“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by” – Douglas Adams
Over my years as a corporate leader and as a business coach I’ve used deadlines and timescales as a tool of management. Yet the only difference it normally made was to change the nature of the excuses for why it got missed.
Deadlines work really well when you have control of all of the variables and potential distractions that might impede progress within a time frame. But the reality is that life doesn’t work like that. Life is an emergent system that means your priorities and focus can shift in an instant.
Also your state of mind relative, to what you need to get done and what is going on around you is also in constant motion, to the point where what seemed like a good idea yesterday, can seem different today.
Action, not Goal, deadlines
Its got to a point where I no longer set timescales when setting goals or outcome. The only place for deadlines is on tasks and actions, not on outcomes or the final goal.
When you are growing a business you are constantly creating new conditions that will allow you to take the next major step ; perhaps recruiting a new manager, a funding round, capital investment or a bold new marketing strategy.
As you read this perhaps you can think of some of the big decisions or that are either coming down the track or are upon you right now, that you feel yourself deferring?
These ‘steps’ are big decisions and actions and I’ve seen timescales come and go on them, because either the conditions are changing or you are procrastinating.
In these situations it is more useful to think in terms of the conditions necessary for you to make the leap, rather than the timescale. I refer to these as ‘threshold conditions’. These are the things that need to be in place, both real and perceived, in order for you to create the breakthrough you want. The ‘real’ conditions can include
- the financial position of the business in terms sales and margins
- the cash position or available access to funding
- the quality of the team and the stability and scalability of the infrastructure
- the intelligence available about the direction of the market
However of more importance is the ‘perceived’ conditions. These are the gut feelings you have about the situation and they are far more important to your decision making than the ‘real’ data. They explain why in spite of an overwhelming body of intellectual logic suggesting you should, you still don’t (or vice versa).
After years of kicking peoples arses for not doing what appears logical I’ve reached a conclusion. There is such a thing as positive procrastination. There have been lots of situations where my clients have run counter to logical conclusions and by doing so created space for a different solution to emerge.
Success depends on your ability to discern between ‘toxic’ and ‘divine’ procrastination. This requires a deeper level of understanding of your own internal calibration. I’m able to spot the distinctions in you easily. I put it down to the thousands of hours I spent sat in front of my auditees trying to tell if they were lying to me or not. Yet it was only five years ago that I was equipped with the insights to allow me to self-calibrate myself.
If you have worked with me in the new programs I’ve been running since then, you’ll have a much better sense of the source of your own thinking and will most likely be able to calibrate yourself with a good degree of accuracy.
You see the reality is I am a one trick pony. Whilst I have a broad repertoire of stories, models, metaphors and tools at my disposal, they are all pointing you to your true point of power, your grounded best. This is you when you are able to calibrate yourself and take whole formed decision and action, in tune with what is happening in your company and your market place.
Things take the time they take. Breakthroughs come when there is perfect alignment between what it is you really want, the external situation and the action you take.