Lessons Learned #41: Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow?

No, I did not make a mistake with the title of this issue. It was quite purposeful, after all we’re in the middle of March and I’m finally getting around to writing again (the last issue was in December)!

I must admit that recently I’ve been in procrastination mode, putting off writing these monthly issues. It was easy to say to myself “I’ll get to it tomorrow”. But, as successive weeks came and went, I realized what I was doing.

If we’re to be honest, we’re all guilty of procrastinating from time to time. We can probably name some people who are even very good at it (hopefully I’m not on any of your lists).

Procrastination becomes a habit, which like most habits, may require a great deal of effort to correct. The longer we engage in procrastination, the more difficult it is to break out of its controlling effect.

Putting off important tasks can be a very damaging habit for Project Managers to adopt. Effective PMs must deal with problems and often take quick action to avoid costly outcomes.

When it comes to important communications, procrastination can lead to extreme consequences, like losing the opportunity to receive compensation or time for issues that you did not cause. A couple of examples should serve to demonstrate the hazards. I assure you these are not far-fetched cases, I have witnessed situations such as these and many others.

1) A GC has a subcontractor that’s failing to perform as required. The sub’s work continues to lag, causing delay for all the follow-on trades. The sub happens to be one of the GC’s favorites (and a good friend), so the GC is dragging his feet on taking serious measures to have the sub perform, or to supplement the work with another. After some time, the GC is not given a choice. The consequences of the late action result in delayed completion of the project and a series of costly claims and counter-claims.

2) A plumbing sub is trying to expedite the installation of fixtures in the bathrooms of a high-rise project. The superintendent has a productive crew working on the bathroom fixtures, but notices they are not installing the protective covers on the tubs to keep them from being damaged by follow-on trades. Aware that it could lead to problems down the road, he keeps telling himself that he’ll get to that minor bit of work later, when he can free up someone for the task. As the weeks go by, he continues to address bigger issues on the job, pushing the “small task” of protecting the tubs into the future. Inevitably, the follow-on trades working to complete the bathrooms damage many of the tubs. The punch list for the plumbing work is peppered with damaged tubs throughout the building which must be replaced at significant additional cost. The usual finger-pointing and “blame game” ensues.

Okay, you say, I get it. But, it’s not possible to do it all when you’re in the middle of the action. Let me give you two simple rules to apply to the issue of what needs to be acted upon with urgency. I suggest you ask yourself two questions:

1. Will taking action on this, advance my goal or objectives?

2. Will my failure to take action on this possibly result in damaging consequences?

Your answer to these two questions could go a long way toward prioritizing your time and avoiding procrastinating on those things that will matter most.

So maybe my title for this issue has a double meaning, since perhaps you SHOULD put off until tomorrow those things that are not important as long as they won’t turn into problems tomorrow! That probably makes sense provided you DO those things that need to be done today!

The “lesson learned”; you have to manage your work through your filter of priorities!

Remember, before choosing from the many tasks that compete for your time ask yourself the two questions I suggest. It may help clarify your choices.

Interested in learning more about what’s important to do and what not to do in managing your projects? Order a copy of my book Document to Reduce Risk. It explains how the contract contains “the rules for construction” and demonstrates how to apply those rules to the job of project management. You will also find numerous examples to help you prepare construction documentation in ways that will allow you to minimize the risks that are inherent in all projects when dealing with various conditions. You can obtain a print or e-book copy through my website or by clicking on the image in page 1 of this issue.

Wishing you good decisions on what you can put off until tomorrow! With my best regards, Paco.

“A wise person does at once what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.” – Lord Acton

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