Posts Tagged ‘Procrastination’

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We’ve seen this past week the impact of what happens when expectations are not met for something to happen quickly. In the rush of last-minute buying and shipping of Christmas presents, untold numbers of packages went undelivered by the “guaranteed” delivery dates. As a result, people either had to do without presents on the intended day, or they had to rush out and buy something else. I saw on the news one lady who was upset that her shipment of live lobsters didn’t arrive in time for the family get-together and meal (definitely a first-world problem – poor, poor lady). I’m sure starving children around the world will weep for her inconvenience.

Fingers are pointing everywhere in the aftermath. Retailers are blaming shippers. Shippers are blaming last-minute shoppers, fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and capacity that was simply overwhelmed. Consumers are blaming retailers and shippers. I don’t think I’ve seen people or organizations yet raise their own hands and take responsibility.

In the case of Christmas shopping, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for last-minute shoppers, although a guarantee is a guarantee and the buyer should be able to trust those guarantees to be honored. Hopefully there is a lesson learned: shop earlier next year. It’s not like December 25 is going to pop up out of nowhere on you regardless of when Thanksgiving comes. Get it done earlier and quit your whining.

But the expectation of immediacy isn’t limited, of course, to shipping presents (in spite of the interest in Amazon immediately shipping things by drone beginning in a couple of years). We expect pretty much everything when we want it.

  • We expect news and immediate details of unfolding events, and news organizations feel obligated to be the first to report, even when they don’t know the facts, making their so-called news mere speculation.
  • We expect to get in touch with whomever we want whenever and wherever we please regardless of the intrusion that causes for the receiver or rudeness displayed by the receiver in taking such messages in other settings.
  • If we have a customer service issue, we expect a call, tweet, or other social media post to yield immediate resolutions as if we are the only customer for that Fortune 100 company that actually has millions of other customers.
  • If we see an ad for something we like, we expect to go online on our portable device and get it right now.
  • We want fast food, fast transportation, fast profits, fast credit, fast weight loss, fast beauty, fast ownership, fast training, fast relief, fast satisfaction, and relationships that are perfect quickly – none of this waiting or working for decades like our parents had to do for the same results.

I certainly have nothing against some things happening quickly. It’s convenient. It meets a need and then we move on to whatever is next. But something is amiss when the big story of the week is a package ordered on Monday not being delivered by Tuesday to a home on the other side of the country. Something is out of whack when the social media channels of businesses are clogged with complaints from people who tried to do something at the last minute and then expect the staff levels and processes of established businesses to wildly fluctuate to accommodate their tardiness.

Is our culture of immediacy a symptom of a growing self-centeredness in society? Is it a consequence of enabling technology that has slowly morphed our expectations? Is it both? Is it something else? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it isn’t always healthy or reasonable to expect whatever we want now.

There is value in learning patience. There is value in contentedness. There is value in planning ahead to avoid the need for so much to happen at the last minute. There is value in leaving room in our schedules for the unexpected. There is value is wanting less.

We are blessed as a society with many advantages, conveniences and opportunities, but I think we have a lot of room for personal growth and maturity. Less dependence on immediacy will be one indicator of that maturity.

WellA couple of weeks ago I listened to several people discuss the topic of networking with others. The featured guest in the Google Hangout video chat was Stacy Zapar who happens to have the distinction of being the most connected woman on LinkedIn. She shared her experiences and insights regarding networking and is obviously very knowledgeable about the importance of it in the field of recruiting and talent management. You can view that one-hour video and review the archive of the accompanying Twitter chat here.

During the discussion, the focus was on how to build a personal and professional network in a way that is strategic, thoughtful, and leads toward helping accomplish goals and meet needs in the future as they arise. I didn’t realize until after the discussion that the title for the chat – “Dig a Well Before You’re Thirsty” – is based on a nearly identical book title by Harvey Mackay published in 1999. After some further exploration, it seems like a good investment of someone’s time to read that book, especially if you feel you could use some assistance in building a network for professional and career reasons.

Dig a Well Before You're ThirstySometimes, though, phrases jump out at us and immediately have application far beyond the original context. Such is the case with this book title. It’s true that I weekly pursue expanding my professional contacts in the field of enterprise social networking, especially through the weekly Twitter #ESNchat I host. But when I hear the phrase “Dig a well before you’re thirsty,” my mind immediately goes to other areas of life and the general advice to be prepared, to plan ahead, to not wait until the last moment to get things done, etc.

It reminds me that if I want, for example, to have a decent nest egg for retirement, I have to be contributing and investing wisely for many years before that elusive date. It means that if I have aspirations to accomplish larger goals in the future, I must be willing to lay the groundwork and put in place the stepping stones that are necessary now in order to reach those goals later.

Dig a well before you’re thirsty. That sounds to me like a phrase worth remembering and a philosophy worth living.

How would you apply it?

I had a perfect opportunity today to focus on one important thing that has a deadline of today.  With no meetings at all on my calendar, I could focus on getting together a draft of a presentation that I was asked to draft by today.  No problem, I thought.  There is nothing else on my calendar to stop me, so all should be well.

It’s now about 5:00 p.m. and I have yet to start putting the slides and screen shots together that need to fill out the outline I drafted last week.  I had to package up what I need, bring it home, and I will work on it into the night as long as it takes to get it done and emailed to the person expecting it.

There is no doubt I can do it tonight, but the issue is that I shouldn’t have to give my evening to it.  I should have done a much better job managing my time, putting other little things like emails, messages, and conversations aside in favor of crossing off the main thing I needed to do.  But I didn’t, so now I’ll pay the consequences.

I’ve done this sort of thing a million times in my life, so I know how it’s going to turn out – just fine.  But you’d think I would learn after, oh, half a million times to avoid putting myself in this situation.  Not so.  Either I really don’t mind it so much (because I love the work I do, which is true), or I just don’t learn very well from my mistakes (which I don’t think is very true or this blog wouldn’t exist).

If you know your capabilities and limits well, you can play the procrastination game and win most of the time.  That isn’t the best course of action, though.  It’s better to manage your time wisely, get things done with plenty of time to spare, and give yourself time to rest instead of time to stress.

Leap year lesson #204 is It’s nice when you can do well in a crunch, but it’s better when you don’t have to.