When you have an unpleasant job to do, do it right away.

The natural tendency is to put it off and hope it disappears. And there are situations for which this kind of head-in-the-sand approach works best. Dealing with conflicts between subordinates, for example. My partner almost always ignores such problems, and nine times out of 10 they get solved the way they should — by the people who started the trouble.

But most of the time, a bad situation will only get worse if not handled immediately.

Let’s say you inadvertently say something that offends someone who matters to you. You feel bad about it, but you do nothing. The next thing you know, there’s a message on your answering machine from the person you hurt. You don’t want to return the call. You know it is going to be uncomfortable. And not hearing back from you upsets him even more. He thinks you don’t care. Meanwhile, you become angry at him for being upset with you. Now a mistake that could have been fixed by a simple apology has escalated out of control.

Another example: You have a disagreement with a colleague about a business deal. Settling it is going to be messy, so you’ve been ignoring it. But it gnaws at you. And until it’s resolved, working with him on anything will be difficult, if not impossible. Every day that goes by, a once mutually profitable relationship becomes shakier.

This happened to me last week. I got JJ’s acrimonious e-mail and let it sit. Finally, yesterday, I wrote him back and clarified my position. This morning, he responded. Tempers were easing. I wrote him back again, more conciliatorily this time. His next e-mail was nicer too. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish I had taken care of this thing the day it happened. I would have enjoyed the weekend more.

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