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Are you a procrastinator?

Years ago when I heard the term for the first time I didn't really know what it meant, but I thought it sounded serious.

According to my good friend Wikipedia, Procrastination (from latin's "procrastinare", translates into : the prefix pro-, 'forward', and suffix -crastinus, 'till next day' from cras, 'tomorrow') - simply put, it is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished.

We can all delay or postpone something for genuine reasons and that's fine, but the term procrastination is really pointing at 'avoidance'. In other words the art of stepping around something, or putting it off, and maybe putting it off again and again rather than dealing with it.

I remember a time during an interim assignment in a large organisation when I had discussed a poor department performance issue and its impact with the relevant manager. I'd asked that he bring together all the staff involved and outline where improvement was needed. We agreed that the meeting would take place at 2pm in the afternoon. I spoke to the manager after 4pm and asked how the meeting went. He explained that due to a crisis (that had arisen out of the blue), he hadn't been able to arrange it. Giving the benefit of the doubt we agreed that he have the meeting the next morning at 11am. After lunch the next day I again asked how he got on, only to hear that once more for a different reason he had not arranged the meeting.

In short, the manager had been continually putting something off that he simply didn't want to do. The management code for this is 'evasive rationalisation'.  The fact is 'What needs to be said, usually needs to be said. However, it's how it's said that causes the trouble.' Some managers get defensive, feel inadequate or take things personally when challenged, therefore they tend to shy away from confronting certain situations for that same reason.

Unfortunately, the manager in question was not suited to the role due to his continued reluctance to challenge poor and unacceptable behaviour.

When we think of management being all about the process of dealing with, or controlling things or people, procrastination can have a bigger impact on the bottom line that is often realised.

It's not the first time I've had to take a deep breath and deal with something I didn't particularly want to do.