Strategic Procrastination

Carefully, intentionally, in an outcome-oriented way doing…nothing?!

Yes, that’s right…the planning and productivity consultant is suggesting that there may be value in choosing not to act. Why?

Let me share an experience from my professional life (stop me if you can relate): I once had a boss with whom I worked very closely on a variety of projects. This boss was a great vision person, and the boss thought I was a great execution person (not really my place to say I am). We had this wonderful style of working where the boss would speak extemporaneously about an idea or vision, I would take notes, and then I would draft a summary document or plan.

Cool! What a fun working relationship, except…this boss was rarely ready to have a summary document completed and checked off a list after the first conversation. My beautiful, immaculate, carefully prepared summaries were often met with lots of re-writing (and in many cases, complete re-creation).

So, I got a little smarter. I still listened and took notes, but I set them aside. The next time we talked, I added to those notes, and perhaps asked if we were still doing certain elements of the original idea that didn’t come up the second time. Repeat that for one or two more discussions. Then I’d hear some magic form of, “why don’t you write all that up and we’ll move forward?” That was how I knew we were done dreaming and ready to act.

So, I named this strategic procrastination. Intentionally putting off taking action until the vision, timing, problem, or opportunity is clearer. (Quick disclaimer: I might not be the first person to name this, but whatever…)

I started adopting this in classes, with clients, and even with my own work, ideas, blog posts, Tweets, etc. Think about this in a class based around case studies where students lead discussions. I can sit at the back of the room and the minute they start to stray from the key ideas in the case I can chime in and re-direct them. Good learning will still take place. Or I can let them make mistakes. I can let them miss important details and go down wasteful rabbit trails. Sometimes they find their way back, sometimes they’re shocked at what they missed when I summarize the case at the end. Either way, me sitting back and shutting up until the right strategic moment makes a huge difference in the impact of the actual lesson.

This is an incredibly valuable strategy. Often when the timing doesn’t feel right, it’s a sign not to act. So, wait. When it is time to act, strategic procrastination usually makes it much clearer exactly what to do.


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Craig A. Escamilla
Craig A. Escamilla
Craig Escamilla helps you find solutions before problems exist. With fifteen years of consulting, teaching, and senior management experience, Craig brings a wealth of practical expertise to helping others work on rather than in their businesses.

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