procrastinatingThere is procrastinating, and then there is deferring tasks. Understanding the difference between the two is important in terms of productivity.  Let’s explore the differences to determine how to work with both to increase productivity.


Definition according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:

‘to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done’

Let’s face it, we are all guilty of procrastinating on tasks ‘that should be done’, especially those that we don’t want to do. Whether they are work tasks or personal tasks, it’s the same.  There are reasons we do this and it may be different for each of us depending on the task.

The task may not be urgent, and you have others that take priority, so it goes to the bottom of your to-do list. You may not know where to start, or the steps needed to get it done. If you are a perfectionist, you may think that you can never get it perfect so why start. It could be that you are distracted by something more pleasurable like a video clip of funny cats on YouTube. Some people work better under pressure, so they wait until the last minute.

Whatever the task, or the reason, there are some things to be mindful of in order to get past the act of procrastinating.

  • Schedule all tasks and prioritize them. Higher priority tasks are scheduled first, then lower priority tasks come next. That way, all tasks get done in the appropriate order. Don’t overload your daily schedule. Be realistic about how much you can get done in one day.
  • Seek help in determining the necessary steps to complete the task if you’ve never done it before, or you are in a state of overwhelm. You don’t have to do this alone. Co-workers, family, and friends, as well as the internet are all good resources.
  • If you are a perfectionist, work on changing your mindset to accept a ‘good enough’ attitude. Try lowering your standards. Frequently put yourself in uncomfortable small situations to challenge yourself. Try sending an email without proofreading it 50 times before you hit send, get dressed without checking yourself in the mirror multiple times, leave the dinner dishes in the sink overnight, etc.
  • Eliminate known distractions that will keep you from working on your tasks. Whatever it is that may divert your attention from what you need to do. Maybe turn off digital alerts from your phone or other devices.
  • For those that work better under pressure and wait until the last minute to get things done, go with that concept if it works for you. You are working with procrastination instead of fighting it.

Deferring Tasks

Definition according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:

‘put off, delay’

Both procrastinating and deferring tasks are putting them off for a later time. The difference is, that when you procrastinate doing something, it may or may not ever get done.

Deferring tasks is sometimes a necessary part of planning and scheduling.  Depending on the project you’re working on, there may be dependencies that need to be done first.

Sometimes it’s something we haven’t done before so there’s no frame of reference, and we’re using our best guess as to the tasks and scheduling required. Down the road, as the plan unfolds, it may come to light that some tasks need to be deferred to someone else, or at a later time.

When a task is dependent on someone else, you may need to reschedule, or defer the task based on that person’s schedule. Deferring tasks is more closely related to rescheduling tasks, as opposed to procrastinating.