Procrastination, Like Crime, Does Not Pay: 10 Steps to Conquer It

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~Pablo Picasso

If you’ve never put off until tomorrow what you should have done today, don’t bother reading the rest of this. On second thought—go ahead, since you’re bound to be lying!

Fireplace   New Year’s Day seems an appropriate time to haul out a resolution that we should make every day, and that’s to do today what we should do today.

Why am I telling you the same thing your parents, teachers, spouse, and countless self-help books have told you? It’s because I have seen procrastination ruin courses that should have been—would have been—amazing, had the teacher simply built it slowly and steadily.

5 Real-Life Cases of Procrastination Gone Bad

Sadly, I have worked with teachers who have used the following real-life excuses for why they didn’t write or revise their lessons before walking into the studio to record them:

  • I have taught this class so often I could teach it in my sleep.
    • And…we can tell. You’re clearly asleep while you teach.
  • I’m an expert; I didn’t need to make the changes you suggested.
    • But…if your students don’t understand the material, or what you’re doing won’t work online, then your expertise is actually useless.
  • I had a last-minute chance to go mountain climbing—so I did that instead. Wouldn’t you?
    • I would have been more understanding if there hadn’t been a year before this opportunity to write the lessons.
  • I am too busy.
    • And yet…you committed to this project knowing your schedule and the firm deadline for recording.
  • I have a book due and have to put that first.
    • In this case, the book had been due 30 years before! No kidding. This was the worst case of procrastination I’ve ever dealt with.

What Happened in These Five Cases?

  • An amazing expert taught a course that was subpar due to his procrastination—his material conveyed like he was reading a textbook.
  • A knowledgeable expert realized that teaching to a camera or for audio requires effort beyond the classroom, and was embarrassed by reviews.
  • A powerful teacher worked night and day trying to get done what could have been done months ahead of time, and exhaustion was obvious in the recording. As were gaps in content, lack of inventiveness, and general panic.
  • The book was never written, but the course was micromanaged by the team to get it done in time. Not only the professor, but the entire team, worked 10-12 hours every day for two months to pull it off. And no, it still wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Here’s the simple truth: creating even a short course takes effort. Lots of effort. If you want it to be crappy, just wait until the last minute to write and record it.

But if you want to be your best self, you can’t procrastinate. You need to get out your calendar the minute you make the commitment to produce the course. Here’s what you need to do to get on track and stay on track.

Ten Steps to Conquering Procrastination for Any Project

  1. Work backwards from the due date to today’s date.
  2. Add up the number of days available between now and then.
  3. Figure out the number of pages you’ll need for the length, the time you’ll need to do research, the time it will take to record it, and the time it will take to put on your whatever Learning Management System you’re going to use.
  4. You’ll need to write at least two drafts, with time for feedback between them, and time to practice before recording. Add that into your total time.
  5. Now look at the number of days you have to get all this done, and figure out how many hours it will actually take. Be realistic! You might be able to write more than 5 pages a day, but for most people, that’s a challenging target. And yet, if time is short, you may have to write even more each day.
  6. On your schedule, block off the time you need to accomplish every step. Add a few extra days if possible. Make this sacred time, and name a precise goal for what you will accomplish by the end of each and every session. Let everyone in your household know that you have committed this time to your project.
  7. Turn off your phone, email, and Internet during your scheduled time. Surfing the Internet and checking email are acts of procrastination. Believe me, if it’s really an emergency, they’ll break your door down.
  8. Get an accountability partner who is expecting you to notify them every single day with how you’re tracking.
  9. If you doubt your ability to succeed even with an accountability partner, make an expensive bet with someone that you will meet your schedule. Money motivates when willpower won’t.
  10. If you fall behind, immediately adjust your schedule for the missed session(s). Don’t make the assumption that you’ll eventually catch up. You won’t.

We all know the antidote to procrastination, and that’s to work steadily. It’s a pain at the time, but the results pay exponentially. Plus, it’s much less of a headache than realizing you are going to have to pull all-nighters (really, at your age!) to get something mediocre done.

And who among us is aiming for mediocrity?

Please send me your questions for future issues, and tune in next Friday for Issue #41 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.”

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Contact Marcy for help crafting your online course. 

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