There is No Time Like the Present

What do people wait until the last minute?  Is it just human nature?  Is it pure procrastination?  It is that people work better under pressure?

I am definitely one of those people with the title over their head “there is no time like the present”.  I get shit done.  We have been involved in several real estate projects and no matter how much time you give a contractor to build something knowing that you are padding the build by months, they all seem to prefer getting everything done with days to spare.  Why?

In college, I worked in an engineering firm.   I had a security clearance so I was one of the people who would sign out documents to engineers working on Government projects.  Some of these projects were a year long while others many years.  I always knew when a project was almost due because people that I had never seen before would show up out of the woodwork en masse to check out a document.  Last minute rush.

Maybe it is the rush?  I am not sure what it is but I am constantly fascinated with human nature.  For me, last minute just gives me serious angst.  How about for any of you?

Comments (Archived):

  1. Ella Dyer

    Yep, I tend to be get it done before it’s due….once gave save the date notes to party guests to mark their calendars for the same date in 10 years…location details included. Some people must enjoy the adrenaline rush from procrastination; I’m not one of them.

  2. Kirsten Lambertsen

    As a contractor, myself, who works with numerous other contractors (both individual and small business), I can report that it’s often a result of trying to minimize loss. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. But, clients disappear and don’t pay bills and change their minds at the last minute all the time. So sometimes contractors get into a cadence of doing everything ‘just in time’ to avoid doing work that never gets paid for or has to be re-done.Keeping the pipeline full factors in, as well. If you’re trying to maximize revenue, you tend to overbook to compensate for those one or two clients who are going to bail. So there are frequently times where you’ve got more on your plate than you can really handle. That again means only doing things that absolutely have to be done right now.I always take this into account when hiring my contractors. I know that if I can assure and/or demonstrate to them that (i) I’m good for the payment (like, putting down a deposit), (ii) I’m solid with my plan and won’t turn everything on its head at the last minute, and (iii) I can keep them busy with full-time work for a decent amount of time, I can remove the risk of them last-minuting me as much as possible. But, unless my project is the biggest project in their queue at the moment (never is), they still often do it.

  3. Pranay Srinivasan

    I think there’s also a gender bias here. Men tend to relax *thinking* that they’ll get stuff done later and budget thinking they padded the timeline. Women tend to worry more about missing deadlines and getting shit out of their way.Startup founders under time pressure find a way to elastically expand time to fit more in. This usually happens when you are able to communicate succinctly and build faith quickly. That helps people do their jobs better amd faster and keeps people focussed.Pranay

  4. LE

    I find this topic fascinating. While I am not a procrastinator and generally prefer to be prepared and in control and not wait to the last minute I have noticed that work that I do is vastly easier when there are the following conditions (and so I wonder if this factors into this phenomena which I have also experienced):a) Work is easier when you are under pressure. Something about the adrenaline flowing that makes that possible. Maybe it’s fight or flight reflex. I am sure this has been studied.b) You tend to work smarter and faster when under pressure.c) Easier for me to get things done when I have a baseline of work to do which fills the day up. Even if it’s trivial and unimportant work. Once again that adds to the pressure and that pressure makes the difficult work seem more urgent and important to complete. Your brain works better. You enjoy it more because you are in a flow of movement. This is actually a reason I put the laser printer outside my office (with a bosu ball in between the door that I have to step over). Everytime I print something (which is constantly) I have to get up to retrieve it). That keeps my movement going and that I have found is good.That’s off the top. There is of course more on this.Contractors of course know you are gaming them on the deadline obviously. Here is one way potentially around this. This is from back in the day when I was in the printing business. Jobs were taken differently depending the reason they were due on a certain date. Some dates were clearly recognized by everyone in the chain as being ‘irrefutable’ (and I don’t know if that’s the right word here either.). So if you had to print place cards for a wedding you handled that differently than if you had to print envelopes for the office. You knew that if a wedding was this Saturday night and the person wanted them on Wednesday (in advance) you knew (just like when you have to get to the airport) that you couldn’t screw with that date. So it took priority over other jobs. No surprise.So if you are dealing with a contractor (or other type person with a deadline) the best thing to do is to make up a believable date that you need the work done by that seems like it’s irrefutable and can’t be missed. So you game it by that date. Also you can attempt to build into the contract a bonus if the work is done by a certain date or a penalty if it’s not completed and so on. Different reasons why you would negotiate one over the other. Look telling a contractor that you want a vacation home done by June 1 they know they have room to spare. Saying that your daughter’s wedding is June 1 and the company setting up for it needs access a week before puts a different pressure on them. Even better a penalty if deadline is not met or a bonus if they get done weeks earlier.I just sold something by giving a broker a 7 day deadline when he insisted on 180 days. I said ‘if you sell this I can do X but in order to do X I need to know if this is sold in the next week otherwise I have no interest in selling it’. He made it priority and the deal got done. Agreement in 7 days. This is something that he had been sitting on through 1 previous contract in a deal that started in 2015…and of course there is the saying ‘work expands to fill the time available for completion’.

  5. TanyaMonteiro

    I fall into the ‘get shit done NOW’ camp. What’s fascinating to me is that this real estate procrastination is a universal one.