Don’t Do It! Procrastinate Your Way to Success – Seriously
Don’t do it!
Okay, it’s time to procrastinate your way to success.
[Originally Posted: June 20, 2009]
Although I originally wrote this post more than 12 years ago, I am starting 2023 thinking about this concept. I wanted to check with myself and ask, “do I still believe in this concept? Is procrastination an asset?” The answer is emphatically, “yes, I do!” Also, I believe this is worth sharing again. I have new friends now that need to hear this idea and think about it. They have way too much junk going on all the time.
Sounds odd doesn’t it? After all why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?
If you are like me you have had it beaten into you that procrastination is bad. You’ve been told all your life to, “Take action. Do it now. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Blah blah blah yada yada yada. Over and over again. Enough already.
For me procrastination has been the toughest battle I ever fought. I started to study myself and specifically why I procrastinate about things that I “should” do. I started to work on tactics to overcome procrastination. Some of the gimmicks work for a bit, but I’d just end up procrastinating until the point that I beat myself up and say things to myself that I wouldn’t say to my enemies. That’s all bad.
How about a different perspective?
What if it’s a good thing? It’s only recently that I learned how to use procrastination for my benefit. You have to admit that most people wouldn’t tally up procrastinator in the strengths column. But after all, if I am so good at procrastinating, is there a way to use it to my benefit instead of the alternative and amassing huge piles of guilt?
For those of you who don’t know how to procrastinate, I’ve decided that you should figure out how to do it. Seriously. Why? Everyone out there seems to say that procrastination is a bad thing, so they have to be wrong. Here goes why:
First, as a leader of an organization – doing everything is a bad thing.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for ‘doing everything’ and working themselves to death. As a leader in their organization the temptation is to ‘do everything’. The stereotype has the owner of the business jumping in to rescue the employee at every bad turn. The employer is upset that the employees can’t handle it and the place would just fall apart if they weren’t around. And so on.
The same is true in parenting. I think getting the kids to clean their rooms is more important than doing it for them. Getting them to take out the garbage, vacuum, clean bathrooms, etc. All the things I would rather procrastinate on and have the kids do anyway. You have to admit this is starting to sound pretty good.
There is a fallacy that I see in the world of success thinking; that you have to do stuff, to get stuff done. I disagree. Obviously you can’t do everything, and “doers” are important; but so are thinkers and communicators.
I have learned that one of the most valuable things I can do to help someone succeed, is let them fail.
If I wasn’t a procrastinator, I would respond more quickly and bail them out. When my employees ask me how come I didn’t bail them out, I just tell them that I trust them and it’s okay if they make mistakes. I ask them what they learned and what we should do next. This works really well in team building. The opposite doesn’t work well. If I jump in all them time, employees think I don’t trust them.
Because I am a procrastinator I let other people lead. I build leaders. I remove myself as the bottleneck.
Second, procrastination can be a fuel for my strategic and personal creativity.
I use procrastination over issues to think through the strategic scenarios. This helps me act more wisely when the time comes. If I don’t need to take action – I don’t.
Procrastinating on things allows me to rethink tough issues, over and over again. Avoiding hasty decisions in my role has proven to be very useful. Rushing to judgment without thinking through enough scenarios is dangerous.
So being a natural at procrastinating gives me time to prepare. I prepare for presentations and discussions. I have better outcomes in those meetings.
Third, cash management for tough times.
Paying bills at the latest possible moment helps with cash management as a small business. Well for that matter, all businesses. You could say that this is a procrastination technique already employed by many successful businesses in these hard economic times.
Fourth, you’ll get more done if you are a strategic procrastinator.
You probably are still laughing a bit at this topic, but I actually am serious. Okay maybe it should be called tactful delegation or something else. Because I am a procrastinator I do less actual work and get more work done. Strange, but true. Other people I work with pick up the slack for their roles because I don’t watch over their shoulder ever 20 minutes to see how they are doing. Well, sometimes I can’t help it but it’s the rarity so when I do it they know that there is something really urgent and I need them. Procrastination helps me get more done if I leverage it the right way. Boy that sounds really weird to the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) people reading this right now.
I created my CEO todo list because of this very issue. I had to learn that my role was very different and working with and through others was more important than me doing everything. My list? Think, talk, listen, buy food and wait to sign things. Serious. (See my previous post on this.)
Are you procrastinating now? Awesome.
Here are some questions to help you analyze your procrastination potential. You can turn procrastination into a success principle for yourself too. The next time you are stuck in a procrastinatory state, here are some questions to ask yourself and some of the ways I handle it:
- What should I be thinking about while I am procrastinating?
- Should I be making notes on something?
- Should I just ask someone to take care of this for me?
- Am I stuck and I am procrastinating because I don’t know what to do?
- Am I just afraid to do it?
- Am I lazy?
- Am I the only one that can get this done?
- Can I ask someone to work through this with me?
- Is this something I can just say “no” to?
If you are procrastinating because you are stuck, schedule time with someone to talk through the issues and work it through together. It’s a simple accountability partner thing. Even better, do it with someone that can take the workload off of your plate. It turns from a procrastination, I’m stuck can’t figure it out into a planning session – delegated and done session. Pretty cool eh?
If you don’t know how to do something or you are insecure doing something – procrastination is good there too. Find someone else to figure it out with you. This becomes a team effort.
If you are lazy, ask someone else to help. Wait, this is a recurring theme? Yup. For all of these issues find a “procrastination buddy”. But let’s apply it to beer. You are sitting on the couch watching TV and your friend gets up to go to the restroom. You’re lazy so you say; “hey since you are up can you grab me another beer?” You didn’t realize that you have deployed the main principle in successful delegation. You are getting someone else to do something for you, while they are doing something else, and most likely they are glad to do it. Nice.
Do you need to say ‘no?’ I’ve learned that this is my biggest problem. I need to say ‘no’ more often. (See previous post on this one.) Too many times I let my good intentions mess up a relationship because I want to help, but my gut knows better. Now, I can’t say no to everything, that’s ridiculous. But I’ve learned that I need to be willing to say ‘no’ more often.
If you are the only one that can do it, do you have to do it alone? Can you have someone help you work through the issues and organize what you need to do. Perhaps even do the work when it’s all said and done. I am amazed how many times I thought I was the only one that could do it; and in reality someone else got it done and even did a better job than I could have myself.
I find that most people I talk with are too busy to actually strategically invest in their business or their lives. They just run from one thing to the next and it’s total craziness all the time. For once in your life, probably the best thing you can do is ‘nothing.’ Try giving yourself some more free time to think through a decision. Find someone to help talk it through with you.
I’m not saying that procrastination is the answer to everything, but it gives you space to think. Thinking usually leads to the answers.
Obviously someone has to do something otherwise it’s just plain silly. But the next time you are procrastinating, notice it and ask yourself why and see if there is a way to turn it into an asset instead of an expense.