Deliberate Procrastination

procrastination and time managementWhy would anyone deliberately procrastinate? After all, every time management guru tells us that procrastination wastes our valuable time… but is it always wrong to put things off?

Many busy people excuse their habit of procrastination by telling themselves, and others, that the thing they are putting off doing is because of conflicting priorities. After all, there were those requests from clients that had to be done first… then there were their colleagues who expected them to be available to talk through various work projects… not to mention the hundred and one other things that simply had to be done now!

Procrastination is a bad habit we can all suffer from. Like many habits it creeps up on us over time and can sometimes make us feel as if we are a failure compared to others who seem to get things done and move forward.

But is procrastination really such a bad thing? Should we feel guilty every time we delay doing something? Are we being too hard on ourselves and setting unrealistic expectations? Maybe we can (and should) procrastinate occasionally – provided it does not become habitual!

So when is deliberate procrastination OK? There are three situations when deliberate procrastination is a good thing to do:

All of us come across tasks which, at the time, are neither urgent nor important compared to other tasks on our to-do list. These tasks can and should be done after the more important and urgent ones. So in this case deliberate procrastination is the right time management decision. This does not, of course, mean we can ignore such tasks for ever – tomorrow the same task may, because the context has changed, become a genuine high priority task.

Another situation in which deliberate procrastination is OK is when the task is of strategic importance for you. Whilst this seems initially counter-intuitive, postponing activity which needs you to first think clearly and plan thoroughly before starting is the right thing to do. This can be hard, as such tasks are often enjoyable and the temptation is to get started immediately without delay. However, such tasks benefit from ensuring that you have thought and planned well so you don’t waste resources when you do eventually get started.

A third reason to deliberately procrastinate is when the task has important consequences. Such tasks might be when a customer has emailed you to complain about something your company has not done, or your manager has left you a voice message demanding to know why the project you are leading is behind schedule, or a team member tells you that you have upset someone else in the team…

All of these scenarios benefit from deliberate procrastination to allow ourselves to calm down so we are able to respond logically rather than simply react emotionally. Whilst you may not be able to “sleep on it”, deliberately procrastinating for a short period of time whilst we gather the real facts is a good choice to make. By doing so we achieve clarity, will understand the details and in all probability find the right words to resolve the problem and any conflicts effectively.

But if none of these three reasons for deliberate procrastination apply, then we are actually making excuses for our poor time management and work habits. We will look at how to manage inappropriate procrastination in a later blog.