Deadlines are Important

I have been procrastinating about my blogs. Blogs seem simple. Three-hundred-fifty to five-hundred words are all it takes. The computer is counting the words as I write, the spell checker is underlining mistakes, and my editor is back from her cruise. I have finished teaching my class. Can I use having to go to the bank and the post office and excuse to finish this tomorrow? NO—the deadline is on my calendar today to finish my blog and I have a conference call at 1:00 to work with my IT consultant on how to post blogs more effectively.

According to the World Book Dictionary, procrastination is “the act or habit of putting things off to later; delay, especially repeatedly.” Although the definition says procrastination is something you do repeatedly, it doesn’t mean that you procrastinate on everything. I find that I repeatedly procrastinate on certain things (my blog has been one sore spot for me).

Does this sound familiar? My clients often procrastinate too and one of my unstated jobs as a consultant is to help them move forward. Here is what I’ve noticed about clients (and myself) and why we procrastinate:

  1. The job seems too hard
  2. There isn’t enough time to do the work
  3. The information or material needed to do the work isn’t available
  4. The person doing the work doesn’t know exactly how to do it
  5. Other priorities seem more important

How do I help my clients (and myself) stop procrastinating and move forward?

  1. Break the work down into smaller pieces
  2. Determine when each step needs to be completed
  3. Determine who will be doing the work
  4. Identify and obtain the resources (supplies, expertise) needed to do the work
  5. Inform managers and appropriate staff about the work deadlines to assure that the staff assigned to do the work will be given the time to do it
  6. Provide training on each step as we go to be sure that everyone knows their part
  7. Have regularly scheduled meetings to review steps (weekly is desirable) with everyone to see how we are progressing
  8. If we fall off the schedule (either for procrastination or a more concrete reason), discuss remedies and how to return to the schedule

My clients hire me for my subject matter expertise – expertise in tests and measurement, expertise in quality management, expertise in standards for certification. Experience in the subject allows me to make quick decisions about next steps and to break the project into the smaller parts. Recognizing when my clients need additional training as they go through each part of the process  helps them work more efficiently (and quit procrastinating).

If you are interested in an insightful book about the importance of expertise in decision making, I’d recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. He provides examples of how experts quickly reach decisions and explains that we often make better decisions by training our minds and senses to focus on the most relevant facts. He illustrates how training enhances high stakes decision making (isn’t that why we all have fire drills).

If you would like to get a little more serious about project management you may want to look at Just Enough Project Management by Curtis Cook (2005). It is a quick read that provides a four step process and includes a very helpful chapter on managing multiple priorities and project overload (problems that always seem to exist). The Project Management Institute has a library of resources on project management at  http://www.pmi.org/ .

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