Dollars and Sense: Dealing with procrastination problem

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Procrastination is a fault most people contend with.

You don&8217;t have to be lazy to procrastinate.

We all procrastinate.

If you have two things to do of relatively equal priority, which will you do first?

Most people will do the one they like better – and that is a mistake.

It is a mistake both pragmatically and psychologically.

If you do the one you like first, you will eventually have to do the one you dislike.

If you dislike it, there is a strong probability that you don&8217;t do it very well.

And when you finally get to it, you are tight against a deadline.

Now you have three strikes against you.

Strike one:

you don&8217;t like it; strike two:

you don&8217;t do it very well; strike three:

the deadline.

You&8217;re out.

However, if you get rid of the one you don&8217;t like, now when you are up against that deadline, it is with something you like and do well so you have only one strike, the deadline and you&8217;ll beat it out.

Psychologically, if you do the thing you like first, you won&8217;t even enjoy doing it.

All the time you are working on it, you are thinking:

&8220;When I finish this I have to tackle that miserable job.&8221;

If you get it out of the way first, you can look forward to the enjoyable one.

Procrastination is not failing to meet deadlines.

Procrastination is failing to start assignments.

Your boss gives you a project.

The deadline is eight weeks from now.

You think:

&8220;Eight weeks, that&8217;s plenty of time,&8221; so you throw it in the drawer with your other long-term projects.

A few weeks later, you look at it again.

&8220;Lots of time for this,&8221; you think and throw it back in the drawer.

Keep doing this and you will suddenly find yourself rushing to get it done.

When given a long-term assignment, study it immediately.

Factor in your other priorities, the resources available to you, the problems you are likely to face based on previous experience with this type assignment – and set a starting date.

You estimate this to be a six-week project, so you set the starting date accordingly.

If you can, also set interim deadlines for each part of the project.

Now you can forget about it until that starting date, let&8217;s say the first of next month.

When the first comes, you look at your calendar and note you must start the project.

So your start it?

Not if you are a procrastinator!

You&8217;ll find every excuse imaginable to keep from starting.

You need somebody to prod you into starting.

Who should that prodder be?

Certainly not your boss.

That wouldn&8217;t be a wise move.

Not one of your subordinates, that would not be prudent.

You must find another procrastinator and you become partners in the prodding game.

You and your partner keep copies of each other&8217;s schedules.

When the first of the month comes, your partner will come over and ask:

&8220;Did you start the project?&8221;

&8220;No,&8221; you reply, &8220;I have so many other things to do.&8221;

&8220;Get started!&8221; your partner insists – and you do the same for him or her.

Give yourself an incentive

Some people do not need a partner.

They build incentives for themselves.

Carol has two faults, which have plagued her all of her life.

She is a procrastinator and she must maintain a weight control diet – and she cheats.

&8220;I love gooey desserts,&8221; she confessed &8220;and I cheat.&8221;

She combined her solutions to these failings.

Now she only allows herself a dessert if she meets her starting and interim deadlines on her projects.

She said:

&8220;I don&8217;t have that many projects, so I cheat a lot less, but now when I see an assignment on my calendar, I know if I do it that day

– tonight dessert.&8221;

It doesn&8217;t have to be food, but if you promise yourself a reward, you are more likely to make the effort to overcome the procrastination.

Don&8217;t reinforce procrastination in your subordinates

It&8217;s Tuesday morning.

Karen gives an assignment to Nancy.

&8220;Nancy,&8221; she says, &8220;this job should only take you five or six hours, but I need it by noon on Friday.&8221;

And it&8217;s the kind of work that Nancy dislikes.

On Thursday, Karen checks up.

&8220;How are you doing on that assignment Nancy.&8221;

&8220;I haven&8217;t started it.&8221;

&8220;You haven&8217;t started it?&8221;

Karen asks incredulously.

&8220;I&8217;m still working on the job you gave me before you gave me this.&8221;

Karen panics:

&8220;Give it back to me.

I&8217;ll let Amanda do it.&8221;

Karen has just given Nancy a message.

If you don&8217;t like something, stall – and the boss will take it away.

What Karen should have done was to say:

&8220;Stop what you are doing.

I&8217;ll let Amanda finish it and get to work on this.&8221;

Nancy would have gotten a different message.

You can&8217;t avoid every trouble

Harry knew that the project he was assigned was loaded with booby traps.

Last time he had a similar project, problems arose at every step of the way.

He hated to face this again.

He kept stalling the start of this in the hope that it would either be cancelled or put off.

But this was wishful thinking.

By the time he finally did start it, he had much less time to cope with the complexities and did not finish it by the deadline.

We all know from our experience that no project is free of problems and unexpected things do develop.

This should be looked upon as a challenge rather than an obstacle and this should be considered when setting your timing.

When faced with a similar situation, Naomi reviewed the previous assignment in which she had faced all these complications.

She listed the areas in which comparable factors might arise and planned how to overcome them.

Instead of brooding over the difficulty of the situation and procrastinating on starting it, Naomi used that time to prepare to master anticipated difficulties before they materialized