Posted by: Phil Anderson | June 8, 2015

Getting Around to Procrastination

The school year is ending for most students, and I’m finally getting around to putting down some thoughts I’ve had about procrastination. They come from a couple of different discussions recently with some young friends, one in high school and one in college. Both tried to extol the virtues of procrastination, but I’m not quite buying into their logic.


The main argument is: “I do my best work at the last minute.” Obviously at their age, this applies mainly to schoolwork. A little more conversation revealed that without a deadline or due date, the work doesn’t get done. So if the two options are (1) a project thrown together at the last minute or (2) a blank page, obviously something is better than nothing. But is it really your best work?

I don’t think anyone can argue that stress and pressure produce a better result than thought, planning, time, and attention. So why do we wait for a deadline to motivate us, understanding that the result is only “good enough”? For me the answer is: priority.

Many years ago at a difficult work place, I learned a valuable lesson about prioritizing work flow. I was advised not to confuse “important” and “urgent.” I was spending time on unimportant work that had become urgent, rather than doing work that was actually important.

Procrastination tends to make something unimportant into something urgent, which then takes priority over what is important. It’s very helpful to stop and evaluate where I am spending the most time and effort, and sometimes re-prioritize.

This should help avoid the trap of procrastination, but it doesn’t. (After all, it’s midnight and I’m trying to finish a blog post I should have done earlier in the day, and I know it won’t be an example of my best writing.) That’s when I have to consider my motivation. We spend our time and resources on the things most important to us. Is what I’m doing a priority? Is it important? Or am I doing it just when it becomes urgent?

What do you think? Why do you procrastinate? Are you spending too much time on unimportant things that become urgent? What would you rather be doing, and why is it important to you? Leave your comments below and join in the discussion.

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