How many times has someone on your team said: “Ok, so let’s put it off until…”?

The principle of least effort and the principle of least time (Fermat’s principle) draws the conclusion that most people, by nature, will choose the shortest path to accomplish something. On the other hand, by educational or moral reasons, people will try to do what is right and not what is easy. Maybe that’s why we still use the pedestrian crossing even though it’s easier to cross the street wherever you want.

Procrastination can come into play when someone on your team chooses the easier way to do something, rather than the right way. Aside from the fact that this creates Technical Debt (which is a huge issue in and of itself!), it also has every chance of derailing your project plan.

Since a project manager needs to lead the team (and not actually do their work), she/he needs to delegate tasks and monitor their progress in a way that dissuades team members from procrastinating. This can usually be accomplished by doing the following:

  • Assign reasonable amounts of work, so that the feeling of being overwhelmed does not overpower the feeling of wanting to get the work done.

  • Make people responsible for what they do best. This means you need to know your team well enough to know each one’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Create a longer list of smaller, more attainable tasks, rather than a shorter list of harder tasks. This will induce a feeling of accomplishment with short-term goal completion.

Here’s a video that will make you laugh, and also help you get into the minds of the procrastinators in your lives!

In this video, Tim Urban shows us that a procrastinator’s mind is propelled by instant gratification, rather than rational time management and longer-term decision-making. He also gives us perfect examples of two types of procrastination:

  1. Procrastination with a deadline
    This is short-term procrastination which occurs with things like work tasks, project end dates, submissions, etc. When deadlines exist, the effects of procrastination are contained. However, they do cause enough last-minute stress and panic to try and avoid them!

  2. Procrastination without a deadline
    This is long-term procrastination which happens with things that require self-initiative, like keeping in touch with family, finding a better job, taking care of your health, etc. In these non-deadline situations, the effects of procrastination have nothing to contain them and these ‘tasks’ can extend outward indefinitely, causing emotional turmoil.

If you or someone on your team is a procrastinator, it isn’t something you’ll be able to fix overnight. But while you’re working on it, it’s good to be aware of how procrastination can creep into your team and your project so that you can spot the warning signs in advance. A great way to support this effort is to use a project planning tool that helps you plan both short-term and long-term tasks, make team resources accountable for their tasks, share real-time status updates automatically, and account for risks. Gantter is full of powerful features like this, and more! Try it for free today.

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