Doing the Hardest Thing First — Defeating Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the most common pitfalls in business and in life. And, there are many excuses that people give, ranging from “I only procrastinate mildly important tasks” to “I actually thrive under pressure.” This may be true for you, but be careful you aren’t deceiving yourself!

The reasons for procrastination are many, and unfortunately so are the effects. In the time-sensitive industries of Mortgage Origination and Real Estate, Loan Officers and RE Agents are especially prone to the negative impact of putting things off until the 11th hour.

The issue of defeating procrastination comes down to one driving question: How does one find the motivation to do the hardest, (and often the most important), task first?

Why is Procrastination So Harmful for Loan Officers?

Loan Officer’s make mistakes. LO’s dodge important phone calls, ‘hiding’ in embarrassment. Deals then fall apart. Buyers move on. Agents become (understandably) jaded. Then the negative word of mouth begins.

This alarming cycle is quite common when procrastination becomes a habit in the life of a Loan Originator.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst byproducts of procrastination:

Lower Quality of Work — No matter WHAT the task is, waiting until the last minute to start and or finish is bound to degrade the quality of your work. How could it not? The pace quickens, attention to detail suffers and errors pop up. Preventable mistakes are made. Creativity isn’t given time to incubate.

Lost Deals and Injured Reputation — Procrastination can upend a deal at any point in the loan process, whether it’s due to communication that was put off or perhaps formal requests that weren’t filed in timely fashion. While it may not be the only factor contributing to a lost deal, often procrastination plays a role.

When you start losing deals, you will begin to see your reputation suffer, and along with it, the promise of future referrals.

Undue Stress — Hard work is stressful enough without adding procrastination to the equation. It’s reminiscent of those all-night, last-minute study sessions in college, except the pressure is even worse when you’re an adult and your livelihood is at stake. Simply put, we don’t perform at our best when we are focused on what might happen if we fail; procrastination breeds this type of dangerous thinking.

Becoming a Habit — What is most troubling is when the stress, mistakes, and losses associated with procrastination began to feel normal. Every Loan Officer is going to procrastinate on certain tasks now and again, but this behavior can’t become commonplace.

Why is Procrastination So Difficult to Overcome?

Simply knowing that procrastination can hinder your work isn’t enough to overcome it. It’s not that easy, but why?

Here’s a succinct explanation from Psychology Today about what procrastination is and why it’s so difficult to address:

“Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions.

“Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. ‘I don’t feel like it’ takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.”

Stopping this “downward spiral” is no easy task, but the cost of avoiding the topic is far too expensive.

How Do You Defeat Procrastination?

100-year old runner Ida Keeling provides us with a great example of defeating procrastination in her own life. Ida lost both of her sons to drugs and violence, and subsequently, she began to struggle with depression. However, later in life, Ida discovered the discipline of running as a recovery mechanism. Eventually she won the 60-meter dash national championship for women between the ages of 95 and 99.

“Get up and do things, even if you don’t like it. Sometimes you don’t feel like doing this, that or the other,” Ida said. “But do the thing that you don’t like to do first, and get rid of it.”

If Ida, at age 100, can overcome physical and mental obstacles, what is holding you and I back?

In “Eat That Frog! How to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time,” Brian Tracy expands on something Mark Twain once said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” In other words, tackle your biggest challenge of the day at the very beginning instead of leaving it for last. Once you’ve ‘eaten the frog’ the rest of your to-do list looks easy!

Of course, this approach requires you to be honest with yourself about the frogs in your business life. What are the things that you tend to put off most frequently? Here’s a list of potential frogs we face each day:

  • Taking ownership of a deal gone sideways
  • Responding to challenging phone calls
  • Responding to complaints from referral partners
  • Face to Face prospecting
  • Writing a stack of 10 Handwritten Notes to clients
  • Cleaning our Client Database

When facing a task that you feel tempted to put off, remind your self to  spring into action and Do It Now instead of reading the newspaper or surfing on Social Media.

Another important key to help end procrastination is to identify deadlines. It’s difficult to call something procrastination if you don’t first define “late.” You need a clear target/deadline in mind to help gauge your pace on any given task, and progress on that task will often provide additional motivation to finish the job.

Time blocking is another best practice that addresses procrastination. For example, Top Performers often set aside one hour per week to complete their most important set of tasks, (often related to Proactive Client Prospecting). They do not allow distractions to keep them from completing these ‘frogs’ and they hold to the appointment they set with themselves on their calendar. Other projects may require a full day to be blocked out on the calendar (think Business Planning). Regardless, you can greatly reduce the amount of time you procrastinate by ensuring you’ve carved out enough time to “eat those frogs.”