I can be a very productive person, but I can also be a procrastinator. Let me explain...
After years of managing multiple projects, then managing multiple businesses while also balancing family and personal commitments, I have learned how to use my time wisely and make the most of a day. I always have a lot of items on my to-do list and most of these are work activities I truly enjoy. But I also must do a lot of work activities that I don’t particularly enjoy, dread even. When faced with the prospect of having to do the work I don’t enjoy, it’s difficult to get motivated. This leads to me procrastinating.
Successful entrepreneurs and business managers warn against procrastinating. Do the work, get it done and never procrastinate they say. It’s good advice. But the reality is regardless how successful any of us may be, we all procrastinate.
I don’t know if it is possible to remove our impulse to procrastinate, or at least it’s not for me. What I have learned is how to manage my impulse to procrastinate and overcome that impulse, so it does not negatively impact my businesses or my work.
The first step is to accept procrastinating as a normal behavior. I don’t allow myself to consider it a personal or professional fault. The desire to procrastinate is triggered by an activity or a work function that I don’t enjoy or want to do. By being aware that I am procrastinating, and honest as to why, I can best understand how to address or overcome the problem and take the necessary action.
The next step is to understand the true impact upon my work or my business when I procrastinate. Most people have an implied understanding of the importance of certain activities. But they don’t always fully consider the consequences of completing an activity now, rather than pushing it off until later. I am keenly aware of when my work needs to be completed, and what may happen if it’s late. Understanding how procrastination fully impacts my work or my business is often the motivation I need to do the work. Conversely, if I have a task that needs to be done but have identified that it really has little to no effect on the business, then the urge to procrastinate can be positive, preventing me from spending time on activities of little value.
The urge to procrastinate also helped me learn to delegate when necessary and possible. The ability to successfully delegate is a skill that many managers struggle to learn. It is also a skill that is absolutely necessary to succeed as a leader. By understanding the work activities that lead me to procrastinate, I realize these may be best delegated to others who will enjoy these activities, perform them better and complete them in a more-timely manner. Understandably, not everyone has the resources to delegate. But if the delegation of tasks that may cause you to procrastinate is an option, then it should be utilized.
Throughout my career, I have worked with a few young managers who procrastinated so much that their integrity and accountability was called into question. When we discussed the problem, they talk about the work activities they don’t enjoy doing, and therefore continually push aside. They say they never considered how much their procrastinating impacted the business or others. They admit they did not delegate when they should. They admit they procrastinate and wish they had the ability to change that behavior.
In my work, there are activities I must do, which I do not enjoy and cannot be delegated. When faced with these activities, my urge is to procrastinate and push them off till later. But this is of little concern to me because I realize procrastinating is normal, everyone does it and it can and must be managed. Understand when you are procrastinating and why. Be aware of the power of procrastination at work. Delegate if possible. But don’t let procrastination have a negative influence on your career.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.