Productivity is a fair weathered friend, at best.
Sometimes it’s with you, holding your hand, moving you along while singing Margaritaville. Other times it’s hungover (most likely from said margarita’s) and can’t get out of bed in the morning. Productivity is now an agent of evil, called procrastination. Now is the time to get up, lose the agent of evil, and “Go Make Something Happen!”.
Recently, I sent out a short “Rebellion” newsletter on procrastination. I know, an odd topic for a “Learning Rebel” to talk about. I mean shouldn’t I be talking about the “Death of Instructional Design” like everyone else right now? Perhaps. But what I’m stuck on is not great instructional design models or clever content design elements – but the fact that we are worried about good being great. This can be a poison thought holding us all back. Can’t okay be good enough? Is it important that the next learning design element – be it a participants guide, worksheet, or video be perfect? Are your end-users willing to wait for perfect to get their jobs done? I would say, probably not.
We procrastinate because we aren’t perfect.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time for perfect. There is a time for great awesomeness. Then, there is a time for just getting stuff done; because our end users, our customers – need us to get off our analysis paralysis butts. “Just in time”, becomes critical. Sure, we’ve all been there, where everything is critical and a priority. I’m not here today to talk about important versus urgent or getting business sponsors to understand prioritization. I’m here today to tell you that okay content, can be worthwhile content. First, we must stop procrastinating over perfection and over-thinking what needs to be done.
Why do we procrastinate?
- Because we’re scared. Scared of failure. Scared of looking bad. Scared of losing credibility. We’re scaredy cats.
- Because we don’t know where to start. When we don’t know where to start – we don’t. We fall back to answering email, it’s easy and there’s an immediate gratification to hitting “send”.
- Because we don’t like the topic. No one can get excited over “The proper way to shovel snow” but when a blizzard comes around we better make the best damn shoveling snow video we can.
- Overwhelmed – too many things to do and too little time. Isn’t it lunch yet?
How does this apply to learning and development? Just as it applies to every other department in an organization. We are not unique to the pressures of business expectations. Every department has their struggle. Ours is unique in the way, that if we don’t get it done, our customers will find a way to get it done themselves. Without us. This is why we cannot let the pressure of procrastination be a barrier to us providing support when we are needed (and before we are needed). We want to be able to provide support and guidance to our customers – there are times when that support ain’t pretty. Our goal is recognize when it is not pretty, get it out, and then fix it. Does this take more time? Yes, but there is no avoiding true emergencies.
Let’s talk procrastination emergencies.
We all know true training emergencies are not common occurrences. A lot of what we call emergencies are because we have procrastinated developing a solution. Chipotle has a serious issue right now (and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you know it has to do with food-borne illness). When the news first broke, every L&D person in the world knew that a systemic “food safety” training program would have to be created. We shouldn’t need an executive order to tell us to start poking around to find out the real problem to the issue and to develop a plan of action. If you do wait, you are procrastinating and you are helping to create an emergency. There is no need to wait. “Go make something happen”. Right?
This may be a time for positive deviance with content development. You may have to go around some barriers. Don’t let barriers become procrastination enablers. To stop procrastination you need to fight against it every day. Each morning it’s time to have a one on one conversation with yourself over coffee.
Let’s not procrastinate any longer…answer these three questions each morning:
- What three items are worth fighting for today! And I mean fighting for. You will not go home until they are done. They are worth the effort. They are worth ignoring phone calls, they are worth not answering email, they are worth missing the cupcakes in the break room (well, maybe that’s extreme…). Write those items down. Don’t try to eat the elephant. Pick doable items that will make a difference today.
- What items are going to get in your way today. Know your enemy! Those six meetings? That one conference call? That report (that no one reads) is due? What are you going to delegate? This is not an “if” question, it’s a “what” question. Find stuff to delegate and focus on what is worth fighting for.
- What to do list items are going to help you win the fight? If you have items on your to do list that are not going to help you win your fight, delegate them, move to another day or just delete them all together.
THIS is how you get stuff done. This is how you get a 3 minute video on washing lettuce out the door in one week. Sure, something like producing a video, can be scary. What if it looks like you filmed in a prison cell block? Well, it’s better than no video. Okay content can be worthwhile content. It’s certainly better than no content. So don’t let procrastination of content be the evil that holds you back.
Go Make Something Happen!
Download the “Learning Rebel: Procrastination Worksheet” now.