Teach Me Tuesday: Procrastinate on Purpose

by Common Thread Collective Collaborator

Jan. 29 2016

Procrastinate on purpose. I bet you never heard that one before. As long as there’s been school, the echoes of parents and teachers alike, hounding students to get papers turned in on time have been deafening. “Don’t wait until the last minute!” they would always exclaim. Still today, we are bombarded with retailers reminding shoppers to get through their lists before the holiday creeps up on us. Business gurus argue time and again that procrastination is the most expensive cost in business today; and well-renowned leaders believe that it deeply hurts your chances to achieve greatness. Inevitably, we continue to push aside these tasks for later. Although we’re all guilty of procrastination at one time or another, there is a time when procrastinating on purpose actually makes sense; and in fact, can be a virtue that should be praised. In order to comprehend the logic behind this we first need to understand the meaning of time perspective.
In an experiment I tried at work, I gave each of my team members a cookie. After hyping-up the deliciousness of these freshly baked cookies with chocolate chip crumbles, a moist interior, and a bite of heaven, I gave two conditions: First, they could eat the cookie now; or, they could wait 20 minutes and I would give them a second one. As it turned out, one-third of my colleagues gave in to the temptation, which was actually quite surprising as I was not expecting them to have such impressive willpower. In a similar study done by Philip Zimbardo, he gave a group of 4 year old kids marshmallows with the same two conditions. As a result ⅔ of the kids gave into temptation and ate the marshmallow. As the kids were studied into their adult lives, rather profound results emerged. The kids that resisted temptation scored an average of 250 points higher on their SAT test than kids who gave in. As a group, they were also better students, didn’t get into as much trouble, and had more self-confidence. The key was that they were future focused rather than present focused. By maintaining an optimal profile of Time Perspective Factors, there was an unconscious creation of balance that told them waiting would improve their situation later. This type of thinking can be applied to many problems: combatting addiction, enhancing health, promoting sustainability, conservation, and achieving year-to-year, quarterly, or daily goals at your business or in your personal life.  
According to Rory Vaden, a new type of thinker has emerged and should be praised. Someone referred to as a multiplier. Multipliers don’t make decisions based on importance or urgency, but on significance. They ask the question, “what can I do right now to make the future better.” In his TED Talk, “How to Multiply Your Time,” Vaden explains that the premise of multiplying time is based off of the diagram below.
No, we are not talking about the types of funnels you can buy at Home Depot. This is the type of funnel that filters tasks. It shows an unconscious process that we all go through on a daily basis. When we are presented with a task, the first filter in the funnel asks, “Is it worth doing or can we eliminate it?” Multipliers realize it’s often more important what you don’t do, then what you actually do. It is the permission to ignore. At this stage, we often go through an emotional challenge as well, making it easy to fall subject to the pressure and become a “yes man/woman.” Saying “no” can get you a bad rap. However, everytime we say “yes” to something we are simultaneously saying “no” to something else. We aren’t superheros. We just can’t do everything. To make good decisions, we must realize this.
The second filter in the focus funnel is my personal favorite. With so much technology at our fingertips, automation is a powerful tool. Let’s use automatic bill pay as an example. If it takes two hours to set up online bill pay, the average person will forgo the task and instead take thirty minutes each month manually paying the bill online. BUT a multiplyer realizes that  if they spend two hours to set up online bill pay now, then after four months they will break even on that time invested and every month after they will get a return on time invested (ROTI).

“Automation is to your time exactly what compounding interest is to your money.” --Rory Vaden

The third filter in the focus funnel asks ourselves the question, “Can I teach someone else how to do this?” In companies that experience fast growth, this may be the biggest filter. When delegating tasks, many managers worry that “they just can’t do it as well as I can.” If we think long term, this person should be able to master the task allowing a return on your time invested in training them. If not, then maybe it isn’t a question about delegation, but instead one about hiring standards.  
Lastly, if you can not eliminate, automate, or delegate a task, then only one question remains: “Should I do the task now?” This is called concentrate, the permission to protect. If the answer is “no,” that is the foundation for procrastinating on purpose. You would then take that task and filter it back into the focus funnel until one day you are able to execute through one of the other filters.
When we put something off because we don’t feel like doing it, we call that procrastination. When we put something off because right now is not the right time for it, we call that procrastinating on purpose. That is patience. That is a virtue.

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