Business leaders, managers and entrepreneurs face many problems, some of these issues are important and some of these issues are urgent. Business leaders, managers, entrepreneurs often have more ideas, more tasks to do, and more demands than they feel that they have time to deal with. Additionally most human beings have a trait that does not help in these situations. This trait, this characteristic, is called procrastination – the art of putting something off until another time.
Procrastination as a skill!
Most articles I have read about procrastination warn the reader of its (procrastinations) perils. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” “A small problem becomes large if you don’t deal with it” and my favorite from William James “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” I am yet to be convinced that these kind of statements are in any way helpful. Moreover, I am convinced that these kind of statements can often make things worse by reminding the reader of his inadequacies, and causing further rumination. These statements offer little how to do things, they offer little practical wisdom, and they are unhelpful to the individual who is struggling with the daily weight of much to do and little time to do things in.
The ability to procrastinate is a skill and it is a skill that should be celebrated. Rejoice procrastinators! Permission is now granted for you to leave things until another day. It is a skill that can be sharpened too and Paul Graham offers some interesting thoughts on how your skills of procrastination can be honed by seeing procrastination in three variants. Paul writes:
“There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. “
Good procrastination then is about giving yourself permission to leave things, to put off doing some things, so that you can focus on something more important. The reason why some things are left might just be that you have already decided that they are not the most important things to do right now.
But there is another force at work — the ghost of F W Taylor– our target driven, numbers orientated society. This is the force of the economic model that we work and live within that seems to place more importance on efficiency rather than effectiveness. A model that seems to place more relevance on urgency rather than importance. A model that seems to place more importance on capital than it does on people.
Procrastination is good once we have understood the difference between what is important and what is urgent. Not doing something now, putting something off, in favour of doing something more important and something more effective is perfectly acceptable.
At Wentworth Jones we work with our clients to help them distinguish the important things in their business and private life enabling them to live more fulfilled careers, and more meaningful personal lives.