I could tear my hair out. I’m ticked, I’m annoyed, I feel disrespected and I’d like to give up the entire project. I’m working with a procrastinator and I don’t like it one bit!
I don’t really want to figure out the reasons a person keeps putting things off until the last minute, but I do want to explore how they make people feel when they do.
How do you make other people feel when you procrastinate?
If you are a procrastinator, if you are always late, never complete your work on time or prefer to put things off until the last minute, please take a moment to think about how your actions affect other people.
It feels like you don’t care
When people put off doing their part of the work I feel like they not only don’t care about the project but they specifically don’t care about me, my feelings, or my needs. It’s as if they don’t appreciate or value my contribution enough to make any effort to accommodate my working style. It’s no longer a partnership; it’s me carrying most of the load. I know that is not the intention of the person who keeps putting things off, but those feelings make it difficult for me to work with a procrastinator. I have a choice. I can figure out how to live with it or I can quit.
If you are working with someone else, accommodate their work pattern
When you enter into a partnership, get clear about how each of you likes to work. Make a schedule that will accommodate both working styles and honor it. For instance, I always work ahead. I’m enthusiastic. I get excited. My mind is full of ideas, I quickly grasp the overview and I make decisions easily. I write rapidly and I have many skills around writing and publishing. I am always ready long before a due date. Those qualities and preference could feel as irritating to a procrastinator as a procrastinator’s habits are to me. They are definitely not a good match for someone who likes or needs the pressure of working at the last minute unless one of us makes some changes.
Change your habits to accommodate your team
If you are a leader, you want your team to care about the project and you want to help them do their best work. You cannot be a last minute procrastinator and lead a team. There is no way. You will lose valuable people who will refuse to work with you. You must build into the schedule the working styles of every member of your team and hold team members to that schedule. And that includes you!
If I’m building a house and want to put windows in on a certain date, I backtrack from that date and on my organizational chart I put “order windows” on a date that allows time for delivery. If I don’t order the windows on that date, they will not be on hand when they are scheduled to be installed. When you are leading a team project, the completion of each step affects the ones that follow. No procrastination allowed. You’ll mess up the whole project.
I have to change my own response to procrastination
I’d like to stop working with the procrastinator I am currently involved with, but I also love what I do. What can I shift within myself that helps me honor my own working style and still allows the last minute work to not bother me? I do all of my content part at my own tempo within my preferred time line. I could simply be content with that. However, the other person’s procrastination makes me have to sit around and wait on her to do her part so I can make the final adjustments. When her work finally appears, I put myself under pressure to finish the project on time. Is that OK with me? Is that how I want to work? How do I feel about the end result? Does what we produce together feel significant enough to me that I stay in this circumstance?
I have to choose what is important to me.
The scenario that prompted this exploration into working with a procrastinator is that I’m the volunteer associate editor of my senior community newsletter. The editor is the person who is paid to do the job. She is in charge but I have skills she does not have. Since I took over the formatting and content editing the newsletter has gotten rave reviews from the Board of Directors of our community. I know my work is valuable and it is appreciated, but the editor still puts things off until the very last minute. Although this has been going on for six months, it really freaked me out this time. I began to examine my choices to see how I could change my experience around our work together.
I took time to coach her in time management and organization skills and still the content she needs to produce is never ready when we have our finalization meeting. There are always last minute changes that could have been avoided had she given any thought to the final product at an earlier point. So every month, unless I make a change in me or in the situation, her last minute rush annoys and upsets me. It makes me feel like she doesn’t really care about the quality of the newsletter and has no regard for my time or that of the people who hang around all day waiting for her to do the copying so they can fold and distribute it.
If you are a procrastinator, how do your actions make the people you work with feel?
I have to drop my judgments
There is no point in my being upset for the other people she inconveniences. If it annoys them, they can speak up. I have to make it OK for me to work with her. Or I need to quit. I have to make it OK with me for her to work the way she does. I need to let go of my judgments and my opinions. No two people do things the same way. In this situation, we have a pair of opposites working and I’m the one who has to change. Creating change in myself falls on me because I’m the one who wants things to be different.
I need to change my expectations
I work on the newsletter periodically throughout the month. I am on the lookout for meaningful content. That’s how I like to do things. It’s my enthusiasm, not hers. Her last minute decisions make more work for me because I have to change things around but in reality, those changes do not take long to make. They are more annoying than time consuming. If I drop my annoyance, it will not be a big deal. I’m the one who has to change my expectations.
I know that in her eyes she has set aside one whole day to get the newsletter out. That feels like a lot of time to her. I could start from scratch and produce and publish the newsletter in one day. So what. It’s her job, her responsibility and if she’s not doing it the way I would I have to let that judgment go.
I had to let go of the outcome
It was the day of publication. Everything was ready except the editor’s part. She asked me to send her what was ready and she would add her part. Here’s the deal, she doesn’t care as much about making it look good as I do. She won’t take the time to tweak it into visual balance. She will leave gapping white spaces on the front page. I would have preferred she send the copy for me to insert so I could take the time to make it not perfect, but as well balanced as I could. I had to let go of the outcome.
I need to put it in perspective
How relevant is this newsletter to the state of the Universe? That concept takes the wind out of my sails. This is a monthly newsletter to a small senior community in a small town. Not a big deal. So if I go within and remember that what I want to do is change some lives through what I write, then my one philosophical article in each issue has a chance of doing that. But I also want to contribute to my community which is why I volunteered. Don’t diminish what you do or your part in it, but do put it in perspective of the other person’s workload. I’m retired. She is not. My time is flexible. She has many interruptions. Take time to get some perspective on the situation that is bugging you.
I did discuss these opposite working styles with the editor. She of course, never meant for me to feel the way I did. Will things change because I expressed myself and made her aware of how her procrastination makes me feel? Maybe. Probably not. I am the only one who can create this change in me. I will do my part to the best of my ability. I need to learn to be content with that.
What is important to you?
My big Zen lesson around working with procrastinators is to be clear about what I matters to me. I care about writing for the newsletter. I could hold my participation to the submission of one meaningful article a month. However, I have a huge desire to learn and share what I discover so I have a good time keeping an eye out for additional meaningful content. I take pleasure in creating an editorial calendar. I enjoy doing the formatting and I’m the only person in our community with those skills Those reasons, along with the satisfaction I get from participating and adding value to my community, are much more important to me than the upset feeling I get working with a procrastinator.
Do I want praise? Not particularly. Do I crave recognition? Acknowledgement is always appreciated but I know how much my participation means to the final product. Is it a need to control? I probably have to look at that one. I’m in the habit of working alone. How much is the final project a reflection of me? Probably not as much as I think it is. The only thing I can control is the quality of my own work. I can definitely do that.
How do you need to change?
If you are a procrastinator, think about how your work style affects others you work with. Think about how it puts last minute stress on them where there need not be any. Most of all think about how they feel – that you think so little of them you will not do anything to make their jobs easier.
If you are working with a procrastinator, either adjust your own reactions and responses or move on.