What I’ve come to learn is that people don’t simply put things off, postpone, or procrastinate because of a lack of purpose, but rather a lack of preparation and planning. We’ve all experienced this: We know what it is that we want, where it is we want to go, but because we don’t know how to get there and which route to take, we by default procrastinate. Procrastination therefore, is a natural “side effect” of a lack of having executed the necessary preparation and planning.
Gathering the Proper Knowledge
The first part of preparation involves gathering the information and knowledge you need in order to accomplish your goals. Let’s take weight loss as an example. If you’re goal is to lose 20 pounds, then you know what it is that you want. However, knowing what you want is just the first step. Next, you need to gather the necessary information required to achieve that goal, in this case learning about exercise and proper nutrition.
Establishing an Environment for Success
There is a second, often overlooked, area of preparation that is just as important. And that is preparing your environment for success. What this essentially means is to set yourself up to succeed. Continuing with the weight-loss example, now that we know how to lose 20 lbs. and we realize that it requires a massive change in how we eat and exercise, establishing an environment for success would involve replacing your cupboards with healthy foods, joining a gym, or buying running shoes, etc. Basically, gathering the tools you need to successfully implement the knowledge that you’ve gained.
If preparation is learning about and surrounding yourself with the tools needed to succeed, then planning is taking those tools and implementing them to achieve success. Preparation then, must be coupled with planning in order to be successful. See, many of us even after knowing exactly what we need to do to achieve our goals, may still fail to do so. Planning then, is the final piece of the puzzle.
I can clearly see the importance of this step with the Body for Life Challenge that I’m currently undertaking. I just finished my third week with the program and what I’ve discovered is, the two days that I failed to plan the night before, I had slipped up with my eating schedule and workout routine. The knowledge part of preparation was there. I knew what I needed to be doing to have a successful day, but not planning when I was going to workout or what I was going to eat throughout the day, left room for failure. And that’s exactly what happened on those two days.
Planning is very powerful because in many ways you are seeing it happen in your minds eye before you’ve carried it out. By going through the process of choosing an exact time and action ahead of time, you are actually mentally creating the desired outcome. It’s important that you write your plan down. For some reason, it seems to have a stronger effect.
What I’ve found most beneficial for me is to plan once for the whole week and then daily, preferably before I go to bed. For example, on Sundays I’ll consider the goals that I have set and write down a list of tasks that bring me closer to achieving those goals. Then nightly, before I go to bed, I’ll look through that list and pick at least one that I can finish before the next nightly planning session. It also helps to look at the days progress and see where you need to change or improve. Keep in mind that, although they are helpful, you don’t need to have any special planner or journal to do this, just a normal piece of paper will do.
Proper preparation and planning is the keystone to overcoming procrastination and achieving success in all areas of life. As one of your Ten-Day Experiments, I challenge you to do daily planning and preparation for the next 10 days. I promise you that you’ll see a marked change in not only your productivity and time management but your self confidence as well.