One man's procrastination is another man's prioritisation.

Do you put jobs off until the last minute? Everyone's priorities are different. Do you always have something more important to do? Right, too, you get the job done in the end, so what's the problem?



What is Procrastination?



Procrastination is the name given for putting off necessary tasks by doing other, often less important tasks instead. There is a common saying 'Procrastination is the thief of time'.



Procrastination is always a label inflicted by other people; it is never a self-applied description. We never see ourselves as doing NOTHING while we have certain tasks hanging over us. We see ourselves as doing other things.



It is Not Procrastination, Just Prioritising



How can anyone else criticise you for procrastination, when they do not understand the way you work?



We each have our own set of priorities, and, as long as essential tasks are completed by their deadline, the order in which we do those tasks is the business of the individual, and only that individual.



Some people work most efficiently when under pressure, so they schedule important tasks to be completed just before their deadlines. This can be a very efficient way of working, but it may annoy your boss, who sees you doing 'less important tasks' rather than the one he or she is waiting for.



The people who are annoyed by what they see as procrastination are usually the people who set the tasks and decide the dates by which time those tasks should be completed.



The task setter is at fault. If he or she wanted a task completed earlier it should have been made clear. One cannot logically set a deadline, then become upset when the work is completed on the deadline rather than before it, yet lots of people take that attitude.



How Bosses Should Reassess 'Procrastination'



Set a deadline when you need a task completed. Do not half expect the task to be completed before the deadline. If you want the report by the 14th at 3pm, say so. Do not complain if your employee is still working on the report at 2.55pm. Wait until 3.05pm before venting your spleen at your employee.



Acknowledge that your employees are people who have their own ways of working and who are capable of setting their own priorities. You cannot expect to exert control over what they do for every minute of every working day. They are employees, not monkeys or machines.



If you want something doing ASAP (as soon as possible), explain what you mean. ASAP, in some offices, means no deadline so no priority. If you really want it as soon as possible then explain that you want everything else dropped to get this particular job done sooner.



How Employees can Prevent Accusations of Procrastination



Never overrun a deadline. Make 100% certain that you can finish a task by the time set. If you do overrun then your priorities were wrong, it was not procrastination, just misjudgement. Build in a margin for error.



Always make absolutely certain when a task is to be completed by. Ask questions to help your priorities match up with the boss's priorities.



If a task is to be done ASAP, ask for and agree a definite completion time and date. This prevents misunderstandings.



Never be seen to be doing nothing, especially if you have unfinished tasks that you plan to do closer to their deadlines.