Tuesday, 26 May 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS - Is Procrastination Ever Helpful?

For the second feature on this month's Time Management topic, I decided to consider the issue of procrastination, simply because this is something we are all affected by to some extent.

I guess, if there is a number one rule in personal effectiveness, that must be to not put off tasks that need doing, especially if this is in favour of less urgent - even though often a lot more enjoyable! - tasks. Some people are chronic procrastinators and that cannot be a good thing. But is procrastination always SO bad? Do we REALLY need to feel guilty every time we postpone something? It kind of feels that we are being too hard on ourselves, that perhaps it is ok to delay a task occasionally and provided it does not become a habit...but when? Can procrastination ever be ok? Possibly to save my own soul, I have identified three instances when I believe a delay does not mean you are being ineffective:

#1 It is ok to procrastinate when the task is NOT IMPORTANT. 

The task may be urgent however, in which case you need to do it or delegate it quickly!
But sometime, the task is neither urgent nor terribly important...think filing, for example. Well, in that case I think it is ok to postpone it for a while. At some point you will run out of space on your desk, lose a rather helpful document or important number and that will teach you a lesson and so you will eventually do the filing.

#2 It is ok to procrastinate when the task is VERY IMPORTANT.

You may think this is an odd piece of advice, but actually when something really matters and you need to gather resources, display clarity of thinking and consider a strategic issue thoroughly, I believe that postponing any activity is the best thing to do. Not for a very long time, but enough to ensure you have given yourself the time to think through every aspect of it before you actually get into the doing. This can be quite difficult because in general, important but not terribly urgent tasks are quite enjoyable and the temptation is to get on with it without giving it due thinking time. Best not to do so though and ensure you have a clear picture of what you are going to do when you eventually do it.

#3 It is ok to procrastinate when the task has IMPORTANT IMPLICATIONS.

Picture this. Your client has sent you an email complaining about a poor service they have received. Your boss has sent you an upset text message because the project hasn't finished on time. Your staff member has emailed you to say that in your latest meeting you have offended a colleague and should say sorry. In all these cases, picking up the phone or writing an email is what most of us are naturally prone to do. However popular wisdom that 'one should sleep over it' may not be totally unfounded.  Most of what we say or write is likely to sound or feel like 'knee-jerk reaction'. Once again we will have not had the time to consider the serious implications of any of our actions and how we may best address it and indeed resolve it.
In some cases. letting a day or even a night pass by may not be a viable option, but still, in all these cases the best advice is to refrain from doing anything until we have worked through the facts either by ourselves or with a colleague/supporter. In doing so we will gain clarity, understand the details and most likely find the appropriate language to resolve any outstanding issue effectively.

If none of this applies however, chances are you are making excuses! If so, the first step is to recognise this unnecessary procrastination and then put in place practical steps to undertake the task. You can read some tips in my earlier blog if what you need is some help with time management and action -planning!    


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