Procrastination With A Purpose
By Amber De La Garza
You shouldn’t leave important things until the last minute. Surely you’ve heard that saying at one time or another. You’ve no doubt experienced some miserable consequences of procrastination at some point, too, whether from not turning in a research paper on time in high school or flopping because you were unprepared for a business presentation. The reasons you shouldn’t procrastinate are endless: it can increase your anxiety and stress, make tasks take longer than expected, force you to run out of time, result in sloppy work, something more important could come up, you won’t have time to make edits, you don’t perform well under pressure, and so on.
So, is procrastination ever a good thing? Surprisingly, yes! For many real estate professionals, procrastination can be a very good thing under the right circumstances, like when preparing for that big listing appointment, updating your listing presentation, or preparing for the out of town buyer. I’ve had countless occasions where I procrastinated and the results were amazing! Things turned out better than expected and definitely better than if I had spent months preparing. I imagine you’ve had similar experiences that might have made you question why procrastination has such a bad rep in the first place.
Procrastination is only bad if it presents a problem for you - if the consequences are detrimental to you or your business. The advice I give my clients is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” If you routinely procrastinate on important tasks and projects, and in doing so consistently put out your best work, purposeful procrastination is one of your productivity superpowers. Embrace it.
Think procrastination might be for you? If you’re afflicted with the following P’s, it very well could be: Parkinson’s Law, Perfectionism, better under Pressure.
The 3 P’s That Could Make Procrastination Okay…
Parkinson’s Law Rings True In Your Life
Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” That means if you start working on your listing presentation three weeks prior to the big day, you’ll use hours upon hours of spare time tweaking your presentation to death until the day of the presentation. Alternatively, if you schedule a three-hour time block the night before the presentation in which to get the presentation done (thus procrastinating), you’ll prepare sufficiently in the allotted three hours. Think about how much time you will have saved by working on the presentation for only three hours rather than 20 minutes every day for three weeks!
Mental construal theory may also play a role in winning with procrastination. It dictates that far off goals (such as a pulling off a great listing presentation three weeks away) seem abstract and it’s difficult to execute on abstract goals. Therefore, you might go off on tangents or make missteps preparing for a presentation three weeks into the future. Goals that are close in time (such as pulling off a great listing presentation tomorrow) are easier to implement, take action on, and achieve.
You’re A Perfectionist
Before I knew better, I once gave myself far too long to prepare for a big presentation and I completely bombed it. I spent countless hours writing and editing and I rehearsed it at least 40 times. The feedback I received was that I was ill-prepared. Totally untrue. I was severely over-prepared to the point I had memorized every word of the hour-long speech. Then, when I accidentally stumbled over one word, I lost my train of thought, acted totally flustered trying to get back on script, and looked like an idiot up there because I was trying to be too perfect. I repeatedly sounded like a malfunctioning robot because I had over-practiced myself right out of giving a good presentation. If I had read through the script only a handful of times the day prior, I would have fared much better and come across as a knowledgeable, personable human being.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you never feel done or that your work is never good enough? Maybe you feel the need to keep tweaking to the point you're holding back from putting version 1.0 out there? Consider this passage by self-proclaimed perfectionist James Nolan, "I am a neurotic perfectionist. I am also a writer, and lately, my writing has slowed to the point where I spend days rewriting the same sentence over and over. I believe the line will get better, and it does, but what is a reasonable amount of time to spend on a single sentence? Thirty seconds, two minutes, an hour? Certainly not a couple of days..."
Perfectionists strive for unattainable perfection so they never feel done, which can be a curse if left untamed. To keep my perfectionism in check, I repeat a phrase my mentor Darren La Croix once told me. He said, “Done is more profitable than perfect.” I swear he was put in my life for that quote because I would have perfection-ismed myself right out of business, money, and everything else a long time ago if I hadn’t implemented profitability over perfectionism in my business. Now I, “strive for excellence, not perfection,” as H. Jackson Brown Jr. advised and purposefully procrastinate on certain occasions to keep my perfectionist tendencies in check.
You Work Well Under Pressure
Most people don’t do well under pressure which is possibly why procrastination is a big no-no for many people. If routinely pushing tasks off until just before their deadlines causes you anxiety, increases your fear of failure, stresses you out, makes you miss other deadlines, prevents you from bringing your A-game, or negatively affects time with your family, procrastination is not your superpower and that’s okay. Everyone is different. Some people need to stay away from gluten while others digest it with no issues. Do what’s right for you and refrain from procrastinating so you don’t suffer from its negative side effects.
If you do work exceptionally well just shy of deadlines, you likely possess the natural ability to work well under pressure or have attained that skill somewhere along your journey. For many people, pressure can cause adrenaline to release in the body resulting in hyperactivity and therefore the ability to work faster and more efficiently, not to mention you’re being forced to prioritize. If procrastinating is your superpower, nothing can distract you when you’re right up against a deadline. Before any giant deadline, I purposefully block out the night before and rearrange my schedule and life if necessary, to make sure the work gets done. That’s because if I don’t, I will let a project or presentation expand and take over my entire life, feeding it hours and hours of unnecessary, valuable time just to produce subpar, overedited work. I learned I perform best under pressure so I purposefully embrace procrastination when it makes sense.
If you determine certain situations would make procrastinating okay, create a system that uniquely works for you. Construct boundaries and deadlines so you can complete your tasks and projects sufficiently in a manageable amount of time – in time. And even if you’re a perfectionist who works well under pressure and are the poster child for Parkinson’s Law, I’m not encouraging you to leave every vastly important thing to the last minute. I am just giving you permission to procrastinate if you consistently give yourself adequate time to complete a task, project, or prepare for a presentation (albeit close to your deadline) and still perform at your best. To be your most productive self and show up at your best, you have to honor who you are and that may mean purposefully procrastinating at times.
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About the Contributor
Amber De La Garza is The Productivity Specialist! Amber is a sought-after coach, trainer, speaker, writer, host of the Productivity Straight Talk podcast, and creator of S.T.O.P.! The Entrepreneur’s Success Solution. She helps driven real estate professionals execute actionable solutions to maximize profits, reduce stress, and make time for what matters most!