There is an unstated cause of procrastination. One seldom admitted to by anyone having any sense of self-esteem. It is often noticeable in the newest of recruits and staff but is nevertheless present in the most experienced of colleagues. But is a kind of ‘reverse-procrastination’ in that it does not cause the putting off of tasks. In fact, it does the opposite – it creates massive productivity. The trouble is, it’s the wrong kind of productivity.
This misdirection of effort is caused by people who have never asked this question.
“Does my desire to do a lot of things reflect a lack of confidence in my ability to do a few important things well?
This kind of thinking occurs when we haven’t quite mastered something. I recall when I first started in the Fraud Squad I had a debilitating attack of Imposter Syndrome. This resulted in my making offers to others to help them, and to do any menial task as long as I didn’t have to progress an investigation I was finding hard to fathom, while therefore not ‘having time’ to simply ask for help and thus reveal my inadequacy.
Busy people are often people who look as though they’re working hard, but they’re working hard at avoiding something else they should be doing.
And there is another sign of misdirected busy-ness. People who don’t ask themselves, “Do I get angry at interruptions because I lack confidence that I can manage my time well enough to deal with them?”
These people (and I suspect I was one of them) believe that everything they are asked to do must be done immediately, and is therefore a threat to their planned tasks. This, I believe, is partly the fault of an organisation that allows itself to believe that everything must be done NOW. This creates a sense of Urgency that is applied to everything regardless of its actual importance, and which also shoves more important or time-sensitive work into the background, where it awaits the day it can jump to the fore and shout, “Hah! I am URGENTT now, as well!” And it, too, becomes an interruption that it would not have been had you just stopped following the ‘Everything is Urgent’ mentality so debilitating to personal and organisational effectiveness.
Enter the Stimulus-Response Gap cure to both problems.
Now and then – whether looking at something that is initially terrifying, or which seems to demand attention you need to put elsewhere, and decide : What is he appropriate action to take, now?
In the former case, the only first action may be to do little more than seek the help or knowledge required to progress. And in the second case, it may be a chance to decide that, “No”, this can wait, or “Yes”, it needs attention. And that attention may be nothing more than to note what needs to be done so that it can be done latter.
Every problem – EVERY problem – can be addressed using that SR Gap. Just take the moment to THINK. And then the problem becomes a project, and we manage those all the time.