Putting Things Off - Part 1

Frank Newberryin Training & Education

Are you deadline-driven? Event-orientated? A sensation-seeking procrastinator? In Part 1 of this two-part article, Trainer and Conference Speaker Frank Newberry shares his thoughts on what drives him and others to delay important tasks sometimes - and the price we all pay for putting things off. Then, in Part 2, Frank offers ten ways we can all reduce our tendency to procrastinate.

I don't know about you, but I tend to put off (procrastinate) those tasks that are boring, mundane or overwhelming. At least those tasks that seem overwhelming at the precise moment I contemplate starting on them. So I put them to one side to be done another time (perhaps when I am in the right mood or the right frame of mind). For me, this 'putting off' can be a split-second, impulsive decision.

I also find that I put off tasks that need planning or contemplation, especially proactive tasks where I have to perhaps take the initiative, get support for an idea, or a different way of doing things at work etc.

I cannot resist helping people out

Basically, I put off those tasks that involve me having to think things through! It is not that I am deliberately being lazy or unprofessional, it is just that I cannot resist helping people out with a crisis at work, an urgent or last-minute request or a tight deadline.

Why? Because I need only react in these fire-fighting situations. Not much thinking required, hardly any planning, no need for me to make a business case, float an idea or get support from other people. I just have to turn up, help out where I can, do some firefighting and rescue the people or the project that is in danger. A deadline is met, or an event is ready on time. I even get thanked for my trouble! 'I could not have done it without you Frank', and so on.

Doing my bit, playing my part

So, what if I do not get my own important work done or my deadline met? Then I have a ready excuse. I was helping out with an emergency, doing my bit, playing my part.

Of course, saving the day by rescuing a person or a project can be exciting. Afterwards, we say 'We did it! Yay!' Good feelings all round. The trouble is, the good feeling we get can become addictive.

So much so that, when the next emergency comes along, we are amongst the first to volunteer. Then we get that 'buzz' again, and again when the next exciting reactive task comes along.

Firefighting can also bring us closer together

All this firefighting can also bring us closer together as a work team. Sometimes, it can show us who our real friends are at work. Then there is added pressure on us to conform by helping out - even when our own work suffers. Now the bad news - we may begin to notice that it becomes harder and harder to do the important proactive tasks that we need to do in our own jobs.

Many proactive tasks, like planning improvements, preventing problems or devising training programmes for staff or colleagues, need peace and quiet and time to think if we are going to get them right. It can get rather lonely when there are no easy answers and we have to sort things out in our minds first.

All this while (because of our procrastination) the time available to do our proactive, important tasks is getting shorter and shorter. Why? Because we have perhaps filled up our days with reactive tasks that we like to do; tasks that need little or no planning or contemplation.

We do our best work 'under pressure'

So, the important proactive tasks that could bring improvements, efficiencies and savings are either, delayed even more, or done in a rough and ready way - rather than in a good way. We may tell people that we do our best work 'under pressure', but we may also be getting a reputation for letting our URGENT work get in the way of our IMPORTANT work.

We may meet all our deadlines, but mainly at the last minute, and with our work quality compromised.

The hard truth may be that we know we like the buzz of working hard and getting things done at the last minute but, in reality, we have become sensation-seeking procrastinators. The sensation being the buzz we get when we work hard to meet a tight deadline at the last minute.

Personality plays its part

Personality also plays its part. I recently learned of research that suggests that extroverts are more likely to procrastinate than introverts. For a quick run-down of extrovert and introvert differences just click on the following link to see an earlier article.


It is now being suggested that procrastination is more prevalent amongst extroverts because they get stimulus and 'energy' from people and events outside themselves (external) and introverts are more self-sufficient (internal) in this respect. It might follow then that a tight deadline would be more likely to stimulate an extrovert, rather than an introvert, to be more productive at work.

Frighten ourselves into doing a good job

The logic would then be - we can make the stimulus (or sensation) even greater by repeatedly delaying starting a task in order to frighten ourselves into doing a good job at the last minute! Except that, although we may work harder once we get started on the task, the quality of our work (as already stated) may be compromised.

More on this in Part 2, along with a list of ten ways we can reduce procrastination.

© 2020 Frank Newberry

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