It's Now Or Never

Procrastination prevention

We intended to run this article a long time ago, but we kept putting it off.

Ah, procrastination. You may think you're the only one who suffers from this malady, but the truth is, everyone puts things off occasionally.

"It's knowledge overload; there's so much information coming at us from e-mail, voice mail and paper flow," says Jeff Ring, owner of Priority Management, an Irvine, California, company that helps clients set priorities, get organized and stop procrastinating. "We're disorganized and lack priorities, so our imaginations turn molehills into mountains, and we do nothing."

Ring professes not to be a procrastinator. "When you run your own company, you wear so many hats: sales, bookkeeping, marketing, operations," he notes. "If you procrastinate, it doesn't get done." What's annoying for the worker bee is disastrous for the entrepreneur. Habitually putting things off keeps entrepreneurs in the starting blocks.

Dale Bathum, 34, knows the feeling. "The toughest thing to overcome is fear," says the president of Bite Golf, a Redmond, Washington, company that makes hip golf shoes. Procrastination could have kept Bathum's business from the green: "[After] I made [my first] samples, I had to overcome the fear of cold-calling golf courses and retailers," he recalls.

Fortunately, Bathum had a no-delays, no-excuses girlfriend-now his wife-who prodded him along. So over Christmas vacation in 1995, he drove from San Francisco to San Diego, stopping at every golf course and golf shop along the way. "It helped that I had a deadline: I couldn't put it off, and I couldn't delay," says Bathum, who was working in Hong Kong at the time.

Without realizing it, Bathum used two of the basics tools for overcoming chronic delay syndrome. Create a deadline-artificial if there's no real one-and set goals. Don't think, just follow that to-do list, as Bathum did on his drive down the West Coast. His reward: Bite Golf has grown into a $2.5 million company with 20 styles of men's golf shoes and five styles for women.

Bathum claims procrastination is no longer an issue, though there's still that temptation to put things off. "Cold-calling gets easier, but the fear never goes away," he says. "We're moderately successful and growing, but I still don't like selling."

Even self-professed nonprocrastinators know that feeling. We leap at the jobs we do best and enjoy, but dawdle with those we're uncomfortable about. "Try breaking each project down into smaller tasks," Ring suggests. "Then it won't seem so overwhelming."

Use organizational tools available everywhere, from office supply superstores to discount department stores, he adds. Ring uses an all-in-one calendar, phone book and notebook that he also encourages procrastinating clients to buy. "Having a central source for everything you need helps you set priorities-what's urgent versus what's important," he explains.

And you must set priorities in order to combat procrastination, Ring says. You'll probably be interrupted about every eight minutes while at work, he says, so it's easy to forget things or blow things off.

Every time you act instead of delay, break out the cookies and confetti. Reward yourself, even in small ways. Hey, why not? You're always beating yourself up when you make a mistake, right?

The best time to stop procrastinating is yesterday. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to plan tomorrow so you wake up with a plan, Ring says. Then you don't have to think. You don't have to get organized. You don't have a chance to procrastinate.

You merely take Nike's advice: Just do it.

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