MRO Magazine

Troubled by Procrastination?

By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.   

Human Resources

Procrastination is very low on just about everyone's ranking of business qualities. Yet, once in a while, procrastination may be the best course of action -- and may even lead to a better outcome than...

Procrastination is very low on just about everyone’s ranking of business qualities. Yet, once in a while, procrastination may be the best course of action — and may even lead to a better outcome than a task completed at a fever pitch.

Procrastination may be a good habit when …

You’re not sure where to begin. Put simply, you have a big task in front of you. Whether it’s unfamiliar, complex or just plain difficult, you have no real plan of attack. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Mention to your friends and peers that you lack direction. Someone may step up and steer you.

You’re in the middle of potential controversy. You may understand your task or project, but you also know that what you’re about to do may bother peers, colleagues or customers. Or you’re worried that it may drive a permanent wrench into your business. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Run ‘trial balloons’ by the people most affected. The result will be clues about the most appropriate course of action.

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You’re facing a huge project. Sure, it’s good to get underway as soon as possible. But if the project is enormous, perhaps it’s better to let it sit for a short period, and use the time to ponder how you can complete it most efficiently. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Spend a few minutes each day thinking about the project. During these contemplative periods, ask yourself: what advice would you give if someone asked you how to complete it?

You’re tired. Maybe you’ve just completed another big project. Or you’ve had a busy schedule for the past few weeks. Whatever the reason, you may be better off ‘chilling out’ for a time. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Visualize the project being completed, and your efforts being successful. This visualization will help energize you.

You’re facing vague expectations. While you have an idea how the project should turn out, you’re not quite sure that your ideal outcome matches that of the people around you. Don’t take the chance of completing a project that ultimately won’t meet the needs or desires of your peers or customers. Wait. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Casually mention the planned outcome in conversation to the people involved. Describe how they’ll be affected once you’re finished. You’ll probably get some good some feedback on your planned course of action.

You’re charged with completing a creative project. Creative projects might include written or visual works, displays, themes, or other original work that describes or promotes something your business is doing. Creative work, as any artist or writer will tell you, doesn’t always come easily when it’s forced. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Let the project ‘incubate’. Think about it effortlessly from time to time when you’re relaxed or before retiring at night. Chances are you’ll come up with the right approach in a matter of days or weeks.

You’re concerned about failure. Perhaps others have attempted similar tasks, and concluded them with unsatisfactory outcomes. Or you notice large obstacles in your path to completion. Better to hold off. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Listen to the experiences of others.

You’re faced with a low-priority task. If your task is really not that important, hold off. You may find that the nature of the task will be altered later on, or that someone else may pick it up. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Sound out the individual who suggested the task in the first place. Ask about its importance. And ask whether someone else might be able to handle the job, given your concern over weightier matters.

You’re preoccupied with other activities. Even if your upcoming project is critical, you probably won’t do a good job if your attention and energy is focused elsewhere. So if you have other matters you’re attending to, you might be better off completing them first. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Strike as many items off your regular to-do list as you can. And ponder the upcoming task as you’re completing other activities important to you.

You’re not in control of resources. Do you have the resources — people, equipment, data — necessary to make the task happen? If not, you may end up wasting more time on your upcoming project than you spend on substantive tasks. Prudence suggests that here, too, it’s better to hold off. What to do while you’re procrastinating: Determine what you need to complete the project, and describe it to the other people involved. If you can garner the support and resources you need during your procrastination period, you’ll end up with a better result at the end of the project.

Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO.

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