Ironically, my post on procrastination is actually a month late. I blame the flu…

I’ve learned the hard way that dealing with things when they show up instead of when they blow up saves untold hassle.

Sometimes we don’t decide based on optimism–things will get better.

At other times, we delay deciding due to fear of making things worse.

Often we don’t speak up because we don’t know what to do.

But not deciding on what to do in a conflict situation is making a decision–to ignore the situation. How often do people react well to being ignored?

Procrastination Research

There are two schools of thought on procrastination–one majoring on time management and the other on emotional regulation. Eric Jaffe’s article Why Wait: The Science Behind Procrastination compares and contrasts the research. He concludes that without managing emotions, time-management techniques and strategies don’t work.

The future self becomes the beast of burden for procrastination.We’re trying to regulate our current mood and thinking our future self will be in a better state. They’ll be better able to handle feelings of insecurity or frustration with the task. That somehow we’ll develop these miraculous coping skills to deal with these emotions that we just can’t deal with right now.

Fuschia Sirois

Research also finds that putting things (especially important decisions) can cause more anxiety than making decisions. Not only do we have the stress of making the decision, but also the effect of not making it stresses us out. All the undecided issues and undone tasks are buzzing round our heads making it hard to focus. We do things to take our minds off the situation, and the deadlines get tighter.

Bill Knaus describes the “procrastination accumulation effect”

This is where you feel stressed, put things off, and then feel stressed thinking about what you’ve left undone. As you do this, you leave more things undone and feel overwhelmed. This is a classic vicious cycle.

So, in stressful or tricky situations, putting things off becomes even easier and more attractive. Those “miraculous coping skills” will manage whatever happens tomorrow…or maybe someone else will deal with it.

Difficult Decisions

How do we know whether we should wait, speak up or do something? There are dangers in every option, just like crossing a street. Stop, Look, Listen and Go work for decisions about conflict as well

First, STOP rushing and assess the situation. Is it crucial –or can it wait? If it can wait, DECIDE when it will be dealt with. Think about what is important.

Set a time and place to look at it objectively and calmly. This A4 Risk Assessment provides a template. Listen to instinct and trusted advisers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Plan what you are going to say/do and decide when.

Then, go ahead and do it.

If you want to sharpen your conflict management skills, email for a free no-obligation discussion.Client Conflict services

Resources

Free Worksheet for untangling conflict

Starting Awkward Conversations: Lessons from Taking a Bath

Procrastination: 5 Reasons we don’t get round to doing things & How to Get Going