Are you a Procrastinating Project Manager?

BY joanna December 11 2017
Project managers by definition are meant to be the most organised people on the planet. Every decision, every movement, every thought should be planned out, estimated, scheduled and executed perfectly. Delivery of each and every project depends on the organisational skills of the project manager in charge. If something is not written down, it didn’t happen. If something outside of the planned scope is happening, then it is time to stop everything and look at the schedule again.

Procrastinators on the other hand, are people who live by the rule: ‘If you have to do something today, you can do it the day after tomorrow - and you will gain two days off.’ Tasks in their diaries (if they have any) are postponed from day to day. Things are never done on time, and they seem to live a happy life with no deadlines in sight. In reality though these procrastinators are tortured by the seemingly unending list of things they need to get done, not knowing where to start or how to get a handle on things.

Later or Now

It seems like these are two different types of people, but I am the perfect example of the procrastinating project manager - and it works for me. For any normal human managing a multi-phase project with many complex tasks can sometimes feel daunting. It can sometimes feel easier to let things slide, to put things off, to delay and delay.

Over the years, I’ve learned to use a combination of old style methods and new tools to get things done. Psychologically, it is very important to create a sense of accomplishment. The more you feel that you are getting things done, the more you can actually get things done. I also use self-bribes – rewarding myself when I’ve completed a particularly difficult or unpleasant task.
This is what helps me in managing my day-to-day workload:

Getting Things Done From the Top Down

                          Setting Priorities

If I feel full of energy, I start the day by completing a few of the big, seemingly unmovable, tasks and then I move to the smaller ones. Even if I don’t manage to complete all the tasks I’ve assigned for the day, there is still a feeling of accomplishment, as I can cross a few of the big ones off of my list, (more on that later).

Getting Things Done From The Bottom Up

If my task list is a mile long and I don’t even know where to begin I usually start with small items that are quick and easy to complete. Sometimes this is something as simple as cleaning up my desk or breaking up my task list into smaller steps. This approach gives me the sense that I’m making some progress. I use the energy generated to prepare myself for the bigger tasks ahead.

Using a Real Life (Physical) Notebook

Yes, I’m a firm believer in having a big fat diary. I use it to write out all the tasks assigned for each day. It gives me a sense of pleasure to complete a task and to be able to cross it out from the list. It’s a task closure but I can still see it on the paper. All those online mumbo-jumbo checklists don’t appeal to me at all, as it is so easy to move a task from one day to another, from one list to another - and once a task is completed, it’s like it never existed.

Knowing & Using The Current Project Management Software

Project Management Tools

PM software can be your strongest ally in getting the project delivered, but it only works if you, the project manager, know it inside out. There are many different types of software out there and they all work. I’m not particularly attached to any of them but I can make any of them work for me and the team: Wrike, Asana, Basecamp, Jira.

Planning, Planning and (More) Planning

Even if I am tempted to give in to the procrastinator in me, I always have a backup plan. If task A is not done today, then task B and C need to be done and I will get back on task A the next day. My next day is planned in detail, but the further in future, the more vague the task descriptions become. The same applies to planning tasks for the team. Tasks for the next week should be clearly defined with a lot of detail, but tasks for weeks ahead can be less detailed. I don’t try to describe all the tasks in minute detail for the whole duration of the project, as things can and do change in the process, that is what is called the planning horizon.

But …

I’ve been procrastinating about writing this article for a couple of weeks now. This week it has been one of my unmovable big tasks and it has finally gotten done. Now it is time for a reward (one of the self-bribes mentioned above) – a cup of coffee with a biscuit, before I get back to the whirlpool of trying to get things done.


Joanna Chwiejczak

Project Manager
Joanna is the Project Manager for Grow. She works on all website projects from inception to launch, and ensures that each website meets world class standards in terms of development and design.

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