Some people in both their personal and professional lives have the tendencies to put off doing things until the last-minute. Whether cramming for a test the night before and pulling an all-nighter or writing up your part in a team assignment at work, they don’t do what needs doing until, well frankly…they NEED doing.
For some people of course, this isn’t an accident but rather the way they work out of choice. Not only is it their preferred method, they don’t stress about looming deadlines and the quality of their work is consistently good. Those of us that might point fingers in their direction and caution them about the dangers of rolling the dice once too often are continually surprised at how well things tend to turn out for them.
However, there is another group of people who leave things until the situation is near to critical and these people don’t meet the same levels of success in the end. The delay in getting going on what they must do is fraught with heightened anxiety and stress. They put off what needs doing which they know isn’t healthy and stew about what they must do. They feel bad they haven’t started, know they are repeating a pattern of behaviour that is harmful to their success but continue to do so nonetheless. Why?
Well that is the question isn’t it? Why? Why would intelligent people with the necessary skills to do the tasks assigned to them choose to put off for as long as possible doing things that they eventually must until the last moments? Why would they knowingly choose to avoid the work knowing as well that they will feel guilt at not having started earlier and repeat this behaviour again and again? Why indeed.
Now from time-to-time I suppose many if not all of us put off doing the odd thing that we know in the end we must. Sometimes it’s laziness or what we have to do isn’t as high a priority at the moment because we still have time to get to it so we do other things. Putting things off here and there isn’t a normal pattern of behaviour however, it’s an anomaly for most and therefore atypical.
You would think that the decision to routinely delay getting started on whatever needs doing would really only be the concern of the people procrastinating themselves. Ah but such behaviours does impact on others around them and yes both in their personal and professional lives. This is the reason – the only reason – that such behaviour is of concern to others. So much of what we do these days involves other people; work is shared and we are counter-dependent on each other to meet common end goals.
When collaborating with others, effective teams that work best together will often divvy up tasks which will use the very best talents of the team members. It’s not enough however to just divide up what needs to be done to assure success. What the truly effective teams also do is make sure all the members know the deadlines for the work to be accomplished and then work backward to the present moment setting up dates and times for updating each other in order to assure work is being done, complications are shared and resolved and help if needed is provided.
When the responsibility for a project is shared, all those involved have to have a certain level of trust in each other that their contributions will ultimately result in a unified presentation which they hope is the formula for success.
This then is the problem when someone puts off doing their part until the time almost expires. Doing so raises doubt in one’s teammates and detracts from their ability to concentrate fully on just doing their piece. They may worry about the productivity of what the procrastinator will or won’t deliver, and wonder if it will be the best they could give or something shoddy done with haste and errors.
I feel for the person who doesn’t want to end up in this kind of situation but despite their best of intentions, always seems to be putting out fires at the last-minute as their motes operandi. For even though they live dangerously working from one deadline to another, the mental anguish, anxiety and stress they feel isn’t welcomed; eventually impacting on their health both physical and mental.
For these people, I suggest a few things. First of all, it is important to decide if you really want to change your standard operating behaviour. If the answer is really a, ‘no’, keep doing what you’re doing. If however, you’d really like to change, understand like any desired change, it will be uncomfortable at first and take work.
You know the absolute deadlines for projects and you’re used to working to those final deadlines so set yourself a series of check-in dates with others and give them permission to ask to see the progress of your work. These check-ins must be more than superficial. Build in some reward for yourself if you’re on track rather than a penalty if you’re not. You’re far more likely to celebrate progress with a treat not penalize yourself for a lack of progress.
Written By Kelly Mitchell