Last week I said that procrastination is one of my worst enemies. And I love the story how in my first week in Spain a Spanish coworker asked me if I knew what the word mañana meant. I said yes, it means ¨tomorrow.¨ He replied, ¨No, Mark, mañana means “not today.” It could be tomorrow or it could be the next day, but it is not today.”
In this season especially it seems most of us are confronted with our procrastination. We all know when Christmas comes, and who we need to get presents for. We even know who we need to let know what we would like for Christmas. But that’s not enough for me to plan ahead and prepare in a timely manner. Only days to go and I still am not completely ready for the day, and much of the preparation that has been completed was spearheaded by my wife, Dee.
I have other things I have let slip, and once again it seems I have to get too close to the deadline to push myself into action. Action is a key part of accomplishing anything, but equally important is to do the needed planning – two basic steps:
(1) – make a plan with clear goals and timeframes, then follow it
(2) – do something every day towards accomplishing the plan
Benjamin Franklin said: “Humanity is divided into three classes: those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move.” My problem is that I’m all three and have to go through all three stages until I come to the part where I move. I just need to get to the third stage earlier, by setting reasonable timeframes in my plan.
One of the things that paralyzes me is pessimism from looking at the totality of the task as if it all has to be accomplished at once, rather than breaking the task into smaller more manageable parts. I had another coworker in Spain that liked to ask, “How do you eat an elephant? – one bite at a time.”
Another pitfall is to actually enlarge the task, saying well if I am going to do x, I really need to do y first, and if I need to do y, z must be accomplished first. The result is that even if I didn’t start with an overwhelming totality of task, I have mentally made it all so big that the pessimism slips in again. This means, that for me, there has to be a third step:
(3) – keep the goal broken down into manageable steps that are not overwhelming
Another thing to focus on is the fact that you have a limited time here on this earth and there is no going back to re-spend any of the time. As I approach 60, the story of a 60 year old man who calculated how many Saturdays he had left in his life caught my attention. He determined he probably had 780 Saturdays left and went around town buying marbles until he had 780 marbles. He put the marbles in a big glass bowl, and every Saturday would remove one marble. This kept his focus on the fact that his time was limited, and helped him to accomplish what he had determined was really important to do in the time he had left.
I have to think about what is important for the remaining marbles, but also what would be more important if some illness came and stole a bunch of the marbles? This holiday season, what is important to you and how will you pass the rest of your marbles?