(#172) Are You Kicking the Can Down the Road?

I have met and worked with highly capable kickers of the can.
They do, however, have grave difficulties managing their decisions.
And that affects everyone around them.

For those who know me, you know I can be a bit retentive. (Those who really know me might ask, “a bit?”)  Maybe that is why procrastination drives me to distraction.  I have felt its effects when people I have worked with procrastinated. More often, I have witnessed the avoidable problems that come from continually kicking the can down the road.

Image: Ambro/

Some situations are minor in the grand scheme of life’s challenges. Like leaving dishes in the sink that do not miraculously disappear—the stack just gets larger. And consequently more work (and a larger commitment of time) waits at a later time. The logic escapes me: I don’t have the time to do a small task now—but I will have more time to do a larger task later.

Students do it with reading assignments and term projects. The eight-week project becomes a two-night project—still eight weeks’ worth of work to do, though.

People do it with their health.  They ignore warning signs from their own bodies. I know people who have reached 50 years of age only to ignore their doctor’s direction to have a colonoscopy.  Every excuse in the world is used. My doctor has told me that it is a highly preventable form of cancer. Yet people will kick that can (no pun intended) down the road.  One friend died this year from colon cancer.

How about the people who face retirement years with less than $10,000 in savings?  High consumption years took precedence over wealth building.

And the list is never-ending:  I’ll look for a more satisfying job next year. I’ll get to the gym next week.  I’ll work on that presentation when the engagement gets closer.  I can wait to caulk and paint the house. And that dead tree in the back yard? Well, I’ll just wait for a storm to take care of it.

It’s not that these people are dullards and lazy.  I have met and worked with highly capable kickers of the can. They do, however, have grave difficulties managing their decisions. Whether out of fear, the inability to face up to tough decisions, inability to prioritize, self-absorption, the search for immediate gratification, or irrational optimism, the procrastinators continually make life difficult for themselves and those around them.  They do not manage well.

Video recommendation for the week:

Manage today.

Think of it this way.  If you were in a relationship with someone would you want to be relegated to “I’ll get to you next week”?  And how many relationships suffer that very fate.  A real problem exists—but we’ll see if it goes away.

A number of problems reside with the kick-the-can-down-the-road syndrome. The kicker of the can:

  • Disrespects and disappoints team members.  When they become negotiable (due to missed or late deadlines, meetings, or phone calls) the kicker has announced that they are not very important.
  • Might love the adrenalin rush, but he creates stress for those around him.
  • Develops a reputation as someone who is difficult to depend upon.
  • May lose opportunities as others experience (or hear) about her penchant to put things off.
  • Could eventually overload himself because as he kicks more cans down the road he believes he can take more on in the short-term. Something has to eventually give. Quality or sanity. Both?
  • Eventually gets to the end of the road.

And it is so avoidable—if the kicker of the can wishes it to be.  Just saying “Stop it!” doesn’t work.

Image: Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Stuart Miles/

I have offered strategies in an earlier blog post, so today I will offer one activity I have suggested to groups.  I call it “The Two-Minute Warning.”  For each of your non-negotiable activities on your to-do list block out at least two-minutes. Identify what you can do in just two minutes to get closer to the goal(s).  And then do it.  Tomorrow, do it again.  The next day, another two minutes. Build a habit of action.

The alternative is to procrastinate now and pay later.

Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

On Friday, September 13, I will offer my next webinar. The topic: Supporting Our Adjunct Faculty: The Forgotten Teachers of Academia.   Take advantage of this complementary offering.  Click here to register now for the webinar.  Or go to my website for registration information. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Make it a wonderful week!

 ©2013. Steve Piscitelli

About stevepiscitelli

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This entry was posted in Discipline, Procrastination, Success, teamwork and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to (#172) Are You Kicking the Can Down the Road?

  1. April Tate says:

    Great insight..The two-minute allocation of time may be the thing I need to kick start so many ideas and projects…Thanks and I will keep you posted…


  2. Steve, What a truly insightful post. Being a service provider, I rely heavily on referrals for new client relationships. I can only speculate how a failure to meet a promised deadline resonates with existing clients – my best source of new client referrals.

    I am going to carefully consider future “delivery promises” from the perspective of how they might impact my existing clients’ desire to make future referrals.

    Thanks so much for pointing this out! Also glad to see you are using snippets from John Maxwell. He is truly one from whom we can all learn much!


  3. Sable says:

    Professor, this topic stood out to me, because I’m a big believer in discipline because personally without some type of structure it’s hard for me to function or actually get things done. When things are structure/ discipline based it makes them more mandatory than optional and it give me a less of a chance to procrastinate on doing them.


  4. chris says:

    I found this blog very insightful and helpful. I am a vey big procrastinator and over the years it has become sort of a habit. This blog helped me realize how bad of a way of life this can be and even how seriously it could effect me long term if I dont change my ways. I really liked the idea of the two-minute drill because that is usually the hardest part getting started… And who really doesn’t have two minutes to spare??


  5. antionette says:

    This is so true and sadly this is how most of us live our daily lives. Procrastinating is so easy to become a life style. I havefound myself procrastinating alot because we dont want to face the days task


  6. Pingback: (#188) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2013 in Review | Steve Piscitelli's Blog

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