Their intentions may be wonderful but
their execution is less than satisfactory.
Years ago a student of mine made a simple yet profound observation. This student had the habit of postponing assignments. He was a huge procrastinator. Quickly, his backlog of overdue items had become overwhelming. Shaking his head during a tutoring session, he looked at me and said, “You know, it’s much easier to maintain than it is to catch up.”
Often I will hear colleagues and friends say something like, “This weekend is my weekend to catch up on all that has backed up over the past few weeks/months.”
The current issue of Success Magazine (February 2013) includes an article titled “The Perils of Procrastination.” The author, Stephanie Dolgoff, maintains that about 20% of all adults are dye-in-the-wool procrastinators. Whatever their intentions, these people have a huge reality gap “between what they fully intend to do and doing it, in all facets of their lives: at work, relationships, even activities they love.”
The procrastinators never seem to catch up. When they do catch up in one area, another area—and generally, a person or team—loses out. Do you remember the Peanuts cartoon strip? One character—Pig Pen—was followed by a constant cloud of dust. Procrastinators seem to move in their own cloud of dust, always moving toward the last minute when something just “has to be” finished or turned in or examined.
In the workplace, procrastinators can be deadly presenting stressful situations and missed opportunities for their teams. Dolgoff cites research by Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., who concludes “there are secondhand effects of procrastination. You’re bringing down team members, creating stress for them, and poisoning the work atmosphere.”
I appreciate that some procrastinators have great intentions. They have—what they think to be—a vast storehouse of energy, talent, creativity, and wherewithal to begin and complete an abundance of projects. They seldom if ever say “no!” They can do it all.
Or so they think.
Their intentions may be wonderful but their execution is less than satisfactory mostly because they are unable or unwilling to give the proper attention to what they have committed to do. Moreover, in our new normal of continuous partial attention those of us looking to have things completed on time as promised—and in good order—shake our heads and wonder if we are just too “retentive.”
Video recommendation for the week:
So how do we work with the folks who seem to bring Napoleon Hill’s axiom to life: “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday”?
One thing that does not work is to simply say, “Stop it!” It takes some introspection on the part of the procrastinator. And he or she must be willing to want to change. If you are a procrastinator (or work or live with one), here are a few basic strategies:
- Review your goals. Are all your actions and commitments getting you to those goals? What about your inactions?
- If you are saying “yes” to please people think of this. By over committing and not delivering a quality, on-time product or service you are pleasing no one—least of all the people to whom you made the commitment.
- Break big projects into small, non-threatening, pieces. Take one step at a time.
- Ask a mentor for help. This assumes that you see that you are truly a procrastinator. If you are unsure, ask those with whom you live or work.
- Note the circumstances when you procrastinate. What commonalities are present?
- If you are the one who has to deal with the procrastinator, let him or her know how the behavior is affecting you or your team.
- Breathe deeply. Slow down.
Deborah Adele in her book The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice writes about the practice of purity in life. She says it requires us to “slow down and do one thing at a time.”
We often enter an experience with the clutter of scattered thoughts
and leave the experience with even more cluttered thoughts. It is like
we are living on the leftovers of where we have been or the preparations
of where we are going. Because we have not taken the time to ‘catch up’
with ourselves, we are everywhere but the present moment.
Take sometime today and catch up with yourself. You and those around you will benefit.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
My first 2013 webinar, Priority Management: Doing the Right Stuff at the Right Time, is scheduled for January 23, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. Click here for registration information. Check my website for the information on future PDQ Webinars.
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©2013. Steve Piscitelli.