In middle school, one of my best friends had a shirt that said “Procrastinators Unite … Tomorrow.” Kitschy but very fitting to her personality — she was always waiting until the night before the test to read the CliffNotes.
Unlike her, I wasn’t a procrastinator. An engineer father and teacher-slash-meeting-planner mother bred that habit right out of me. Instead, I became a perpetual, psychotic planner. That’s why this blog post is live more than a week after I stopped working at Chief Learning Officer magazine — I plan weeks in advance.
In August, Entrepreneur magazine published a piece on concentration that reported 80 percent of students and 25 percent of adults admit to being chronic procrastinators. So what can learning leaders do to flip the switch in employees’ heads that settles them down and gets them committed to avoiding last-minute drama?
Elizabeth Lombardo, author of “Better Than Perfect,” said it all depends on motivation. She explained that procrastination is the perceived sense that doing a task is going to be more painful than not doing it. In two words — people are disengaged.
Employees approach a problem like this: “I should finish this feature article because it’s due at the end of the week, but I’d rather watch this ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver clip.’ ”
Lombardo said a chief learning officer’s job is to minimize the “but” and maximize the reason for doing a task: “I should finish this feature article because our readers need to know how to regulate social learning, but I could watch this rerun clip of ‘Last Week Tonight’ that I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen.”
That balancing act between “why” and “but” relies on a learning leaders’ ability to understand what gets employees excited.
“A lot of times, people do what they have to at work so they can get on with their lives,” Lombardo said. When leaders figure out what will gets employees in gear, they get more engagement and, as a result, things are often done more efficiently.
Good news for the financial department but bad news for CLOs looking for an easy way to get this type of engagement: a raise won’t do it. People will do a lot for a $1 million check, but their heart won’t be in it. Instead, create a reason for employees beyond the green. It might come down to management — having a leader for whom employees want to do well — or be related to a company’s higher purpose, like promoting diversity or contributing to education.
Get rid of the procrastination, and you’ll have employees who sleep better, have more fun and can let go of the workplace at the end of the day and pursue a life outside of the office … today.