Emerging Tech

Master the art of procrastination


Many IT leaders procrastinate unconscientiously.  I think this is a mistake.  If you are going to procrastinate-like any other activity that is worth doing-you should conscientiously know what you are doing and... be good at it.  Many psychologists would agree that procrastination is a learned behavior.  Therefore, I have provided a brief ten lesson course that will help you to master the art of procrastination.  Upon completion of this mini-course, you will be an expert at not doing.

Lesson # 1 - Know what procrastination means

It is difficult to be a good procrastinator if you don't know what procrastination means.  The Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (Gramercy Books: New York, 1989) defines to procrastinate as, "v.t. 1. to defer action; delay.  2. to put off until another day or time; defer; delay."  It is generally accepted by most psychologists that procrastination is merely a way for our overstressed society to deal with the anxiety related to starting any task or making any decision.  One who procrastinates is called a procrastinator.  There are many people who hold this title.  However, there are very few that actually use it.  A trained procrastinator will have many opinions about these definitions and will probably tell you about them next week. 

Lesson # 2 - Understand the history of procrastination

My research on the history of procrastination proved to be extremely interesting.  In turns out, the most authoritative book on procrastination is entitled, "Procrastination through the ages: A definitive history", (Ringenback, 1971).  Further investigation, however, revealed that the book was never written.  That's great because it provides us with the second lesson.  To become a master at the art of procrastination, you need to stop putting things off.  You will be more effective if you simply did not do them at all.

Lesson #3 - Don't prioritize your tasks

Most master procrastinators have nightmares about prioritized task lists.  Think about it, if your tasks are prioritized, then you know which of them is most important.   You will also have a clear picture of the order in which to perform each task.  Unfortunately, this means that by the end of the day many of the important (and generally most difficult) tasks will be completed-assuming you cannot address all of the items on your list.  Any skilled procrastinator knows that this is totally unacceptable. 

Lesson #4 - Develop a short attention span

A long attention span could really be a problem for the procrastinator.  That generally means that you are thinking things through.  It also means that you will more than likely be extremely focused on the tasks at hand.  This could only lead to an action plan for getting things done.  Of course, the next logical step is that you would probably be compelled to execute the plan you developed.  Not good.

Lesson #5 - Find other fun tasks that avoid work

It is imperative that you keep in mind that there are about a million other things that are a lot more fun than the items on your dreaded "To Do" list.  One of my favorites is making necklaces out of paper clips.  It doesn't require a lot of skill; it is a relatively fun activity; it can consume as much time as there are available paper clips (and we all know that there are always paper clips handy); it can give the appearance that you are creative and actually doing something when engaged in idle chat with a co-worker; and there is a serene sense of achievement when you're done.  There are many other pretty effective time wasters you may chose to do that are less fun.  For example, you can take your fourth trip across the street for that triple Grande latte mocha with caramel.  If you do, don't forget the whip cream.  This could be worth at least another two minutes.

Lesson #6 - Hold lots of meetings

Meetings are really good alternatives to real work.  Actually, meetings can be a lot of fun as well.  Think about it.  You can spend time with a number of people that you like; you can get to draw on flipcharts and boards (this is really neat); you get to feel real important when you sit at the head of the table; and you have the opportunity to provide an endless stream of meaningless recommendations.  If you are a good procrastinator, you will get people to accept your recommendations.  Of course, you can guess what will happen next.  They will form subcommittees that will do what... have meetings!

Lesson #7 - Be a perfectionist

A truly good procrastinator has a high degree of discontent and frustration.  This is because rarely is anything accomplished that is completely acceptable to them.  Therefore, you should spend as much time as possible trying to find every flaw that exists.  Since you and I know that this is virtually impossible, you can outdo everyone in the amount of work you will avoid doing.  If you want to be a candidate for the title of Master of Procrastination, you need to nit-pick everything to death.  Do you realize the amount of time you can spend nit-picking?  Can you believe the amount of not doing that you can accomplish? 

Lesson #8 - Delay everything unnecessarily

Highly productive people will get in the way of a good procrastinator.  They can even make you look like a poor procrastinator by trying to get you involved in the productive activity.  You can't let that happen.  You need to recognize that some of these people will be within your own organization.  I have found the best way to keep this from tarnishing your procrastination expertise.  You must develop good micromanagement skills as well.  By micromanaging every activity and nit-picking every aspect of work (see Lesson #7); you can be assured you will delay just about everything.

Lesson #9 - Don't be too organized

Organization is a major threat to a skilled procrastinator.  Do you know what it means to have all your materials ready before you begin a task? You will more than likely have your daily schedule with you all the time.  You will develop a great desire to check off tasks as you complete them.  That would lead to activities such as carrying the books you must read around with you; looking up and writing down the phone numbers for those calls you need to make; jotting down some ideas for that report you must write; or laying out the materials you will need to start the next job.  Be careful.  That means that you are doing things.

Lesson #10

Actually, I had one more lesson to write.  I think I will do it another time.

30 comments
grogo67
grogo67

I imagine that the vote results will be highly skewed on this one. A procrastinator will have read this article to avoid working on something else. True procrastinators will not vote right away. They will procrastinate on that also.

fractalzoom
fractalzoom

I was going to procrastinate today, but then I figured I'd just get around to it later...

fabiogilr
fabiogilr

Outstading! this is really helpfull, there are time you HAVE to procrastinate or they'll kill you with requests!

LarryBoy2
LarryBoy2

This article reflects a true master of procrastination. I've been the President of the local Procrastinator's Club for over 25 years. And some day I'll get around to recruiting other procrastinators to join the club with me. Well, then again, that would require some actual effort....

mcandalor
mcandalor

I'm curious if Wayne considers himself a procrastinator? I know I am, but not all the time. I'm not sure why that is.

mikes
mikes

The above posters are all amateurs. By reading this article and posting a comment, I am in fact avoiding real work. Changing the subject line had to take at least a minute or two. I intend to do the same on other forums until I have successfully completed another day of avoidance. By the way, I nominate Wally for President.

Tig2
Tig2

I have long been the President of the local Procrastinator Society... just as soon as I join, that is! Procrastination truly is an art form. And we all appreciate having a Master in our midst. Thank you for a well considered and thoughtful essay. I'm just not sure if I should post this now or wait for awhile...

Satha Arumanayagam
Satha Arumanayagam

What a clever account... Excellent.. I guess I could have written this post tomorrow.. Cheers Satha Arumanayagam Chief Executive Officer SVA Global Pty Ltd m:+ 61 417 321 257 e: satha@svaglobal.com w: www.satha-svaglobal.com

Satha Arumanayagam
Satha Arumanayagam

A great account of this mastery... I guess I could have written this comment tomorrow... Cheers Satha Arumanayagam Chief Executive Officer SVA Global Pty Ltd m:+ 61 417 321 257 e: satha@svaglobal.com w: www.satha-svaglobal.com

Listen65
Listen65

I loved your article and someday I will read it all ;-)

Roy Humphreys
Roy Humphreys

I loved this. I have always been an advocate of the P word but never actually got round to encouraging other people to take up the hobby.

kroser
kroser

I was going to compose a witty comment but maybe I'll do it tomorrow. :) Well written and entertaining article. Thanks

ksmith
ksmith

I failed to become a master procrastinator. As soon as I read it, I had to blog about it and link it back to this article so others could share in the amusement and truths found here. Great job :) Rissa Maidstone www.life20.net

malconcel
malconcel

Yes, that's me! Procrastinator Master of the Universe! First rule: you must be an excellent con artist! Talk the talk and get nothing done but look good! Let things go by and fix them later. This will make you look good since no one else knows how to do your job. Read about other stuff on TR and put other duties on hold. By doing so, you're learning new tech stuff and soon enough someone will ask you a question and walla you have the answers! I'm plain "LAZY". I always find others ways to do my job easier. The other "P" word is very helpful. "Pretending" goes along with "Procrastinating". When you pretend that you're working, it looks good. No one usually knows what the heck you're doing in the IT world. In IT, we can come up with a zillion excuses and/or answers to issues wether they are relevant or not. That's why we get paid the big bucks! Right? I think us IT folks are the biggest P masters in the world! If you're not a master . . . then you're doing your job all wrong!

wayne
wayne

Including me...

Shellbot
Shellbot

Will you be my mentor? I actually did a bit of real work today, it feels aweful inside. I need help..please.. ]:)

Falconeer
Falconeer

I would fall in love with you tomorrow as I'm really busy today as I'm thinking things of how'd I meet you. Tomorrow that is. Ah, what what a moment that would be. That is, if tomorrow I'd remember today. Er, what what was I saying.... My name is Marcel , I think today, don't ask me tomorrow though. :)

thesnowfamily
thesnowfamily

You know the great thing about this article? It immediately gave me the idea of "10 ways to know your procastinating" but that will be for another day. Another great thing about this article is that now I can sit at my computer spend a good chunk of time reading the article, then spend more time reading through all the responses and then take time to put my own here. And by putting my own reply, it makes me actually type which makes some noise and makes the people around me think I am actually doing something and being productive when in fact I am actually doing nothing. And you know that in the business world the people who get promotions are not the people who actually do anything. They are the ones who others percieve have done lots of things and are productive. So in fact by procastinating by replying to this article and all the responses I am in fact helping to promote myself within my company. This will lead to a whole new environment and abilities to procastinate over which sounds very exciting to think about. This means I can spend some time developing my goals for my work over the next few months to make sure the things get done that others need to do before I am promoted. Then once I finish developing this list then I can begin to research the very important things that I will need to make decisions about changing when I get my promotion. This will again require me to spend time typing on my computer the goals and lists which I can then spend time printing and putting into nice folders to take to the meetings that will need to happen so that the people I work with will think they know exactly what is happening. We all know that none of the things discussed in the meeting will actually happen because after the meeting is over, the one person who does anything will begin to work and the rest of us will go back to developing documentation on things that others will need to follow up on at some point in the future. Ok, that is enough for now. It is time for a bathroom break, a refill of my coffee, then lunch! *if you actually read all this your a PRO!

timmorton
timmorton

The procrasitinator's maxim: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow

jpb
jpb

The funniest part was the poll results. Apparently, only 73% "got it" and followed the spirit of the article, the rest answered Yes or No. :) Now I am off to read another blog post, otherwise I'd have to actually do something.

keeleyt83
keeleyt83

I'd write more here, but I'll finish it up tomorrow. Gonna make one of those cool necklaces. :)

Stangg
Stangg

Hard work pays off over time but laziness pays off right now.

alex.bailey
alex.bailey

Wow! I didn't realise how good at it I had become until I read this. I wonder if theres a Master Procrastinator Certification I can go for?

mszs2
mszs2

It is supposedly the culture in Spain and called ma?ana,ma?ana! ;-)

rbirlea
rbirlea

An optimistic approach of the same maxim: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. May be it won't be needed anymore anyway.

Shellbot
Shellbot

maybe someday you can procrastinate on the idea of putting toegther a course which would someday .. a forget it, i'll finish the post tomm... oh look choclate..

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