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Time management - Putting things off

Putting things off

Typical reasons

We all have a tendency to want to do easy tasks first and tackle the trickier ones later.
You will need to develop systems that help you avoid this trap.

Some people naturally leave things to the last minute for all sorts of reasons.

  • They can appear to be very calm and believe that everything is in hand.
  • Due to insecurity from lack of experience or training.
  • Some think that they work better under pressure.
  • They feel that the job is too big to face so are reluctant to start.
  • Others believe they have plenty of time when in fact they do not due to poor planning.
  • Some prefer quick and easy jobs, so do them first, rather than urgent and important jobs.
  • General fear of failure and its possible consequences.
  • Disinterested in the project.
  • The job itself is not very nice.
  • Don’t like the person who gave them the work or the organisation.
  • Tendency to do the things we like first.
  • There are too many distractions.
  • No energy for particular tasks.

Knock on effect

If you produce poor quality output, that is also late, then you will clearly affect another part of the project.
If you leave tasks to the last minute and a problem arises it will delay the current task, your other priorities and those of your colleagues.

Leaving things to a later date, when they should be done sooner, can have other negative affects.

  • Increased worry and stress by not starting the job.
  • Ignoring some tasks may lessen the potential for long term benefits.
  • Eventual rushed jobs may lead to inferior results.
  • Later the job may become more difficult to do anyway with lack of resource possibly increasing costs and the urgency of dependent tasks.
  • Productivity drops due to time wasting on trivial matters.
  • Your standing amongst others starts to decline owing to a lack of focus on the urgent and important tasks.

Peak performance times

We all work better at different times in the day. Most people are at their peak in the morning hours and less so in the afternoon, particularly straight after lunch. If you keep putting off your pet hates, when you do get round to them, you will more than likely be trying to carry them out when you are in a trough of enthusiasm. With personal energies at a low ebb you will do an inferior job.

Errors require more time to correct them. By getting on with tasks during your peak performance times you can double your productivity.

Genuine delays

If you have a particularly good justification then there is no reason why delay of a project should not be an option.
However, there is no justification when there is little apparent reason.


  • You must take the plunge and accept that you have a habit of putting things off.
  • Set your self deadlines and stick to them whether you like the task or not. Few have the privilege of liking everything they have to do.
  • Give your self a reward for success.

Staff motivation

If you notice any of your staff members suffering from this problem what do you do?

Decision making

We know that if people feel that they have been left out of decision making they tend to have little personal commitment in the task.
By involving your staff and their valuable skills and experiences in the decision making process motivation to do a good job will be higher.

Positive spin

The problem with procrastinators is that they will find any excuse not to start a task. So, rather than focusing on the completion and deadlines of tasks a manager could target the start of the project. Once the project is underway on time there is much more chance it will finish successfully.
This will alleviate some fears. So, don’t ask when the task can be completed ask when can it start, then ask how long it will take.

Constructive criticism

A good manager will be supportive of his staff and coach using his own experiences. After all, if you have just delegated a task you must also motivate.
You know mistakes will be made and you should encourage your staff to report errors and look for solutions. You don’t want to breed an atmosphere of fear which will make people reluctant to take on any tasks.

Be firm on priorities

Make sure you are clear on the task priorities and don’t keep changing them. If you do, you will severely de-motivate your staff and they will put off or delay tasks on the basis of an impending change of priorities.


If you can make your staff understand some of the problems that can occur by putting things off, then they will be more open to change.
There is more to completing a task than just getting to the end. You may need to consult others at the start who may not be immediately available. For example, you may need to circulate a report for comment and accuracy prior to final circulation.

Ideas to help

You can employ a number of strategies to help you manage procrastination of tasks.
These will depend upon the nature of the reason and are described in more detail later.

Decision making

Putting things off could be due to poor decision making. If you feel this is the case try to improve you decision making abilities.
Try to dissect your decision making process and correct it or attend specific training in this area.

Non - PRINCE2 information