Are you a procrastinator? I am in many circumstances! And in others I’m not. It’s all about how we define it. Is it a bad thing to wait till the last minute to really start cranking on stuff? I think it’s a bit of both. I’ve also come to understand that procrastination is a bit overused as a term and is commonly describing something else, like prioritization or ideal timing. I’m going to try and deconstruct the circumstances where waiting till a deadline approaches is ok and when it is harmful. Everyone is coming from a different place emotionally and circumstantially, so you’ll need to make interpretations and adjustments to suit you while looking at this.
- The 11th hour magic: I don’t know the physiology behind this, but some combination of adrenaline, focus and urgency are realized by all of us who wear our procrastination as a badge of honor. We say things like, “I do my best work under pressure.”
- More information: In many cases, the later you start the more timely your information. Or you’ve gathered more data by waiting longer. This is pretty circumstantial but can be a benefit.
- Efficiency: Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. So, leaving little time usually results in higher productivity, albeit at the expense of quality in some cases.
- Decisiveness: If you don’t leave time for waffling, you have a greater tendency to trust your instinct and intuition, which is often the right answer.
- Stress: I think there is good stress and bad stress and some of us skew more to one type than the other. If procrastination is fairly comfortable to you then you likely have good stress, the motivating kind. If you are a wreck during the all-nighter preceding a big deadline then you skew towards the bad kind of stress.
- Feedback: The later you wait to start producing especially on a large project or one without clear direction the less opportunity you have for review and reflection whether self or peer review.
- Effect on others: Is your delay to begin on something going to affect others? Is your work part of a larger project where others are waiting on you before they can begin? Is your work dependent on the contributions of others? It’s important to consider that your colleagues likely have different attitudes and comfort levels towards deadlines than you do.
- Low Priority Projects: For me some work won’t ever rise up towards the top of my priority list until the deadline approaches. Whatever I’m working on before the urgency kicks in was more important, so I didn’t really procrastinate, I prioritized. I think this is a common misuse of procrastination.
- Time based: Sometimes things just fall into the last-minute bucket by necessity. Consider for example a Quarterly Review. The quarter needs to finish before the review can be done and the ideal time to deliver last quarters insights are as early as possible in the next quarter so you can maximize the impact of the insights. The weather report is another good example, radar and projections from right now are better quality than yesterday’s.
I admit this type of forethought in a sense converts all procrastination into planned late term work time, but we’re just playing with words and their meanings here, anyways, right?
- Scoping: If you want to relieve bad stress and make sure you don’t crash and burn spend just a few minutes considering the pros and cons above and make decisions about how comfortable you’ll be, what the work quality effect is and how others are impacted.
- Prep Work and Bucketing: This is especially useful on larger projects. Break it up and get some of the work done earlier. If procrastination is your main work style, consider making up your own intermediary deadlines.
- Delegating: If your work requires the output of others, give them as much lead time as possible. If you know someone you are dependent on is a procrastinator, consider building in a little safety to the deadline you provide. We all have the friend or family member we lie to about what time dinner starts to give them a slim chance of being on time.
- Review/Revision/Practice: If you are working on a speech or presentation and you are nervous when you don’t prepare, build in practice sessions and use scheduled appointments with others to hold yourself accountable. If your grammar and formatting is substandard and you rely on The Rhythm of Reman to clean up all of your submissions, build that into your timeline.
Tying this all together, not all procrastination is bad, waiting till the 11th hour isn’t even procrastination in many cases, and there are some really simple things you can do and think about to avoid the negatives. If you plan a wee but, even in your head for a few minutes you can shift from procrastination to purposeful late term productivity.
I hope this helps someone feel better about how you budget time and get things done. I did write this RemanU at the last minute. If you are enamored with this topic, I highly recommend my favorite blogger Tim Urban’s article on the matter https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/03/procrastination-matrix.html
Have a better today!
Love, The Disrupter