The Fine Line Between Procrastination and Prioritization

A key project has been heavy on my mind. It’s something I’ve been working on for a very long time. ‘Working’ being a generous way of describing the intent of doing something where action is clearly lacking.

A number of things have gotten in the way. It's the usual suspects – a heavy work schedule, family commitments and a general malaise from not having achieved anything substantial to date. Thinking about it at length, I realized I was battling myself on two different fronts – prioritization and procrastination.

Was I prioritizing it? No, this was clearly at the bottom of the list. I know it is important for me to accomplish but not terribly urgent given it’s a self-imposed objective. So, I let the excuses rule. Was I procrastinating? Yes. Let’s be clear about that.

That’s when it hit me that it could have been one or the other or maybe, it was both. I realized that the line between prioritizing and procrastinating was a fine one indeed. So, having spent some time distilling this myself, I’ve come to some conclusions as to how you can tell these two apart :

Are You Delaying or Arranging?

Procrastinating is dawdling, delaying or postponing. Prioritizing  is arranging, itemizing or working things out. Both are intentional behaviors in the sense that it is something you do as opposed to something done to you.

It would be a lie to believe that life simply happens to you. Yes, life does happen but you have a choice as to how it happens to you. You choose what you will do. If you choose to allow things to get in the way or prevent you from the task at hand, accept that you’ve decided to do it that way instead of arguing that it was done to you.

So, what are you doing? Are you allowing this to happen to you so that you can give y

ourself an excuse to do what you want to do anyway?

Now? Or Later?

Procrastinating is putting something off for a later time and urgency is rarely the order of the day. Prioritizing is about identifying what is important to you and deciding the order in which you will give it your time or attention.

Procrastinating is about driving down to the bottom of the list what is not important to you. When you procrastinate, you may identify a relatively loose time frame to get something done and at other times, you leave the things you don’t want to deal with to a later time which usually means that they really will not get done at all.

Prioritizing is about bringing to the top of your list what is important to you. When you prioritize, you decide what gets your attention when.

You Decide

When it come to procrastination and prioritization, you need to know which you are embracing and whether you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Ensure when you procrastinate that it’s because it is a lesser priority and not something you don’t want to do deal with. Ensure when you prioritize something lower down your list that it’s not because it’s something you’re procrastinating instead. Procrastinating somehow connotes that it is something you need to do, yet are failing to do. There is an element of negativity attached.

Failing to call it right will more likely have an emotional toll on you.

About the author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters Magazine. A lawyer by training, Rowena left practice to embrace her entrepreneurial spirit and has not looked back since. She maintains a blog at Rowena Morais Posterous.

Photo credit iStockphoto


About the Author

Rowena Morais

Editor and Program Director at, a media and learning organisation, Rowena Morais is an entrepreneur, writer and editor. She supports Human Resource and Technology professionals in their career development through articles, podcasts, interviews and a range of internationally accredited, in-demand technical and professional courses offered throughout Asia Pacific and the Middle East. A ghostwriter, you can also find out more about Rowena at Rowena tweets at @rowenamorais.