Sometimes, it pays to wait. If you happen to ignore the tab for a while at a business lunch, one of your colleagues might cover it. If you drag out your new car purchasing decision long enough, you may be offered end-of-model-year discount pricing. If you adopt a wait-and-see attitude when your son asks to take drum lessons, he might become interested in something not so noisy. On the flip side, waiting too long can cause you to lose out on something you want.
Other times, being early is best. If you book airline flights two months before your trip you might have a chance at reserving a no-extra-fee-required aisle seat. The first one into the pizza box gets the piece with the most toppings. And, the first committee member to volunteer gets to avoid the undesirable duties. Conversely, being among the first to try a new technology is at a higher risk of headaches.
In the work world, the pros and cons of procrastination and early adoption are similar. For example, I've learned to wait before answering complex questions posed via email since they're open to so many interpretations. After a handful of brave souls have offered their ideas (and taken their associated licks), the question is clarified to the point where I can reply with a brilliantly simple solution.
Here are more tips to help you decide between procrastination and quick action.
Request from a coworker in another department to add a new task to your list = procrastinate. If it's really important and strategic, he or she will take the steps needed to get the task blessed and prioritized by the powers that be.
Request from your manager to add a new task to your list = quick action. It'll prove you're open and ready to take on new challenges, even if it means some extra work in the short-term.
Opportunity to lead a cross-departmental effort to meet a market need or solve a tricky problem = procrastinate...at least for a while. It's great that you're taking initiative. But, be sure you've done enough legwork to define and scope the problem or you'll jump in over your head.
The key is to take charge of your "act versus wait" decisions instead of letting your inbox and the occasional squeaky wheel make them for you. While you might experience some glitches like a slighted coworker or a late-night cram session needed to complete a task you thought might get de-prioritized while you waited. But the benefits of being in charge and working on mostly high-yield activities will far outweigh the glitches.
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