“I’ll start tomorrow.” Three words that are the death knell for goals. Because how many times have you said “tomorrow” when what you really meant was “never”? I know, as the words tumble from your mouth you believe them: “I’ll start a diet tomorrow.”
You feel strong, resolved and one hundred per cent committed to your goal. It seems as if nothing can come between you and the promise of tomorrow. A tomorrow that really will be the first day of the rest of your life.
But then tomorrow actually comes. And once again, we face that same decision: start right now or postpone starting for one more day. C’mon, it’s just one day right? Seriously, how bad is it really going to be to postpone for one more day? The answer, of course, is that postponing for one day probably isn’t the worst thing ever; except that one day is never one day. One day becomes two, two days becomes three, and three days becomes years.
Putting off until tomorrow what you should be doing today is a problem that keeps a lot of people from achieving their goals. Three-quarters of college students consider themselves procrastinators, and some estimates figure that 20% of the adult population could be classified as “chronic procrastinators.” But as bad as these figures are, they understate the problem when it comes to HARD Goals. For instance, in one of our recent studies, 77% of people admitted to having put off starting a diet. And, compared to non-procrastinators (you know, the people who actually started their diets), the folks who postponed their diets were 8 times more likely to be unhappy with their current weight.
Piers Steel at the University of Calgary, one of the great procrastination researchers, in reviewing hundreds of studies, overwhelmingly found that putting things off doesn’t create happiness. In fact, a whopping 94% of people said procrastination hurt their happiness. Additionally, employees who procrastinate keep worrying about work long after they’ve left the office and student procrastination is firmly related to lower course grades, lower overall grades, and lower exam scores. Procrastination is also strongly linked to poor health (that’s what happens when you put off necessary medical tests) and powerfully correlated to poorer financial health.
Procrastination can also pose financial risk. Every person in America intellectually knows that getting your taxes done early can help you avoid errors made when rushing. And yet, a 2002 survey by H&R Block found that waiting until the last minute on taxes cost the average person $400 because the process was rushed and mistakes were made. The net effect was $473 million in overpayments across the country.
Amazingly, it’s not just difficult goals that we put off; we also procrastinate on fun and entertaining stuff. Financial researchers, TowerGroup, report that each year Americans spend about $65 billion in gift cards; and they fail to redeem $6.8 billion of them. Not that it’s all bad for the companies that issue them: in 2009, Home Depot Inc. reported $37 million in revenue from unused gift-card credit.
I don’t share all these negative studies and statistics just to bring you down. Rather, the information is intended as a learning tool to help you recognise and overcome your own issues with procrastination. Look, if you really want to achieve something, if you have a heartfelt connection to losing 20 pounds, starting a business, becoming fluent in Italian, whatever your goal is, you absolutely can do it. You just need to rally your inner strength so you actually start and stick to that goal. And the most efficient way to do that is to infuse your goal with a feeling of urgency. To plow through any sense of panic, doubt, or whatever internal or external triggers threaten to hold you back, and make your goal feel so required that you feel like you’ll die unless you get started on it right this very second.
This excerpt is from HARD GOALS: The Secrets to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and has been republished with permission.
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