Evil Twins: Procrastination and Distractions

| by Bert Armstrong

First, a great big shout out to my team at Armstrong McGuire!  They are talented professionals who each demonstrate professionalism, commitment to our shared work, and a keen sense of work/life balance.  Smart. Willing to teach. Willing to learn. Willing to share. Good at scheduling and multi-tasking. Punctual. Prepped and prepared for the meeting. Desk cleared at the end of the day. To-do lists checked off.  Projects completed with few or no errors, and on time.  

I am constantly learning from my team members and their professional approach to representing Armstrong McGuire and our clients.  They keep me on my toes and I attempt to live up to the expectations they have of me by mimicking the expectations they each have of themselves.   

But as hard as I try to avoid it, I often find myself living in complete contrast to the organized and focused me I want to be, the evil twins take control. They allow impromptu calls and disruptions to interfere with previously-scheduled meetings or family time. They miss appointments because I neglected to enter it on my calendar. They wake me up in the middle of the night, panicked because I forgot to read a report that a colleague sent asking for feedback.   

None of these are catastrophic, life-altering miscues.  And I promise I’m not looking for any pity. Truth is, I beat myself up pretty good when I fail miserably at juggling the chaos I usually create on my own – especially when others are counting on me to be my better self. And I appreciate it when my staff find gentle ways to remind me, nudge me, and make sure I’m keeping my end of the bargain in our work relationships.     

While most of my procrastination and distractedness has superficial impact on the lives of others, miscues by our nonprofit organizations can have significant impact on clients, staff, and entire communities.  

  • I’ve seen chief executives avoid addressing difficult issues to the point that that the underlying morale problems became extreme and irreversible.  

  • I’ve sat in board meetings where crisis-level financial challenges requiring clear and timely responses were shared by an accountant or auditor; yet the board voted to defer discussion on the issue until the next meeting.   

  • I’ve watched development team members elect to put hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer labor into a “fundraising event” that raises less than $5,000 (and they do it every year) – instead of spending a fraction of that time sharing the story and talking directly with donors about how their giving could make an immediate and meaningful difference in the life of someone being served.  

  • And I’ve seen organizations sell their proverbial souls chasing special grant funding (think new shiny object) that had little or nothing to do with their mission – instead redeploying critical program staff to meet the requirements of the grant.   

I’m constantly working on being a better me, and I can count on my team to support me but also hold me accountable when I come up short.  As donors, board members, executive directors, and direct line staff, let’s all do the same!

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