Previously, I’ve spoken of flow in the sense of a single-minded pursuit to an end. In business, there are also workflows, currents that dictate what you are doing and when. In some situations, fighting a current is essential. It’s not about drifting where the currents and waves take you.
What I’ve wrestled with is how do I know when I’m delaying a task because I’m in tune with the currents of timing, or I’m procrastinating? This is even more of a conundrum when it’s a non-preferred task. So, take a few minutes and ask yourself a few simple questions.
1. What is the immediate and the long-term result of doing the task now?
2. What is the immediate and the long-term result of NOT doing the task now?
These two questions are extremely simple, and thus the most important to ask. Regardless of whether you complete the task right now or not, something will happen. It may happen with or without you, or it may even happen TO YOU.
For a simple, non-essential, and drudging task, like compiling your expenses, delaying the process may have seemingly minor consequences. Whereas, sticking to your Monday morning routine of compiling the last week’s expenses, may ultimately involve more accurate record-keeping, less stress, and most importantly, less time spent on the task.
Also in the long term, consider the timing. Would the end of the quarter benefit that much more by another sale, client, or completed project? Or will you be trying to find that Corner Bakery receipt from a lunch meeting three Fridays ago?
Often times, these two initial questions will define whether you are procrastinating and decide the action for you. However, fiercely fighting the current as a way to change direction, avoid disaster, or leverage opportunity can be far more difficult to assess. Further questions need to be asked.
3. Have you or a colleague encountered this situation before?
If so, the answer might be to do exactly what you did before, or possibly the exact opposite. If the task was already tedious, delaying may have created more work later. Just like your expenses above, you will have to swim that much further against the current.
4. Could someone else do this better? Who can do it better in a way that you can afford?
Never be ashamed to outsource your weaknesses or even the tasks that just drain your energy. Remember, it will still be your decision, but if someone else can view this situation in its entirety and help decide a prudent course of action, those are resources well spent. Let them dive in.
5. Is this direction change, impending disaster, or opportunity worth devoting significant
time and energy to swim against the current?
If you are not clear on your goals, lots of shiny objects could have you flailing and splashing without really getting anywhere.
Certainly, there are some disasters that must be avoided. However, the real impact on your business may be smaller if your resources are spent going with the current and building on what’s made you successful in the first place.