IT Employment

Getting around to procrastination


Oh, we've probably all done it: Put off doing something that you don't want to do. Some people procrastinate on purpose because they work better under pressure. But unless you're a trauma surgeon or work for a daily newspaper, you're not doing anyone any favors, including yourself.

Procrastinating consistently can hurt your career. In a company, everyone's actions depend on someone else's, so if you're the holdup, big initiatives can get sidelined. And bottlenecks in the human chain are almost always exposed at some point.

It's not easy to jump into a duty that you really don't want to do. But for me, it's better to get it over with than have the idea of it hovering over my head. I can't really enjoy leisure time if I know there's something out there that I should be doing. I think of it like having dinner--I suffer through the brussel sprouts and meat loaf because I know dessert is the reward. To me, a clean to-do slate is my reward.

There could be several reasons people procrastinate. Sometimes, it's actually just good triage and time management. That is, you do the smaller things first because you can get them out of the way faster. But there could also be some negative reasons, such as a fear of failure or a lack of understanding of the project that needs your attention.

You can curb the tendency to procrastinate in a couple of ways. First, ask for specific deadlines on duties. I've been in countless meetings where an action item is mentioned but it's not tied down to a date. The action item then just dies a sad, lonely death. After all, if it's an open-ended project, then where is the impetus to finish it?

If it's a large project you're facing, tackle it small piece by small piece. You'll be surprised at how it lessens the guilt at the end of the day if you've made even a small dent in a project. At least you're making positive progress.

Of course, it could be that you don't feel any guilt at procrastinating. If so, try injecting a little paranoia into your life. Pretend that your coworkers secretly resent you and are planning your downfall as we speak.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

112 comments
boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'm too busy waiting for something to happen.

trillian_sk
trillian_sk

Nothing motivates me more to do something I've been procrastinating about than - to get a worse assignment! Think about it. How many organized garages/workspaces or (insert existing personal task-being-avoided here) can be traced back to the sudden need to avoid making a speech or signing up for ballroom dance classes or (insert new personal task-being-avoided here)? On the upside, the next time you find yourself suddenly cheerfully doing something you've been avoiding... and you find out it wasn't that bad... try to use that feeling for the next one.

Hilary_SIW
Hilary_SIW

I relate to the reasons why people procrastinate. I appreciate your solution on how to ask for deadlines. Because for me no deadlines does not make my priority list. Going to practice this today.=)

stever
stever

I keep this little piece of wisdom above my desk. Sorry I dont know who wrote it I would thank them if I did. "This is the beginning of a new day God has given me this day to use as I will, I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be gain not loss,good not evil, success not failure, in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it." author ?? As a note if someone knows author, I'd like to know.

m_mehta52
m_mehta52

It may sound defensive or self serving but at times such things are to be resorted to due to the pecular circumstances under which you are functioning. And there is the issue of mgmt apathy in not listening to and acceptance of any contrary point of view. It is the individual's way of getting back to the organisation. Sometimes due to sheer workload or resource crunch, the things get delayed.

ben
ben

Great article, I see lots of people in IT that have this problem. Hell, why rock the boat!

mmexus
mmexus

...thought that all good things comes to those what wait But recently he could see that it may come too late... These lines from a Supertramp song come to my mind, when thinking about my own shortcoming of time management which I have to live with everyday

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

.....what you can do the day after tomorrow. -- Mark Twain

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

OH Hell why bother next year will be soon enough and if enough water passes under the bridge I can forget all about this topic. :0 Col ]:)

daveo2000
daveo2000

and it was on my "to do" list. I guess I can scratch that one off now too! :)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

when I get around to it. Right after I finish completing and sending in my application to be a founding member of the Australian Procrastinators Association - I was sent the form in March 1971 and still thinking about joining. Must get around to doing something about that one day.

mark100
mark100

Has anyone considered that procrastination is actually an efficency tool? It could be a trigger to make you consider the thing you're procrastinating about. (No, really!!!)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

From past experience the jobs that I think are going to be time consuming and a monster that get put off till there is sufficient time to do them properly take about 5 minutes and then the jobs that should take 5 minutes end up taking Hours/Days/Weeks. But that's always work related I don't have that problem at home because I so very rarely get to play with my toys that it's always welcome when the chance comes around. :D Col

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I was putting off playing video games and spraying weed killer until this weekend. What a great weekend it was after I stopped putting it off. Now I can devote all of my 'study time' to playing video games until I realize that I am procrastinating on my studies and reverse again.

Compuhorsy
Compuhorsy

a town straight out of one of those brochures about the "perfect small-town America" kind of place to live, would have that above their desk. Thanks for making me homesick. ;) Seriously, nice quote. I might have to post that one above my desk too.

daveo2000
daveo2000

It was Dave Barry. He wrote it instead of doing the job he was supposed to be doing. After he wrote it he went out to the mall to get his car tuned up but managed, instead, to find a nice frame and some parchment paper to print up the thing he wrote. Then he stopped by the Arts & Crafts store for a book on calligraphy and a set of pens. He also picked up a cross-word puzzle book. After all of that, he got back to the office, put them all in his filing cabinet. Several years later he pulled them out again, in their self-same shrink wrap, and sold them on eBay. Then he found the cross-word book and actually started in on it. (Edited because I forgot about the cross-word book)

daveo2000
daveo2000

it is because it just feels more important to make a post about procrastination than to actually do the thing that you are procrastinating from doing? ;)

jennifer1019
jennifer1019

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. If you do it today and like it, you can do it again tomorrow.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

not on Saturday, so I'll have to postpone until Monday. Since I will have the case of the Mondays, it will get done sometime Wed. But wait, hmmm. I will postpone the rest of my post as well now, thanks.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

to read it next year when you finally post it. But alas, I am not feeling like taking notes right now! Maybe tomorrow

AV .
AV .

But I'm still thinking. AV

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

in Futurama, year 3000; Fry went up to their booth, they told him about the party, he said "I want to join RIGHT NOW!". Of course they wouldn't take him. Then he walked away, said 'maybe later..' Then they wanted him :)

gadgetgirl
gadgetgirl

I was wondering whether I should post here or further up, couldn't make up my mind, then I decided to leave it till later..... ]:) GG

trillian_sk
trillian_sk

Poor Col. I Feel Your Pain. Incurable Optimist that I am (and darn annoying,too), I suggest: Try This: The next time you find yourself doing that job that you thought was going to be time-consuming and a monster, ask yourself WHY you were procrastinating about it in the first place. If you're honest with yourself, you may find a key to reducing the looming pile and having more time to play with your toys. Sharon, who prioritizes 'play' time as 'job#1' :-)

daveo2000
daveo2000

You should stop procrastinating and get to work. You should be ashamed of yourself for such thoughts and get yourself in gear to do what so desparately needs to be done! Shame!!! I know that this will be a hard task based on years of bad habits. It will take a while and you will need to devote a lot of effort on overcoming this really bad history that you have achieved. First step, re-prioritize. I think you should make video-games the primary job and studying and spraying weeds as the "time wasters". Now stop wasting time and GET TO WORK!

stever
stever

I truely try never to procrastinate and for my own reasons this quote reminds me of why I shouldn't. Plus it doesnt cause any conflicts with current social issues or offend any religious affiliations.

stever
stever

I do appreciate your information this has solved one of those little questions that can always bug you. thanks again

stever
stever

I you indeed did write this Thanks you must have had an inspiring moment.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

procrastinating is 'Healthy' because it offloads some burdens for another day, reducing stress levels and increasing 'quality of life'. But too much can have a bad side as well (such as loss of employment) therefore increasing stress levels when bills come round. :)

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

that would mean that I was not procrastinating. we are all putting everything off until a later date, if at all.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

You could get your ass kicked for saying something like that!

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

when I decide to get around to it.

maecuff
maecuff

I thought about coming up with a list of ten time wasters to help people with their procrastination, but I just don't feel like it. Maybe some motivated people can start a list.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I'm ordering two large bags of money from you all $50s or $100s, in used bills, all current legal tender (none of that Confederate wallpaper). Send the account to Bob Hawke. :p For the non-thinkers in the audience: A pizza order is a request to deliver pizzas to me, so a money order is a request to deliver money to me.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I was supposed to go grocery shopping last night, but then I thought of the 'prioritization' and decided to hold off and save some cash. So, instead I followed your advice and missed the store to play video games all night. So, as I got hungry I found a bag of Doritos laying around, so not to interrupt the fun, I chowed them down (dinner). Then for a light snack, I just couldnt pull myself away from the game, so I threw a bag of popcorn into the microwave and buttered it heavily. Aahh, refreshing and recommended for an artery hardening night. I cant wait for another

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I would be interested in looking at them really. Particularly the one called female. :p Now how about that game of chess I have a Chess Board setup just by that door that says [b]Danger Air Lock[/b] but I've deactivated it [i][u]HONEST.[/i][/u] :^0 Which would you like to be Black or White? Remember think [b]Very Carefully about your answer.[/b] :0 Col

daveo2000
daveo2000

Studying become [b]preparing to defeat other with a superior base of knowledge[/b]. Yes, you too can bring your opponents to their knees with your far superior intellect when you prepare yourself with our failproof [b]System To Undermine Delinquent Youths[/b]. Follow our system and you will gain powers far beyond those of your friends / mates / peers. The instructions are simple but powerful. Find a [b]Bound Offering Of Knowledge[/b], then acquire some [b]Situationally Preferential Area Conducive to Education[/b] and begin to [b]Rationally Examine All Data[/b]. This system has been advertised under a variety of names but is usually recognizable by the acronyms of the above bolded methods. Please send all checks, money orders or cash to me.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Spraying Weeds becomes [b]Chemical Warfare where nothing survives.[/b] Granted I do get slightly carried away but it's fun knowing that you are killing everything within reach. :D Study I'm not actually sure what that is anymore but if it's just reading about the new developments to me that's [b]Light Reading.[/b] :^0 Sorry though I can't help you with the Games Console as I hate games probably because I used to see my young child take a 15 K Portable and play games on it and I had to keep fixing it up so I could use it as the tool that it was to me. :( But a while ago I broke a wrist and instead of doing the exercises prescribed by the woman from the [b]Torture Chamber[/b] I did play Free Space with a Force feedback Joy Stick which worked much better than the exercises that I was supposed to do. It was even better to see the look on her face when she praised me for following her directions so well and I just said [b]Sorry I didn't do any of those as they where silly I just played Computer Games and my wrist got better.[/b] :D Col ]:)

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

So I am off to go home and turn on the game console.

stever
stever

Sorry didnt catch the humor but, practice makes perfect. Thanks (just kidding on the practice) Have a great day.

daveo2000
daveo2000

Dave Barry (http://www.davebarry.com/) actually gets paid to write humor. I get paid to occasionally get software delivered in a big lethargic multi-national corporation. And, no, what I wrote was not based on fact. It was humor. With that, you can see why he gets paid for humor and I don't. ;)

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I just had to comment though. :)

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

...that was an "Office Space" reference continuation.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

and probably forgotten by then. So it does'nt matter

AV .
AV .

we'll talk soon. AV

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"Am I the only guy in the Western World who looks at cell phone screens, music player screens, etc., and wonders, "Who'd want to watch anything on a 2" screen?" (That's 5 cm for you Metric folks.)" What is the freaking point of trying to watch anything on a screen so small that I can hardly read the phone#'s listed there?

jennifer1019
jennifer1019

I am a "pro" crastinator not an amatuer like all the others

Compuhorsy
Compuhorsy

when reading off-topic posts on Tech Republic does all the work for you? That is efficient time wasting! I feel better knowing I am good at ~something~.

brad
brad

I'm reading an article about procrastination when I should be working on another project?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

As Mae has proved that I'm [b]Perfectly Pure[/b] I have to lead by example. If I know where I'm going the Satnav constantly picks the worst way to get there with the most traffic possible so I'm trying to edumacate it to work the way that I want to drive. :p Around Brisbane it drives me nuts particularly when I know where I'm going and then when I rely on it which is what I bought the stupid thing for it did some strange things like one street is cut off and had a 40 foot drop and this stupid thing wanted me to drive down the cliff at night. I nearly did as well because all the fences and so forth had disappeared but I got a bit suspicious when I couldn't see a road so I stopped and got out and looked. It was about that time that I decided that the thing was telling me fibs or worse trying to kill me so I've embarked on the factory recommended procedure for education the silly thing to learn how I drive and which way I go when I want to get some where. :D I actually read the [b]Bloody Destruction Manual[/b] that cliff really worried me more than a little bit. X-( Anyway the way that I look at things it tried to kill me so I'm edumacating it to the way that I prefer to drive though I'm still totally confused how it can attempt to direct you somewhere else when you have already got to where you are going. That happened the first week that I had it and at first I thought that I had programmed it wrong but after checking it was set properly the stupid GPS kept insisting that where I actually wanted to go was the other side of a major country road where other than a fire there was nothing there. Perhaps it was trying to commit suicide and take me and the car along with it. :^0 Anyway if it doesn't start working right soon I'll just throw it out the window while I'm travelling in the [b]BUSH[/b] and let it drag on the road by it's power lead till it eventually comes off. By that time it should be well and truly dead. :D Col ]:)

Tig2
Tig2

It is infinitely better to give than to receive! If it helps any, Mae, now I have that bloody song in my brain.

neilb
neilb

Cruelty to Satnavs! "I like to confuse it and drive the wrong way just so it goes crazy attempting to work out a new way to where I want to go" :^0

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

The smallest thing that I take any notice of is the GPS and that has a 6 inch screen and the worst female voice that insists [b]Turn Right Now![/b] when the corner is 30 feet away. :D I like to confuse it and drive the wrong way just so it goes crazy attempting to work out a new way to where I want to go. But one of the best ones was on a trip a while ago it had the right destination but kept insisting that where I wanted to go was in a different direction even when I arrived where I wanted to go I was being told to make a U turn and return along the road that I had just come down. I think that the new map has something wrong with it. :^0 Col ]:)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Am I the only guy in the Western World who looks at cell phone screens, music player screens, etc., and wonders, "Who'd want to watch anything on a 2" screen?" (That's 5 cm for you Metric folks.)

daveo2000
daveo2000

were planning a new successor to MP3 that includes song specific liner notes and a jpeg for use on iPods and such. Next comes music videos for the video iPod along with credits at the end of the song...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's the problem with CDs, you lose that square foot of space for cover art. I imagine with the growth of digital music, the concept of cover art and liner notes will become obsolete.

Shellbot
Shellbot

as every time i am reminded of the Oscar Meyer song, i sing it..seems i don't have a great singing voice..but anyways..i sing it to my cats..they like it.. he gonna be so happy to come home and find me singing it.. (your days are probably numbered..stop procrastinating and do all the things you wanted to) ...from: the Crazy Cat Woman

rob mekel
rob mekel

When I bought the album in the mid 70's it cost me a fortune so I think I payed my contribution to him long a go ;) Rob

AV .
AV .

Who did write it anyway? AV

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

When that wears out its welcome, switch over to Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life". Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" and the number one Most Despised Song in the U.S of A. (according to Miami newspaper columnist Dave Barry's Bad Song Book), any version of "McArthur Park" (Richard Harris, Donna Summer, "Weird Al" Yankovic). Come on, Tonto, our work is done here. Hi-yo, Silver!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

He's either a rock god or Wagner's bastard great-grandchild, or both. He sets the standard in over-producing a song. See also: Celine Dion - "All Coming Back to Me" Barbara Streisand - "Left in the Dark" Air Supply - "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" Bonnie Tyler - "Total Eclipse of the Heart" Meat has also covered most of these. "And you think that I'll be bad for just a little while, But I know that I'll be bad for good."

daveo2000
daveo2000

Hen-ery the Eighth I am, I am. I got married to the widow next door... Ow! :p

maecuff
maecuff

you make a good point. But swimming in a French river is still better than a sharp stick in the eye..

maecuff
maecuff

You're going to have to do better than that. In fact, you're going to have to make an extreme effort to redeem yourself.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

French people about, otherwise you can be in any other river in the world, as the Sane River is in Paris. Although why you'd go swimming in that silly river is beyond me.

dspeacock
dspeacock

You could have 1 wish left from the genie, and have the Oscar Meyer song running through your head..and sing it out loud.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Why - he never wrote it - just sang it!

maecuff
maecuff

Now that stupid song is stuck in my head. Which I guess is better, up until now, it was the theme song to the Banana Splits. I don't know how THAT got there, but I'm pretty sure it means that I'm insane.

dspeacock
dspeacock

Meatloaf will be after you for copyright infringement...quoting his song without attribution :-)

rob mekel
rob mekel

I'll give you an answer in the morning. Rob

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