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Nov 27
2007

Managing the Procrastinator

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

"What do you mean the sales presentation isn't ready? The customer is arriving tomorrow morning!" screamed Bob.

 

"You just don't understand," shot back Tim. "It's far more complex than you think. You believe everything is just simple, but it's not."

 

Sound familiar?

 

Procrastination is epidemic in the workplace. Learning to effectively manage a procrastinator is important for any manager. Scripture tells us, "Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom" (Psalm 90:12 NLT) and we must insist that staff make the most of their time.

 

"What do you mean the sales presentation isn't ready? The customer is arriving tomorrow morning!" screamed Bob.

 

"You just don't understand," shot back Tim. "It's far more complex than you think. You believe everything is just simple, but it's not."

 

Sound familiar?

 

Procrastination is epidemic in the workplace. Learning to effectively manage a procrastinator is important for any manager. Scripture tells us, "Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom" (Psalm 90:12 NLT) and we must insist that staff make the most of their time.

 

Most procrastinators fall into one of four groups:

 

  • 1) The Lazy
  • 2) The 11th-Hour Scramblers
  • 3) The Easily-Sidetracked
  • 4) The Perfectionist

 

Every type has its own justification, but King Solomon nailed it on the head when he said, "The lazy person is full of excuses, saying, if I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed" (Proverbs 22:13 NLT).

 

The answer: each type of procrastinator needs to be effectively managed.

 

#1) The Lazy

Unfortunately, some workers are lazy and suffer from the "slows." While other procrastinators often fail to meet deadlines due to misdirected efforts, the Lazy just don't like to work very hard. Pushing the same papers around, roaming around the office, visiting workmates, and just not getting much done at any level is the hallmark of the lethargic.

 

King Solomon correctly observed, "A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing" (Proverbs 20:4 NIV). Completing work on schedule requires making progress each day to achieve a needed result. When a farmer fails to plow a field at the necessary time, that step can never be recovered. The future predictable result is a disastrous harvest.

 

To manage the Lazy worker, insure you set deadlines and establish clear firm consequences for failure to deliver work. These procrastinators generally respond best to understanding the cost to them personally if they fail to deliver. Solomon said, "The had of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor" (Proverbs 24:12 NASB).

 

Only careful, consistent, and forceful management will keep the Lazy procrastinators on schedule.

 

#2) The 11th-Hour Scrambler

Those who put things off until the last minute usually underestimate the time needed to complete the task, overestimate their own productivity, or just don't want to tackle the task. Jesus said, "For which of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost" (Luke 14:28 NASB). Planning the time, energy, and work needed to complete a project is part of counting the cost.

 

To manage 11th-Hour Scramblers, ask them to tell you in advance when they plan to complete the work. Establish benchmarks to validate everything along the way so that you remain on schedule. 11th-Hour Scramblers tend to focus only on the most immediate task before them rather balance long-term needs. They aren't lazy, but are shortsighted and will often focus on unimportant items due now rather then allocate time to key items with a longer lead-time.

 

In the example above (where Bob screams at Tim for putting things off until the last minute), Bob could have found out in advance from Tim what key information was needed in the sales presentation, what resources were needed, and how the material would be presented. If Bob had asked for a draft presentation one week before the client arrived, he would have known that Tim had fumbled the ball a full week before the deadline. Instead, Bob discovered the fumble at the last minute when his options were severely limited.

 

#3) The Easily-Sidetracked

Lack of focus gets many procrastinators sidetracked. Unexpected emergencies and pressing needs will always emerge and keep important work from getting done. The Easily-Sidetracked believe that "as soon as this monkey gets off my back, I'll get everything done." King Solomon noted, "The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns" (Proverbs 15:19 NIV).

 

For these procrastinators, something will always happen to keep the promised work from being done on time. That's because as soon as one monkey is removed, another quickly takes its place.

 

To manage the Easily-Sidetracked, use the technique of establishing benchmarks and then follow up to ensure those benchmarks are reached. In addition, establish a clear policy that you are to be notified immediately if and when something comes up that will impede a promised project. You will be ale to intervene and either decide to adjust the work schedule or explain that the "emergency" is not an emergency. You will then be able to keep your staff on track.

 

When asking the Easily-Sidetracked to take on an additional project, specifically ask how the new task will impact the current deadlines in place. For example, Tim felt because he was asked to assist with another customer presentation the same week that he should have received understanding for missing the old deadline.

 

To Bob, the added assignment was not overly important or time consuming, but for Tim it became an excuse to miss the major priority.

 

Lastly, don't be overly sympathetic when they burn the midnight oil to get done what should have been accomplished earlier.

 

#4) The Perfectionist

For Perfectionists, nothing is ever good enough, so they keep putting things off. Deadlines come and go because things are just not "ready." King Solomon wrote, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done" (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT).

 

To manage Perfectionists, establish correct expectations in advance and help them air any anxieties. Establish your expectations for the quality of work to be done and make sure that they work toward those standards, not toward perfection. Additionally, encourage your procrastinators to share any feelings of possible failure and then help build confidence.

 

A perfectionist expert furniture finisher would spend hours sanding and rubbing a piece of furniture. When asked, "How do you know when you are done?" he replies, "I just keep working on the piece until they take it away and bring me another to work on." To the perfectionist, no job is ever complete.

 

Ultimately, Perfectionists must be held accountable to perform. Job said, "Shall a talkative man be acquitted?" (Job 11:2) and King Solomon wrote, "Mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23 NASB).

 

 

In the end, doing your part to encourage, help, and re-train procrastinators is all you can do. If they ultimately fail to keep work commitments, then eventual dismissal may be your only option.

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