Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Procrastination: My Friend, Philosopher, and Guide

Working as a desk editor for a quarterly academic journal is a tough task to begin with. Days would fly by while I'd be buried in a deluge of potential papers, meticulously reviewing those that would grace our peer reviewed journal. This and apart from liaising with internal and external contributors, overseeing the release of journal issues, and handling print and distribution; one of my less weighted KPIs was to author and publish two research papers.

It was quite an 'achievable' goal according to my employer despite posing a slight risk of me churning out two indiscriminate research papers, coupled with the imminent delay of one of the four issues by two weeks or more. Instead, I chose to release four timely issues and produced only one yet an exemplary paper.

The verdict: found guilty of procrastination. I could have and I should have.
As for me, it meant examining where I went wrong, or did I.

A procrastinator is a problem child of today's mass producing organisations. Ask a typical 'boss', and they'll present a zillion arguments in favour of 'un-procrastinising' employees' outlook towards work. The bottom line, Get as many things as possible doneNo Questions Asked!

We all procrastinate once in a while for all sorts of reasons. There are two types of procrastinators, active and passive. If you've just put off a task to read this post instead, then the good news is that you're an active procrastinator. A passive procrastinator would be comfortably settled somewhere, doing what they do best: nothing.

Time is a luxury that most managers cannot afford given the pace at which today's organisations function. Needless to say that the constant flow of copious amount of information impedes the decision making process. Frank Partnoy’s book, Wait, mentions how the top executives of Lehman Brothers attended a seminar on ‘quick decision-making’ just before taking the most crucial financial decisions in 2005. The rest is history.

So, here’s why practising procrastination, may very well prove to be a virtue than what’s always otherwise been said about it.

1. Sets priorities
It allows time to the decision maker to understand which tasks are important.

2. Obliterate redundancies
If a process is followed, ask how important each step is? Will a certain task contribute towards the final goal or can the process be sped up by skipping it.
3. Begets quality; not quantity
Quality takes time. Ideas take time to develop. You may not be done and dusted with a 100% of the tasks on your to-do list, but the end result is sure to pass quality control without a glitch. Procrastination is quality assurance.

4. Leads to Creativity
Sleep on it. Sometimes the most obvious yet creative ideas dawn when least expected. That's the beauty of the subconscious mind. Delaying a crucial decision to its deadline is an ideal thing to do as it gives managers a 360 degree view or even come up with creative solutions to problems.

5. Gets things done
When you don't feel like doing something, the smaller, more mechanical and less cognitive tasks should take priority. They are reprieve juxtaposed with contemplation. As a result, more things get done.

6. Helps in taking better and well-informed decisions
Having a panoramic view of a problem is important when challenged with crucial decisions. It gives decision makers an insight into the influencers and their effects. Procrastination definitely helps in clearing the clutter, retaining what's relevant and taking calculated decisions.

7. To consider options
There is no one solution to any problem. The key is to have enough time to identify those options.

8. People who know they perform better under pressure
Then there are some of us who need the adrenaline rush in order to perform to our highest capabilities.

9. Reduces stress levels significantly
When situations are perceived to be daunting, more preparation time is a dream come true. It allows comprehension of the nature of the problem and its consequences. It is a coping mechanism and clears the haze caused by anxiety most of the times.

10. Procrastinating helps with the identity that you may want to create
And last, often true; rarely acknowledged. In professions where being on time is a vice, and may raise questions on character, procrastination is a mandatory practice. For example, academics. It was founded and operates on the psyche of assuming that you may have had less work if you were on time and vice versa. The notion of efficiency never occurs to anyone as a first instinct.  

The write-up may sound implicitly confessional but is in the least bit so. Procrastination has its own downsides and I'll come up with those in time.

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