The earlier you start on this, the better for your career

Procrastination exacts a heavy price. And there is one area of life in which delay is particularly costly.

Stephen Covey writes of “quadrant two” activities in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Quadrant two is the area devoted to those important things in life that we never really seem to get around to doing. They are important, but they are not urgent.

Planning and goal setting are good examples of quadrant two activities. What could be more important than defining a vision of success and knowing where you’re going in life? But most of us do not take the time to plan our career and write down goals.

An article in CFO Magazine from early this year highlights the importance of active career management. Particularly interesting was the insight that even some ostensibly “successful” CFOs have been unsatisfied with how their careers have progressed.

Many of us dream of being CFOs someday. But how will we get to the CFO seat without regrets, wondering how and why our careers progressed the way they did.

Those of us who are younger financial professionals would do well to heed the article’s advice rather than procrastinating: Get to know yourself, and explore your options.

Create a crisis for yourself if you don’t have a natural career crisis develop by itself. Times of crisis are the best opportunities to step back, assess, and take a hard look at where you are compared to where you want to be.

A professional coach, a mentor, or colleague who serves as confidante, can be helpful in this process, as the article notes.

The first piece of advice is helpful, even if ordinary: Consider what you’re passionate about. There are debates about whether to follow your passions. But while passion is certainly no guarantee of success, if one has a choice between pursuing a passion versus pursuing something better described as “boring,” everything else being equal, most people wouldn’t view this as a hard decision.

Consider areas for improvement. For example, if I don’t continue honing my technological acumen, I will get left behind. I don’t believe I have to become a tech-guru or specialist, but I need to develop skills in this area to help me become more proficient with the core toolkit of financial professionals.

Find areas of business expansion, and become involved. Be proactive. I have written before about strategy and understanding the “big picture” about how the business creates value in the marketplace.

Make an effort to connect with and learn from people you admire. Again, mentoring (formal or informal) is crucial for professional development.

Finally, the article suggests to attend professional workshops and seminars to invest in your continued learning and growth.

“We don’t have the time, but we need to make the time. It pays off in the long run.”

Invest in quadrant two activities like personal assessment, visioning, planning, and goal setting. This truly will pay off in the long run. Procrastinating means handing over your career to someone else’s control.