|Weíre all guilty of this. Putting off something we should do now, but decide to do later. One obvious consequence of this is the mad dash to meet a deadline and the crises and subsequent stress associated with getting something done at the last moment. While some people thrive on this adrenaline rush, itís often disruptive to an organization and the people around.
But thereís another much more serious downside of Procrastination. Itís the risk of a missed opportunity. For example, you decide you want to go to a concert or ball game, but you procrastinate and wait to buy the tickets. The result is that all the good seats are taken, the price is higher, or you might not get a ticket at all. You had the money, your calendar was free, but you just didnít allocate the 15 minutes to buy the ticket. Bummer.
We live in a highly competitive world, often competing for the same opportunity or resource. You see a job posting that sounds interesting, but wait to apply, and someone else who didnít wait gets the job. Bummer. Youíve heard the expression, you snooze, you lose.
Procrastination usually occurs when you know you NEED to do something, but donít want or like it (like writing those obligatory thank you notes). So you put it off.
One might claim ÖĒ but I didnít have the timeĒ, and sometimes thatís legitimate. However many times, if you look back at what you did with your time, you realize you spent the time on things that you wanted, but really didnít need.
Iím not suggesting you have to push to be the first in line, or when the clock strikes exactly 24 hours before your Southwest flight, youíre on your computer checking in so you get a good priority for seating.
I am suggesting that you develop a strategy for avoiding procrastination so when the result really does matter, you donít miss out altogether.
So hereís a simple strategy when you have a task, a.k.a., a ďto doĒ.
Ask about the Necessity. Is this task, or to-do, necessary? If itís something you can easily do without, or you donít care about, then donít worry about procrastination as it doesnít matter. But if it does matter, ask a few more questions.
Understand the competition. Ask: Who or what am I competing with for this resource or opportunity and when might those competitors take action? If youíre buying a house in an environment where 30 others will also be looking and making an offer on the same house, then youíll kick yourself if you procrastinated about getting pre-approval for a loan.
Timing is everything, and Time doesnít wait for you. Ask: Based on the competition, or just the clock itself, when must I complete the task to avoid and/or minimize the risk of missing the opportunity or getting the slim pickens at the end?
Things take longer than you think and stuff happens. The most important question, Ask: Once I start, how much time do I need to complete the task, taking into account interruptions, waiting on others, and surprises that I canít anticipate. Double or triple your estimate. Also, stuff happens, e.g. Your wifi doesnít work, you get called into an unexpected meeting, you get sick, etc, so have a plan B to get your task done in time in case stuff does happen.
The Takeaway: The strategy to minimize missed opportunities is to understand the need, the competition for the resource, and how long things really take, so you know when you have to start in order to finish and grab the opportunity before itís lost. Donít artificially put yourself in the position to say, ďBummer"