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As you can see in the photo, anyone can use a hammer to pound a screw. The result of this ill-advised tool use could be successful, but the outcome is more likely to be problematic because the hammer is not practical for properly tightening a screw. Can we agree that the need would have to be Important and Urgent to take such a shortcut?

A deeper look at effectiveness, which is the degree to which something successfully produces the desired result, is warranted. One person might refer to this as success or desired output, while another might say value or impact. You get the idea.

Was I effective today?

Each day, we face choices between tasks of varying levels of urgency and importance. How do people choose? Research indicates that people may perform urgent tasks with short completion windows instead of important ones with more considerable outcomes and meaningful results.

Why may you ask? Because important tasks are more complicated and further away from goal completion. Conversely, urgent tasks involve more immediate and specific payoffs.  Others want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later when they have more time.

As you determine where to allocate your energy this week, where are you choosing to focus your time?

White clock in sand surrounded by paper money.Do you have more time or money to invest?

The Four Distributions of Time

The following four points below provide context to the four distributions of time. How do you focus your energy?

Important and Urgent

Examples include crisis, pressing problems, operating priorities, deadlines with projects, meetings and reports.

Not Important and Urgent

Examples include other people’s issues, needless interruptions, unnecessary reports, unimportant meetings, phone calls, and emails.

Important and Not Urgent

Examples include preparation, planning, prevention, shared knowledge, clarity, and relationship building.

Not Important and Not Urgent

Examples include busy work, irrelevant calls and emails, excessive social media, and Internet browsing.

There is a common saying you might have heard. Around here, we step over dollars to chase pennies. That is the acknowledgment that they are tripping over the important to pick up the trivial.

What is the inverse of effectiveness and impact?

Procrastination is common when people fear, dread, or have anxiety about the important task awaiting them. To avoid this negative feeling, people put the important off to do at a later time. The problem is that procrastination is a destroyer of blessings and opportunities. It can rob you of self-confidence, reliability, and personal peace.

Procrastination is more than a bad habit for some people. It’s a sign of underlying health issues. Also associated with procrastination are ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Research suggests that procrastination can be a cause of severe stress and illness.

Studies show that people’s tendency to procrastinate on what is important to finish less-important urgent assignments reflects a primary psychological preference. Many of us know this intuitively; we constantly check and respond to emails rather than work on the revenue report, demand management activities, or our team project.

A shrinking percentage of boards and leadership teams choose to postpone routine cybersecurity check-ups that could prevent business disruption and loss to avoid the anxiety of accountability. Managing cyber risk is more effective when executive teams take responsibility and gather input from their stakeholders to define success.

Procrastination is a habit, so understanding how it shows up within you can build awareness to become more effective.

Four Types of Procrastinators

Everyone has a favorite avoidance archetype. The key to defeating this sabotaging behavior of delay is figuring out which group you fall into so you can break out of your rut and complete important non-urgent work.

1. The performer who says, “I work well under pressure.”

This procrastinator forces themselves to focus by shrinking the time they have to tackle a task. The reason for a subset of people is perfectionism. If you’re tight on time, there’s no way to complete the objective with your unreasonably high standards. For others, the issue is simply falling back into old patterns and beliefs that we have about our 11th-hour saves. No matter what, being in the habit of putting pressure on yourself is not sustainable.

Your biggest challenge: Getting started.

Your solution: Flip the script and set a start date. When you focus on when you’re going to begin a task — and not when you hope to end it — you’ll take a tremendous amount of pressure off of yourself.

2. The self-deprecatory who says, “I am so lazy right now.”

This procrastinator is the opposite of lazy, so they are extra hard on themselves when they don’t do something. They tend to blame inaction on laziness or stubbornness rather than admit they are tired. What they need is to be more compassionate with themselves.

Your biggest challenge: Taking a break. We already know you are going to say you don’t have time to rest.

Your solution: Recharge. Try taking a walk to give yourself space and to begin to rebuild your energy.

3. The overbooker who says, “I’m so busy.”

This procrastinator is a pro at filling up their calendar and is often overwhelmed. When busyness comes up as an excuse for not doing something, it’s usually an indication of avoidance. Rather than facing a challenge head-on or admitting they don’t want to do something, it’s easier to place the blame on having other things to do.

Your biggest challenge: Creating chaos to avoid facing what you know you need to accomplish right now (typically, this is not a task).

Your solution: Take a moment of introspection. Ask yourself: What am I avoiding?

4. The novelty seeker who says, “I just had the best idea!”

This procrastinator has a terminal case of Shiny Object Syndrome. They’re constantly coming up with new projects to take on and then getting bored with them a week later. They’re intrigued by the latest trend and will be quick to implement but not follow through.

They are great at making decisions and taking action. However, they inadvertently lose much time and burn out because they don’t take consistent action in one direction long enough to see results. Many entrepreneurs fit into this category.

Your biggest challenge: Completion.

Your solution: Make it stick. Write down new ideas or projects within a document or sticky note, but don’t pursue them until you finish what you are currently working on.

Increasing Desired Results

The tendency to pursue urgency over importance continues at the detriment of effectiveness. These decisions happen because essential tasks are more challenging and further away from goal completion. Urgent tasks involve more immediate and apparent payoffs, or people want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on essential duties later.

We may prioritize urgent yet trivial tasks even when the tradeoffs are clear and when our employer would end up being worse off financially. We behave as if pursuing urgent tasks has magnetic appeal, independent of objective consequences.

As if choosing lessor options were not enough, Parkinson’s Law, states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson’s Law suggests that extended deadlines lead people to set more manageable goals and therefore decrease effort. Other researchers found that more extended deadlines increase an assignment’s perceived difficulty.

These patterns are essential for managers and others setting deadlines to recognize. Short deadlines on urgent or important tasks elicit attention. Those tasked with the assignment are more likely to complete it, less likely to procrastinate, and less likely to overspend money on it than if they were given the same task with a less urgent deadline.

Yellow enter keyboard key labeled with Time for Action and clock symbol.Deliberate action prevents stress, business disruption, and loss.

Let Me Get This Straight

It is incredibly challenging and frustrating when the people around you procrastinate. That makes them feel better temporarily, but unfortunately, reality comes back to bite them in the end. Resist the urge for immediate gratification, knowing that busy and productive are not the same.

If severe stress and illness are not enough, other adverse effects of procrastination are data breaches and business disruption that cause loss. We encourage responsible leadership committed to collaboration and action to prevent waste.

Shared understanding is a force multiplier that allows for effectiveness through higher-value conversations, knowledge transfer, and actionable insights. Improved decision-making awaits as you resist procrastination and focus on the important. We look forward to collaborating with you.

As a proud supporter of American manufacturing, Certitude Security® is working diligently to inform leaders and facilitate essential asset protection priorities for supply chain businesses throughout the United States. If you are interested in learning about the empowering services that Certitude Security® can offer, visit our website or coordinate a time to speak to a team member today.