Sooner is better — at work, that is
Sooner is better, well, just because sooner is better.
Many of my blogs apply to both work and personal life; however, just in case my wife is reading this, I want to make clear that this principle does not apply to household chores. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the basement, running the dishwasher, etc., are not good things to do sooner because you’ll just have to do them again sooner. In the end, you wind up doing them more often, and using more gas, more water, more soap — and more effort — than you would have if you put them off until the last possible moment. So while it may seem like I’m procrastinating and being lazy, I’m really being efficient and resource friendly.
That said, at work sooner is better. At times when I need to deal with a difficult personnel management situation and I put it off, invariably something bad happens in that person's personal life. For example, their relative falls ill or a beloved pet passes away, and then it’s not a good time to address the issue without seeming like an insensitive jerk. Then, while waiting for that first situation to resolve, another personal problem comes up and I need to delay addressing the issue again. Or a new performance issue comes up and now everything is even more complicated with multiple problems to address!
It’s a very similar situation with a new employee or somebody in a new role. If there’s a problem, initially you cut them some slack and don’t address something that’s not quite right or as good as you expect. You tolerate it at first because of their newness, and then eventually if and when you do address it, it’s a big issue because it has been going on for a long time and they are very surprised that it’s suddenly a problem. Again, sooner would be better.
When it comes to your own work, I’ve already blogged about not putting off difficult things and the benefit of doing the toughest thing first each day. This is similar to my first supervisory point in that it just keeps hanging over your head like a dark cloud. Just get it done!
I’m also reminded of something I learned in a time management seminar I took long ago before personal computers, when everything you worked on was on paper. They taught us to put a tick mark on every piece of paper every time we touched it. The idea, which is still relevant (although there is no place to put a tick mark on an email), is that you’d get some memo or report and you’d start to look at it and decide you’d read the whole thing later. Then you’d find it again in your stack of papers and read the whole thing (or not) and decide you’d act on it later. Then you’d find it once again, decide to act on it this time (or not) and have to reread it all again to refresh your memory, each time making a tick mark on the paper. By the time you finally dealt with it, there were a whole bunch of tick marks on it. If it’s something you need to read and deal with, and not just discard, read it, deal with it, and be done with it.
Some of my co-workers will tell you that I like the “sooner is better” strategy because I’m very impatient. While I can’t argue with the impatient thing, which I previously acknowledged in another blog, I will still argue that sooner is better — except for cleaning the garage!
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