Business is a race. We’re all given the same 24 hours and the same 52 weeks. What we do with our days and weeks determines whether we’ll eat someone’s lunch or vice versa.
Like everyone else, I can easily fall guilty to neglecting a task, leaving early on a warm and sunny Friday afternoon, or avoiding something I just don’t want to do. But by falling victim to this sloth, I’m simply hurting myself and my company. That’s why I absolutely detest procrastination.
Why do something tomorrow if you can get it done today, and then do something more the next day?
This scenario happened recently with the production of a New Year’s card we just sent out to our customers. “Just sent out?” you ask.
Yes, we just sent out our New Year’s card. It was slated to go out the first full week of the year to avoid getting lost in the crush of holiday mail, but it ended up going out three days later than we had planned.
The delays weren’t necessary.
As we made the decision to create a card that celebrates our passion for print, we moved the mail date back four weeks to the first week of the new year. That gave us plenty of fluff in the schedule.
So, what happens when there is fluff? It gets eaten up, quickly!
We sat on files, then went to press three days after proofs were approved. One week gone. The finishing was more complicated than anticipated and required additional passes for the foil stamping and micro-etching. Another week gone. Then, a die broke on a Friday evening, killing production for the entire weekend. Most of you have probably been here before.
Sensing we were running behind, I proactively checked in on our lettershop to ensure that all of the addressing work had been done prior to the arrival of the cards. I was given confirmation that labels had already been applied, but to my surprise, two days later when the cards arrived, the envelopes had to be taken down from the shelves.
In the end, we frantically hand-applied labels and inserted cards, counting up to our small CRM list of 2,200. We raced downtown to beat the First-Class Mail deadline, making it with just moments to spare.
When the project was complete, I just about cried. Others who were closer to some of the production challenges celebrated its completion even as they drowned some of their frustrations in Tequila.
The problems this job encountered were not technical. And, not production-driven. They were of our own making, and procrastination was the driver.
Though we ended with a beautiful piece we can be proud of, it mailed later than it should have. There really is a limit to how late you can send out a New Year’s card, and we pushed the line.
Sometimes, I understand why our customers give us false due dates. They, too, have seen the effects that procrastination can cause, and it’s not a pretty picture.
So here’s my New Year gift to you—seven anti-procrastination tools that you can use today (Don’t put it off!) to start your year off right:
- Leverage the power of teams. In my groups at MBA school, no one neglects a project because they don’t want to let down the rest of the team. Apply the same dynamic at work; peer pressure can be a very good thing!
- Break down tasks into consumable, doable chunks. Such chunks are more manageable and your likelihood of success will improve. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you tick things off your list.
- Provide rewards to yourself for finishing difficult projects, like the Tequila in our story.
- Plan better. No further explanation is needed!
- Avoid distractions. Don’t go to the water cooler when you need to get something done
- Ask yourself why patterns exist in your procrastination. Can you deal with these things structurally? Are there certain elements of your job you don’t find rewarding, and can you change them or deal with them differently?
- Find external motivation. Try to gamify the problem tasks. Compete with friends and co-workers to get things done. If life is a game, you can play to win.
Cheers to you and your efforts to win the business race in 2013. (And don’t put off the Tequila!)