The art of procrastination

The art of procrastination

Do you procrasti-faff or procrasti-focus?

Have you noticed there is a lot of negativity when people talk about procrastination? Charles Dickens is famously quoted as saying, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Another old proverb is, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

Most time management tools focus on techniques to avoid putting things off. They aim to minimise frittering away time, procrasti-faffing, preventing getting things done. However, there are many occasions where time for analysis, digestion, consideration, reflection and creativity is crucial to achieving the best result.  We call this procrasti-focusing.

This is when you are intentionally not completing the task because there is still time for a better solution to emerge. So, in this case we like to consider Mark Twain’s advice, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just was well.” After all, as Alexander Pope observes, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

The important thing is to be deliberate in the use of your time and in your choice to procrasti-focus. In order to do this, you need to be clear about what is important in the context of your overall goal and targets.

As busy project managers, we are always juggling priorities and, however much we might like to get ahead of the game, unless a task has an imminent deadline it is less likely to bubble to the top of the list.  Stephen Covey, of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame, suggests the use of a 4-quadrant time management model to help define how to be most effective.





Mastering your time

Time* is one of the modules that makes up the ExtraordinaryPM’s 5T’s Framework.  More than just time management, Time Mastery is about actively choosing which things not to do, so you can ensure you focus on the things that really matter.  It is about optimising productivity, and focussing not just on output, but also on effectiveness.

When it comes to project management, we all know that the planning phase is just as important as the implementing. It is worth remembering though, that we all have different skills, strengths and different preferences when it comes to the balance between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’.

For example, Sarah is a proud procrastinator and loves her procrastination monster (you will meet the procrastination monster in Tim Urban’s TED talk referenced below) because she is a great believer that a task becomes easier when the time is right.

She believes leaving a task until the last minute may give the opportunity to acquire more information, allow your subconscious to do a better job of analysing the issue, and can make it easier to get everyone to focus on the objective.  Sarah has learnt that her procrastination habit is actually procrasti-focusing and serves her well.

For some, this way of working can provide the fire and energy needed to drive the sharpest of thinking, the most creative of approaches and therefore the timely delivery of results.  But, for others, leaving things to the last minute can increase stress levels, cause unnecessary angst that it won’t all work & something is missing, particularly if anything goes wrong along the way. This second group prefer to start things early and complete with plenty of time to spare in case of emergency.

Either approach can permeate to your wider team though, so it is important to consider their needs too. So, next time you pause on a project or find yourself delaying in getting something done, be honest with yourself – is your working style helping or hindering the process?  In short, are you procrasti-faffing or procrasti-focusing?

The question then comes of how to align our teams around project priorities whilst also allowing everyone to work in their most effective personal style, even when that includes procrastination?

As with all things on a project there is no simple answer, but when you understand how and when you work at your best you can be explicit about this with your Tribe*, discuss their needs, and help enhance both team-building and productivity.


Don’t just take our word for it ….

Tim Urban’s “Panic Monster – the guardian angel of the procrastinator”
It’s one of our favourite TED talks.  It really is worth a watch.

Adam Grant’s “The surprising habits of original thinkers”
Precastination vs moderate procastination vs the chronic procrastinator.

is critical in project delivery. ExtraordinaryPM’s focus on Mastering their Time, not just simply managing it, so they get the very best from the precious and limited time available to them and their Tribe. On our Mastery Programme, we teach you how to be more productive and balance and prioritise your efforts in order to hit your Target within the time available to you and your Tribe. everyone’s working at the right pace.

*Tribe is another one of the 5T’s of the ExtraordinaryPM Framework. Your Tribe is much wider than your team. It is those people you need to build connections with around a shared goal, the Target (another of the 5T’s), in order to get the best from the people around you – whether they’re taking action, controlling risks or delivering a physical product.  As part of the ExtraordinaryPM journey, we show you how to lead and influence, inspiring your colleagues, peers and stakeholders to step up and become more effective and engaged. Because building better collaboration is the best way to create real change and measurable impact.

 To start your own journey to extraordinary, please contact

<< Back