Do the Right Things, Not Every Thing

Isn’t procrastination the root of all evil lack of success? Maybe it’s not that simple. In Procrastinate on Purpose, Rory Vaden argues that there’s a key difference between putting off what we know we should do and intentionally choosing to delay unimportant activities.

Who Is This?

Rory Vaden is the co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, a consulting firm focused on salespeople and sales performance. He has written one previous book, “Take the Stairs”, which I haven’t read yet (it’s on my list!). He’s also a speaker and a columnist.

What’s the Big Idea?

Vaden’s major point is that certain people, those who he calls “Multipliers” (not to be confused with the Multipliers of Liz Wiseman’s and Greg McKeown’s book) use their time far more effectively than everyone else. The key to becoming a Multiplier is evaluating every task along three axes: its Urgency (how soon does this matter?), its Importance (how much does this matter?) and its Significance (how long will this matter?). A Multiplier will invest their time today in things that will have the most impact and save them time tomorrow, therefore “multiplying” their time.

To tie these ideas together, Vaden introduces a five-step evaluation process to use when faced with a task. Can you eliminate the task because it’s truly not important? Can you automate the process of getting the task completed, which may take time to set up but will save you time and effort in the long run? Can you delegate the task to someone else, even if you need to spend some time training the new person? Does this task have to be done now, or can you afford to wait until closer to when the task must be completed (that is, purposeful procrastination)?

If and only if the answer to those four questions is No, does the Multiplier focus intently on completing that particular task.

My Take

First, can I just say? It’s a little sketchy that Vaden is constantly using the word Multipliers in a book released in 2015, when the book Multipliers came out in 2010. And then one of the authors of Multipliers published a book on essentialism (which is basically the topic Procrastinate on Purpose is addressing) in 2014. It’s…maybe it was all unintentional, but it’s a little weird.

While the two books come from very different cultural spaces, Procrastinate On Purpose is in many ways the peppy, tactical sibling to Essentialism’s strategic vision. It’s not a particularly deep book, but it’s easy to read and very practical. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of Essentialism and Procrastinate On Purpose being paired. One is academic, visionary, and very British; the other is unabashedly commercial (Vaden pitches AT LEAST three companies that the reader should check out at various points in his book), almost utilitarian in its approach, and has a distinctly southern US flavor.

I particularly liked Vaden’s discussion of the eponymous practice of Procrastinating on Purpose, or “PoPing”. His argument goes that while some people put work off until they need to rush or do a slipshod job of it, others tend to do things too early, and both approaches are flawed. It’s a waste of time and energy to do work towards a goal that’s so distant that it might change or become obsolete.  In fact, doing work too early leads to “change costs” when you switch direction and have to redo your work. The ideal approach is to wait until the last possible appropriate moment when you’ll be able to complete the task properly, and then begin. I’ve never seen this concept explained quite that way before, and it resonated with me.

Procrastinate On Purpose isn’t a book I’d likely reread, but I’m glad that I read it once.

Meant For

People who try to do everything, the ones with super-packed schedules who constantly feel like they’re juggling priorities. Leaders who are too busy doing their own work to have the time and resources to invest in training others or automating some of their workload. Anyone who read Essentialism and said, okay, but how do I DO it? Salespeople (while this book could be used by anyone, the author does run a consulting firm specifically for salespeople, and his language and examples all lean towards sales).

Bottom Line

If essentialism resonates with you – if you’re interested in identifying the few essential activities you ought to be doing and you want a clear structure on how to identify those activities – I’d recommend checking this book out.

Procrastinate On Purpose by Rory Vaden – 256 pages – published 2015 by Perigree Books


One thought on “Do the Right Things, Not Every Thing

  1. Pingback: Achieve Your Goals…One Bite at a Time | Self-Helped

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