Thursday, July 9, 2009

Write about what you know...

...that is what people say in literary circles.

During the last few weeks I have acquainted myself with blog procrastination.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

I'd like to think that this is not a habit of mine. After all, I have been quite busy and these activity- filled days felt like the absolute opposite of procrastination. Busy analyzing job descriptions, meeting clients, planning...busy with life. So I never got around to posting anything in this site. I let it go into hibernation for almost a month, and now the process of waking it up has forced me to re-examine the true root cause of this dormant period.

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.
~Don Marquis

All roads lead to Rome, and all my thoughts lead to the P word, as much as I hate to admit it. But I'd humbly argue that not everything we call procrastination is necessarily so.

In this case I'd like to think that I simply had more important items to tend to (like clients and writing assignments deadlines). So, yes, it is a form of procrastination that sprouts only after well-thought analysis. Some would simply call it prioritizing. But whatever you call it, in this instance, it is a good thing. Likewise, working with team members that can independently discern, prioritize and act in a manner that improves your company's productivity and engagement is something rare these days. It is also something tinted with what is known as common sense, and this is mighty hard to teach. So be sure to ask the right questions during your hiring interviews so that you won't find yourself doing the thinking for your team all the time.

If it weren't for the last minute,I wouldn't get anything done. ~Author Unknown

On the other hand, if I had chosen to push back my blogging because I went golfing, then that's just poor choice. That'd fall under what is, by definition, 100% pure procrastination.

What may be done at any time will be done at no time. ~Scottish Proverb

As a leader, when confronted with a true procrastination situation, you might be required to micromanage individuals who are simply not pulling their weight. As much as we all dislike being looked at over our shoulder or being the one doing the looking, some situations call for step-by-step analysis of a team member's daily routine. After the bad habits have been identified, it is a good idea to have the talk. After that, agreeing to a few specific action steps (e.g., job-shadow someone whose prioritizing and decision-making faculties aren't comatose) might do the job.

A year from now you may wish you had started today. ~Karen Lamb

There are many other reasons procrastination may knock on your team's door. Fear is the most pervasive root cause. As an employee, have you ever felt under trained to fulfill a project? I can remember being very young and having to analyze stats for an important meeting. The idea of presenting the results to the company's management made my stomach curl. I was frozen with fear. I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I had the common sense to talk to my boss and explain that unless somebody trained me for this assignment I'd have to defer the job to someone. The moral of the story is: you can unknowingly create procrastination for your workforce. This highlights, yet again, the importance of asking questions and truly listening to the answers. Something as simple as asking "Have you been properly trained to complete this task?" can save your company time, money, and keep your people's engagement high.

Other possible ways in which leadership may cause procrastination include: unrealistically high expectations, perfectionism, lack of motivational skills, poor listening skills, and work overload.

Just to clarify: laziness is not a form of procrastination. Laziness is a long loud yawn: highly contagious. Again, it all goes back to making it easier for yourself to focus your efforts in the goals that matter most to you and your company. Hiring the right people and asking the right questions during the first interviews is key.

There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back. ~Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

I must go now. I have the nagging feeling that I should be doing something else at this very moment.

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