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.