The Art of Strategic Procrastination

Procrastination gets a bad rap. When you hear a tale about procrastination, it usually implies or explicitly states that the offending procrastinator is being lazy. Yet, to procrastinate simply means to defer action or delay. If your procrastination is purposeful, are you being lazy or strategic?

If you’ve ever multi-tasked or had a to-do list, then you’re already well on your way to mastering the art of strategic procrastination. When determining your priorities, you’re basically identifying which tasks can be delayed. From the top down, it’s a priority list. From the bottom up, it’s a procrastination list.

It’s safe to assume that you always have a long list of tasks to complete at work and a laundry list of things to do at home (which, coincidentally, includes doing the laundry). In both cases, you constantly re-evaluate and re-prioritize tasks depending on their level of importance, the amount of relevant information you have (or don’t have) required to complete the task, and various time factors. What are the deadlines? How much time do I currently have to perform ‘X’ number of tasks? How much time will each task take? Each must be carefully considered when balancing your priorities against the candidates for procrastination.

A few weeks ago I was given an important project. I determined that it wouldn’t be difficult but it would be incredibly time consuming. The time frame given to complete the task was roughly three months – plenty of time despite the amount of work involved. I felt I had most of the information I needed in order to get started (and had been encouraged to do so), yet I had a nagging feeling that there was still more information to come. Instead of diving right in, I decided to purposefully procrastinate.

A couple days ago, I had a meeting with key stakeholders in the project and new information came to light. Because of this new information, it was determined that there was no longer a need to undertake this project. Thanks to my strategic procrastination, I didn’t waste countless hours on a project that was ultimately abandoned. Furthermore, due to the nature of the project, had I started I would have had to spend many more hours “reversing” any work that had been done.

Until technology develops a way to simultaneously do EVERYTHING at once, there will always be a need to procrastinate.  Just make sure to be purposeful and strategic about it. And, if you have a procrastination success story, feel free to share it in the comment section now…or perhaps tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that…

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  • Comments (4)
    • maryct70
    • July 22nd, 2011

    I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes the adage “There’s no time like the present” leads to knee-jerk reactions. They fail to plan, and often do plenty of work, and re-work before hitting their goal. This is the very definition of “working harder, not smarter.”
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Very well said…we should all strive to work smarter, not harder! Thanks!

    • Vijay Dharmaraj
    • July 23rd, 2011

    excellent article….we all lead lives where priorities change every minute…focusing on the most important one at that point of time is the best way to go !!

    • Xy
    • November 27th, 2013

    Lawful strategic procrastination.
    Ever heard of the expression “last notice left standing”? Common law is conducted on this basis. It is a case where one party serves lawful notice to another party and such Notice provides a limited time window for the opponent to rebut one’s Notice. No rebuttal equals acquiescence. If done correctly, waiting until the last moment to serve a Notice or counter Notice leaves the opponent with insufficient time left to rebut. This in turn throws the opponent off base and serves to support and uphold one’s own Notice while voiding the force and effect of the opponent’s Notice.

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