Strategic procrastination

How often has putting things off actually paid off?  Seriously.  We are frequently told that procrastination kills, but you and I both know that every now and then, procrastination pays off.  Let me share a recent example.  I had some money left over in a project account that needed to be used, or it would just go back into the general fund.  Now, this money literally sat dormant in an account for 3 years while I worked on some small project concepts to spend the money.  Then, out of the blue, an issue came up that we needed to deal with and thankfully, I hadn’t spent these funds because we were then able to fix a structural wall issue without having to dip into reserve funds.

Now I’ll be honest, this is the exception, not the rule.  Usually, when you put something off, it ends up costing you more money, time and frustration.  But every now and then, things work themselves out without much engagement from you.

So what are some areas that you can strategically put off for some time and either they will get worked out without your involvement or a better solution will come along to solve multiple issues at once?

Maybe it happens to be something technical in nature.  Recently I sat through a panel discussion on oil fracking in Colorado.  After listening to the various sides of the arguments from environmental, economic, scientific viability etc., I asked how many years of oil reserves were located in the Rocky Mountain range.  The answer varied from hundreds to thousands of years – but most importantly was this statement: “The technology is changing so rapidly right now, that it may be valuable to wait for the technology to catch up so we can more efficiently extract the resources that currently exist.”  This is what I would call strategic procrastination.  Sometimes there’s a strategy for putting things off, to increase our dividends at a later date.

In other instances, it is an absolute necessity to put things off, simply because we don’t have the time to deal with it.  If you’re like me, I frequently get bombarded with all the things I have to get done, when I can’t do anything about them.  When I’m at home with my family, I think about that project at work that is behind schedule.  When I’m at work, I think about that squeaky door that needs to be oiled.  At the exact time these “problems” hit my brain – there is absolutely nothing that I can do about them.  What I’ve found however, is that if these problems are left unchecked they become overwhelming so that I am less effective in the “here and now” as I’m expending mental energy on the “there and then.”

So, here’s a little strategy I’ve deployed over the years.  When I begin to sense that feeling of becoming overwhelmed with things out of my control, I write them down on a piece of paper and give them a date and sometimes a time when I will deal with them.  Once on paper, I can file it away in my pocket and know full well that when that problem’s number comes up, I’ll be loaded for bear and ready to attack.  There’s a true freeing of the mind that comes with this.

I’ve often found that those annoying and overwhelming issues feel like a huge monster draining all my energy and stealing the very enjoyment out of my day.  But once they are exposed to the light, they are very small and manageable.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the “to-do” lists nipping at your feet, write them down and give them a date of decision when you will deal with them head on.

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