doing them. We  stew over big decisions for fear of making the wrong decision and having things turn out badly. We hear that persistent whisper in our ears that says, “What if I mess up?”

Imagine for a moment if things went good not bad. What if you thought, “What if I succeed? What if things go the way I want or imagine?” What’s the best that could happen if you get done whatever you’re putting off?

Now the little stuff (whatever you personally consider little stuff) might be a good place to start. You know for example if you put off doing the laundry it’s just going to pile up and take longer and eventually you’re going to have to get it done. So do it now or face a mountain of dirty clothes.

The big stuff? Ah, yes the big thing(s) you’ve been putting off. These are the real emotionally charged decisions; the ones that could be life changing. Finally getting around to proposing to your best friend, heading back to school after 20 years to get that education you’ve been only contemplating too long for fear of the money it’ll cost you.

What you’ve perhaps been putting off is confronting that bully at work; maybe sharing a secret you’ve been holding inside for way too long, and you think the fallout is going to hurt some people deeply.

Now is the time. Look you can handle this. It might mean some upheaval and major change in your life but you need to do this and you need to do it now so you can start moving forward again. How much longer do you think you can go on stalling what has to be done? Not good for your mental health and you’re physical health is being affected too.

Make a decision and set yourself a timeline for making it happen. Write it down and get to work on committing to doing whatever it is. If it’s small do it right now or tonight. If it’s bigger, don’t put it off any longer; you’re worth it!