Let’s face it: it’s probably a basic human impulse to procrastinate. Everyone from college students to executives and even Nobel prize winners do it sometimes. Despite how common it is, procrastination is still generally depicted as a bad thing, or the the result of having a weak will. But could it be productive some of the time?
Counterintuitive as it may sound, here are 4 things we believe we can all learn from procrastinators in order to be more successful at work.
1. Sometimes it’s better — and necessary — to just wait.
There are certain things can (and should) only be done at a particular point in time. Even the best laid plans need to adapt and adjust to new situations. For example, you have to quickly react to marketplace developments and be nimble in the face of a competitor’s product launch. Other times, things will get cheaper or easier the longer you wait (e.g. don’t be in a rush to sign a partnership deal where you have the upper hand because a poker-face and silence can be powerful tools).
2. Conserve your mental and emotional energy for things you can control.
Sometimes there’s really no point in worrying about what Q4 sales are going to be and how it will impact your plans to negotiate for a promotion at the end of the year. There’s a certain psychic drain to constantly worrying about hitting a certain objective like an investment return or a revenue number if you’ve done everything you can do. Whether your goal is to get to a product launch or finish fundraising by the end of Q4, just focus on execution.
Habitual procrastinators know that ultimately what matters is getting the end result, not how long you prepared or how hard you worked. It may not be fair but ultimately we don’t necessarily get “an A” for effort in the workplace.
3. Know when you need to start.
Procrastinators may wait until the last minute, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know when they need to get started. In other words, there’s a big difference between starting later and starting late. Since we’re closing in on the last quarter of the year, it’s a good time to ask yourself whether you’ve really got enough time left to reach your 2016 goals. Do you have earnings you need to deliver? A end-of-year advertising campaign that is supposed to bring in visitors? A personal bonus goal?
Even if you’ve got time to spare, make a note now about when you need to start. Consider it “planning to procrastinate” or setting a deadline to meet a deadline!
4. Prioritize what is important.
In our jobs and in life, it’s pretty normal to feel like we can’t actually do everything we want to do. By definition, procrastinators tend to deal with this by simply doing what they need to do to meet deadlines but dropping other things. On the surface it may seem irresponsible to “drop” anything at all, but perhaps deep down, procrastinators are demonstrating that they realize the dropped to-do items are not that important after all. When you wait until you only have time to do 1 of 2 things, chances are, you will probably do the most important one.
Ask most procrastinators and they will admit there’s a certain thrill to waiting until the last moment to start meeting a deadline. But even if you consider yourself an uber planner, you may be surprised that there are certain lessons we can all take away from a little procrastination.
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