My race number arrived in the post today (one of my resolutions!) and, in truth, I’m a little excited. And a little nervous too, because getting the race number means there’s not long to go and it’s all a bit real.
But sometimes we need the reality check to remind us that tasks have to be done: where would we be without deadlines and targets? Can anyone say that when the travel agent asks for the balance of payment it doesn’t cause a frisson of excitement because it means the holiday is getting nearer?
As the freight train of a deadline rushes headlong towards us there are two options, the same instincts which kept our ancestors alive: fight or flight. And that reactive mechanism is itself triggered by a reality check – for example, is this lion going to eat me? And the fact that we’re all here today does tend to suggest that our ancestors were, at least in part, successful.
So, to my mind at least, a reality check helps me focus and sometimes to produce my best work because I haven’t got time to think about a rough draft to be improved over time, I have to produce a result or live with the consequences. As some academics have put it for their particular reality, publish or perish.
And as I said before, procrastination just isn’t an option.
So, what gives you a reality check – and how do you react?
“Procrastination is the thief of time.”
For a long time I didn’t understand exactly how putting something off to another day could actually cost me time, but once I understood the meaning I started to look at it more deeply:
- if I put something off until tomorrow, or next week, or some future date, then I’ve spent time today in thinking about it and making a decision to postpone the action. In reality this (and the time I’ll spend thinking about the delayed matter) is time which I could have used towards the task (even if I couldn’t have finished it); or
- if someone else delays dealing with a task from which I require the output then my time is stolen in chasing, remediating, explaining, or even just managing the delay. (There is the deeper question of managing expectations, but perhaps that is for another day.)
Outside of work this can range from simply tedious to deeply frustrating; overall – work included – time thefts can directly be related to financial costs, and can even affect the bottom line.
Is the message, therefore, not to put off until tomorrow what we can reasonably do today? I think that’s an entirely reasonable position, and it’s directly related to my happy thought for the week.
My diary got crunched at both ends this week and so yesterday I ended up going for a run at lunchtime (hard intervals) and another in the afternoon (slower and longer, but with a powerful finish). I had thought about postponing one or the other but I’m glad I didn’t: I felt really good after the second, both mentally and physically. And so my happy thought is all about my running – and the fact that I didn’t succumb to the subtle lure of procrastination.
And the thought to ponder: what will you now do today that you would otherwise have put off?