Why is is that some people always seem to get
their projects done on time, while others are cramming at the last
minute, using every second right to the end.
Perhaps this starts in school. Every teacher knows at least one
student who always waits until the last minute to tackle that major
paper. All students receive the assignment at the same time and
everyone receives the same instructions.
When a project is assigned as due in three weeks, some students begin
researching that night. They might work on it at a set time each day or
night, so that by the third week, the project is complete. They spend
the day or night before turning in the paper conducting one final
review of the finished work.
On the other hand are the students who hear that a major
project is due in three weeks, and internally say, “I have nothing to
do until week three.” Others translate a three-week due date as only
having to do a massive amount of work on one night, that is, the night
before the project is due. They actually plan an all-nighter – weeks in
advance – to complete the project.
Interestingly, everyone ends up in roughly the same place, all turning in the project on time.
The reality is that everyone works at a different pace. For some, it is
more comfortable and manageable to break down the work into smaller
tasks performed over a longer period of time. Others prefer to deal
with it all at once, no matter the intensity or length of time. They
essentially reverse-engineer the time estimated for completing the task
from the time it is due and work backward.
The same holds true in business. Everyone knows someone who always
seems to be working on multiple threads, with all projects moving along
in parallel. Others run more in a serial mode, with the most pressing
thing being done at that moment, and when that project is crashed
through, the next one is tackled, with all the personal resource
As managers, we might confuse doing it all at the last minute
as a shortsighted way to work. However, there is a distinct difference
between the doing of something and the thinking about what is to be done.
We may watch someone working late into the night to complete a report
due the next day – a due date known for weeks – and think that the
manager is not very good at managing his or her time.
What we may fail to see is that this person has been thinking about the
details of the report for weeks; about the proper content, just the
right argument, the broader implications to the business and the
ultimate impact to the business both internally and externally.
The physical, last-minute production of the report is the
detail, not the true value, which was the thinking time invested when
it looked like nothing was being done.
So whether you work in parallel or serially, if it works for
you and the required results are being met, keep your pace your own.