Why and how to begin writing a speech without delay
Have you ever struggled to take the first step when writing a speech?
Read on to learn how that’s harming you and your health – and what you can do about it.
You know you have a Big Important Speech coming up in the next several months.
Maybe it’s set for next quarter. Or perhaps it’s six months away.
Have you started to think about it? Plan it? Write it?
Or do today’s priorities keep getting in the way?
When you know you have to begin writing a speech, procrastination can make you feel guilty, anxious and depressed.
But now we know the long-term effects may be even worse.
Because procrastination may harm your heart.
In a study several years ago, psychological scientist Fuschia Sirois reported that procrastination is linked to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
According to the Association for Psychological Science (APS), “Sirois recruited … 182 individuals self-reporting a formal medical diagnosis of either hypertension or cardiovascular disease and … 564 healthy controls. All of the participants completed a series of online surveys measuring trait procrastination, coping style, stress and health outcomes.”
The survey results were clear.
The group “with either hypertension or cardiovascular disease scored significantly higher on measures for trait procrastination compared to the healthy controls.”
Sirois suspected that people who keep putting off important behaviors “might cope poorly with the constant stress caused by delay.”
Taking that first step to begin writing a speech isn’t easy.
Every day you put off working on that Big Important Speech, the more stress you feel.
And the more stress you feel, the more miserable you are.
We all know the physical signs of stress because we’ve all experienced them.
We might get headaches. Have trouble sleeping. Or suffer stomach problems.
But there’s no need to endure such misery.
Now that you know that delaying your start on a speech causes stress – which ultimately affects your heart – it’s time to do something about it.
What you can do
1 – First, forgive yourself for past delays.
Timothy Pychyl and other researchers at Carleton University in Canada say this may be the most important thing you can do to move ahead.
If you forgive yourself, their studies found, you’re less likely to delay again.
2 – Second, reframe your deadline.
Instead of acknowledging that you have two months, four months or six months before you have to deliver that speech, how about recalculating that timeframe into days instead?
Studies by Neil Lewis Jr. and Daphna Oyserman showed that smaller units of time – 60 days, 120 days and 180 days – feel more immediate to people than two months, four months and six months.
Turns out people want to act sooner when they feel that a deadline is happening sooner.
If you need to begin writing a speech, look at what lies ahead based on days – not months.
3 – Third, map it out.
I find when I map out a detailed production schedule for a leader – with every step in the speechwriting and speech coaching process broken out bit by bit, from today until delivery day – tackling that Big Important Speech suddenly seems doable to the leader.
Suddenly, the leader is eager to begin.
Because the leader who can see the future – exactly what lies ahead when it comes to writing a speech – suddenly feels a sense of control (the element that’s always missing whenever procrastination looms).
Time for pondering and prioritizing
Once you start on that Big Important Speech, you can begin to reap the No. 1 benefit:
The quality of your speech will be so much better than the speech of a leader who procrastinated on writing a speech, psychological scientists would tell you, since it’s a myth that people perform better under pressure.
Instead, these scientists say, people need time for “beneficial, proactive behaviors like pondering (which attempts to solve a problem) or prioritizing (which organizes a series of problems),” writes Eric Jaffe in the APS Observer.
Contrast that with genuine procrastination – like dawdling on irrelevant tasks – which is detrimental and self-defeating.
Ask yourself this
As you think about writing a speech, and you look ahead to the coming year, here’s one final question to consider.
Will you choose to keep putting off beginning your Big Important Speech?
If you do, you are choosing to endure stress that can ultimately harm your heart.
And you are choosing to sabotage the quality of your work.
Are you willing to take that risk?