March 12, 2019 All

Kill Procrastination – Three Ways to Meet Project Deadlines Every Time

Brad Holt
Brand Author

IT project managers have the same challenges that other project managers have. I wrote about the top 10 challenges in a previous article: “What are the Top 10 IT Project Management Challenges?”. Now let’s look at each challenge and explore ways on how to overcome them.


Deadlines are a narrow field of time by which an objective must be accomplished. Think of it as a to do list with a set completion date or time. Typical deadlines that a project manager will encounter are status report submissions, change requests, updating the Gantt chart, and the like. Each week a project manager needs to be on top of their projects and be able to discuss them at a moment’s notice. When you skip a deadline, you miss two opportunities. One, verifying the status of the project, and two, being able to communicate that status to the project team, stakeholders, and other people you serve.


Master the discipline of the project. What is the cadence of the tasks that need to be done? Do you need to send out a status report weekly or daily? How often do you get financial data to update your budget? Are the reports you need automatically sent to you or are they in a place where you need to download them and review? These are some of the things that need to be figured out, especially when you just join a PMO.


I went to LinkedIn to get some more deadlines that some project managers have:


Kiron Bondale, expert at dispelling the fog surrounding PM practices and agile, gave me several deadlines that we put off doing until the last minute. Milestones, request, and status reports are all potential deadlines that project managers must keep on top of to be effective project managers.

Jason Orloske VP of Operations at ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd, provided some more deadlines. Compliance mandates from the government are very important deadlines, I have seen projects lose funding because these reports were not complete. In Agile, missing a sprint deadline. That seems to be a mortal sin when you are the scrum master, and it can push out the delivery of a product or solution.


Thanks for your input.


So how do we stop procrastinating on deadlines that we need to meet? Remember that adding value to the company means getting your work done on time. Before we can figure out how to stop, what triggers procrastination? Harvard Business Review identified some reasons why we procrastinate. Here are seven triggers that project managers can get that spur on procrastination:

  • Boring
  • Frustrating
  • Difficult
  • Ambiguous
  • Unstructured
  • Not intrinsically rewarding (i.e., you don’t find the process fun)
  • Lacking in personal meaning

Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle says ”On a neurological level, procrastination is not the slightest bit logical — it’s the result of the emotional part of your brain, your limbic system, strong-arming the reasonable, rational part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex. The logical part of your brain surrenders the moment you choose Facebook over work, or decide to binge another episode of House of Cards when you get home.”


So now we know why we procrastinate, how do we stop?


First, think differently about the task that you do not want to do. As a Project Manager, closing out a project is one of those tasks that I procrastinate on. The process encompasses going around to all the stakeholders to have the difficult conversation about whether the project is done. Turn it around. The execution is complete, the company is receiving the value of the project team’s effort. Now it is time to communicate that to the stakeholders. Celebrate the victory of completion.


Second, work within your resistance levels of procrastination. Let’s say that you have a deadline to submit a status report to the stakeholders. I try to have at least one status report a week to my major stakeholders. If I have a lot of projects, that means a lot of status reports. I set a timer on my watch to count down 30 minutes and begin work, knowing that in 30 minutes I will take a break and start again. Guess what, at the end of the 30 minutes, I am still working and getting more done.  My resistance level was 30 minutes of work. The act of getting started gave me the momentum to get more done. So, at the end of the morning, I had all status reports completed, saved and ready to communicate at the status meeting.


Here is a big one for you. Instead of getting started, take out a pen and paper and list what will happen when you do not get started. Look at the triggers and think to yourself, if I do not get this done what will happen. It could be lost time, not billing an hour, the project will slip, others will not know what to do, and there are many items that can go on this list. Funny thing is that when you start to make this list, you quickly realize that you need to focus on the task at hand and you begin to work on it.


Lastly, if you are like me, and I like to think I am as normal as the rest of you (except my height) you can get distracted by many things. Things that you subscribe to, things that pop up on the screen, things that beep, bing, or vibrate to get your attention. I got one word for you. Disconnect. Turn it off. Only have the one program open on your computer to get the work done. Then focus on that program. The other stuff can wait. As a correlation to this, timebox your distractions, but remember to log out of them when the time ends.


There are ways to overcome the procrastination problem. Next time you find yourself starting up Netflix or Hulu to avoid work, ask yourself how you can think about the task differently. Get up and do 10 jumping jacks and go towards the work. Just do a small piece of it, the momentum will carry you forward. Make sure you disconnect from all distractions when you start.


If you liked this article, take a moment and share it with someone that you think might benefit. Follow me on Linkedin so you can receive more Project Leadership advice. I have been a Project Manager for over 15 years and worked in many different Project management Offices. #PMO #ProjectLeadership #ProjectManagement #PMP #ITProjects

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