A big cause of procrastination is fear, but I’m not writing here about panic, or being terrified of something. I’m writing about the kind of fear that is not about loss of life, but loss of time. And when you read this, you’ll realise that you know exactly what I mean.
Have you ever met one of those people (or are you one of those people) who, when a decision on what course of action to take is needed, asks for advice? But who also, having heard the advice provided, go on to ask someone else, then someone else, and then someone else again?
They’re scared that the advice given will require that they take responsibility for a decision. Or they are scared that they don’t know how to what has been suggested. Or they are scared that the time taken to act will somehow impinge upon the time they need, or think they need, to do something else that they’d prefer to do.
All of those fears mean that it is, in their minds, safer to keep on asking, and/or safer to keep on assembling data, so that they can find one of five things:
- The answer they want, regardless of whether it’s right;
- The answer that keeps them safe from any perceived negative consequence;
- An excuse not to do it at all;
- A reason to not be doing something else that they are trying to avoid; or
- Someone to blame when they act, and it all goes wrong.
(I’ll be frank – that list started as ‘three things’, expanded to five, and even now I’m thinking there may be others.)
I’ve met and worked with at least two of those, and the funny things is that both were truly competent, knowledgeable people. But for some reason, now and then they’d have a situation that needed action, and off they’d go polling people as if democracy was the answer to whether a proposed act was right or wrong. Well, democracy may work that way, but reality doesn’t. If there is only one answer, someone else’s truth won’t change that, however honestly held.
Now that sentence could start another post, but let’s stick to work.
If you have a list of things that need doing, do them in the order of importance as your first metric, then availability of resources and time as your next assessment method. And if you don’t know what to do, ask someone – ONE someone – who has done it before and use that knowledge and experience to develop your own.
When you ask someone like that for help and then go ask someone else (for one of the five reasons given above), you undermine your relationship with that first, trusted individual whose counsel you sought out. You betray a trust that you, yourself demonstrated when you asked for help.
Only when their answer picks at your own conscience should you think, “Does that sound right?” should you go elsewhere, and even then only after you’ve asked ‘Person One’ if you understood them correctly.
In essence – don’t muck up a great relationship because you’re afraid to do whatever you know has to be done. That’s selfish, and remarkably stupid. Relationships are too important to spoil because you’re a procrastinator.