The Mañana Trap

I was recently enjoying lunch with a group of executives at a multinational corporation, discussing the workplace differences of various cultures around the world. One leader jokingly told me that in South America, where he oversees several offices and factories, there’s a running joke around the term “mañana” (“tomorrow” in Spanish).

He teased that when someone said they’d get to a project “mañana”, it didn’t really mean tomorrow. It just meant “not today.” Others around the table laughed that the problem of procrastination isn’t limited to geographic regions; “mañana” hampers productivity worldwide.

The problem is that “hoy” and “ahora mismo” (“today” and “right now” in Spanish) become an ever-elusive target. Tomorrow easily becomes the next day, the next week, the next month. And before long, we are looking back, filled with regret at all the things we mañana’d.

We all experience that heavy feeling when the thought of mustering the energy to move forward seems overwhelmingly difficult. Those mañana moments can derail even the most motivated achievers. In order to fight back, we must recognize those moments for what they are: a test. They are nothing but a pop quiz to evaluate your resolve. Leaping into action when you feel great is easy, but those tired and groggy moments are the ones that matter most. How you react when your mind and body are telling you “mañana” will largely determine the outcome of your career and, ultimately, your life.

The time to make a different choice is in that spit second when laziness is about to take over and you’re poised to slide into a state of inaction. When your mind says “mañana,” force your soul to shout “Vamos Ahora” (“let’s go now!” in Spanish). Like flicking a switch, you can pivot from a state of procrastination into one of activity.

Here’s an easy trick to help: don’t worry about going hard for the next 12 hours straight. Instead, just commit to 10 more minutes of effort. 600 seconds. We can all do that.

What happens is that your brain shifts from stopping to doing.  By the time the 10-minute buzzer rings, you’ll be enjoying momentum and activity.  The last thing on your mind at that point is quitting.  The 10-minute activity commitment can change your mood, brain chemistry, output, and more importantly, your results.  Like a Pavlovian bell, train yourself to respond with “sólo diez minutos más” (just 10 more minutes) when your instincts are luring you toward mañana.

You are here to leave a mark; we all are.  To make your biggest possible impact and to achieve your full potential, replace mañana with Vamos Ahora.  Aquí y ahora (right here, right now).   Sí se puede y se quiere (yes you can, and you will).  And the world will be better off too.

Gracias, mí amigo.