We’ve all grown up with the mantras around avoiding procrastination. But sometimes the early bird doesn’t get the worm. The truth is, procrastination might come in handy in some instances.
Procrastination: Good and Bad
Sometimes the early bird just gets burned. There are certain times when procrastination is never good.
Have a looming deadline over a project that has to get done? I would suggest you get on it and get it done.
But in business, there are many times when taking a pause and letting things settle saves you pain, embarrassment, and re-work.
Wait to Get All the Facts
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been down this road at least once in their careers.
Typically, the larger and more complex your organization, the sooner you will experience this.
You have a meeting with your boss and discuss an exciting new project that’s coming up, where your team takes the lead.
Following the meeting, you rush to your desk and spend the next few weeks (or months….) perfecting your presentation and project kick-off. Then you get to the kick-off or executive sponsor presentation, and suddenly no one agrees on the direction. The budget for the project has dried up. Or, the CEO has decided against the project.
As frustrating as this experience can be, it can teach us a valuable lesson.
Before investing too much time, make sure everyone is clear on direction, you have full buy-in from those who are accountable, the organization has budget and resources to implement. Of course, there will always be times when directions change and you will always need to put together a good proposal to sell your ideas.
Take a bit of time to outline the scope, resources, timeline, and cost. This allows the organization the ability to confirm this direction before you get too far down the road.
Are your employees resisting change? Here’s why, along with how you can engage them.
Don’t Be Distracted by New Ideas
They Take You Off Course
It’s easy to be distracted from your original vision by chasing ‘brilliant ideas’ as they come up. This applies to individuals and teams.
The one killer of strategy is continually going off focus on your goal by constantly chasing different things. Taking the time to really think about where these ideas are taking your company, and honestly assessing if they are in alignment with your vision and strategic plan, can save you much wasted time and money.
A great strategy is to purposely procrastinate on these ideas. Using a parking lot, or another method, to capture ideas is a great way to create the space needed to think on these without losing sight of them. This allows yourself and your team time to discuss and assess if the new idea will truly support your organization in the way you want, or will take you down a path that isn’t in alignment with your vision.
Following what others are doing in the industry doesn’t necessarily support your company. Often, looking at the brilliant ideas in a few month’s time, you will be thankful that you weren’t an early adopter. Other times, allowing yourself and your team time to assess, you will decide that the great idea is something you should implement right away since it does support your strategic direction.
Delay Reactive Emails
Who hasn’t been there?
Whether the email is an urgent email from a client, or an inflammatory email from someone internal to your organization, delaying hitting the send button on your email can save you regret and embarrassment.
Take the time to really understand what your clients require, before jumping to the rescue with an email response. Perhaps you would like to offer an immediate solution to a problem, but find out that your company won’t allow the solution you suggest. Or perhaps you’re fighting the urge to respond to a snarky email.
Responding without thinking it through could just land you in a tricky spot.
This way if you inadvertently hit send, or want a moment to re-think your email, you can recall before any damage is done. It’s easy to get caught up in work drama and to take emails personally. But reflecting before reacting can help salvage work relationships and make you look like the professional you are.
Know Your Audience
Fickle Leaders Can Cost You Time
Pay attention to where requests are coming from and learn from past experiences.
We have all worked with, and for, people who are always coming up with a new idea and running down the path without looking. It may take us a time or two, to learn not to get too caught up in this. But, after being exhausted by this behaviour, you will quickly learn to take these people with a grain of salt.
Managing these personalities can be tricky, particularly if the personality in question is your boss. One strategy I’ve learned is to ask for clear parameters and a project plan before investing too much time and energy.
Often, once excitement wanes and the leader has a chance to have a more thorough discussion, or starts to pull together a plan, they may see that there are some gaps or issues. Allowing others to come to this conclusion can keep your relationship healthy and your company focused on your goals.
On that note, don’t miss this post where we discuss the dos and don’ts of your goal-setting process.
Procrastination gets a bad rap. But as you can see, there are some instances when procrastination (when done right) might work in your favour.
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This article was originally published on May 1, 2018, and has been updated.