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Dec 29
2005

Managing the Procrastinator

Posted by: Steve Marr

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"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."

Late work as a result of 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 three groups:
1)The 11th-Hour Scramblers, 2)The Easily-Sidetracked, and
3)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 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. In the example above, Bob could have asked 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.


#2) 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.


#3) The Perfectionist 


For the 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 the Perfectionists, establish correct expectations in advance and help them air any anxieties. Establish in advance your expectations for the quality of work to be done. Work them through the established standards that are expected. Ensure 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.


Ultimately, procrastinators 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). Doing your part to help procrastinators is Part I- Part II is following up with them. However, if they ultimately fail to keep work commitments, then eventual dismissal may be your only option.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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