The Difference Between Preparation and Procrastination

You’ve got a deadline to hit for a project that has been challenging – or you think may be challenging once you finally get going on it.  But because of this idea about it being challenging, you’ve been delaying it for awhile.  Maybe days or even weeks.

You know that there will be serious issues if you don’t get started soon, so you promise that you’ll indeed get started today. But there’s just one more thing you decide to do before launching into that project.

You tell yourself that this “one more thing” is actually something you need to do to clear your head to get properly focused for the work stretching before you.  But how do you know if this “one more thing” is part of your preparation, or is simply more procrastination?

Here is a list of tasks that qualify as procrastination:

  • Cleaning out your desk drawer(s)
  • Refilling supplies
  • Making folder labels
  • Organizing paper clips
  • Searching for your favorite pen
  • Making or returning non-urgent calls
  • Having a snack (I’m not buying the “brain food” line)
  • Surfing the web for “more project data”
  • Checking email – one more time
  • Picking out good “focusing” music
  • And for people who work out of the home – any type of household chore

These activities qualify as preparation:

  • Cleaning off your desk
  • Reviewing and organizing project materials – hard copy and/or electronic
  • Doing a mindmap or other type of project plan
  • Noting dates on your calendar for specific interim deadlines associated with the project
  • Reviewing last year’s final product (if this is a repeating project)

Some people feel as though cleaning off the desk is a procrastination technique, and if you take it too far it can be.  But having a clear surface on which to work allows your brain to feel clear as well. It also prevents having in your field of vision other tasks that you need to get done which could distract you from the work at hand.

Truth is you really don’t even need these lists to know whether you’re procrastinating or preparing. In which case you just need to be honest with yourself.  While files do need to be cleaned out and that is legitimate work to be done at some time, it’s hard to make the argument that doing so ever takes precedence over getting a deadline driven project started.

Useful? There's more where that came from.

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