Dear PM Advisor. Mar 31, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, I'm very good at breaking down a big project into smaller, manageable chunks. But my main hindrance is the procrastination. I put off the work for a later time. Any tips to overcome this issue?


The late Robert from China

Dear Robert,

It has been my experience that people react to urgent activities before they react to important activities. Perhaps it is built into our DNA. We were bred to run from the lion before planting wheat for the winter food supply.

One finding we have discovered in Project Management is that activities scheduled for three weeks or more are more likely to come in late. When faced with a deadline that far into the future, people will work on activities with a nearer deadline rather than the further one, regardless of the effect on the critical path.

How do we deal with this? Simply by breaking down these activities into sub tasks and sub tasks into work packages until the lowest level of detail results in a task that is scheduled to take no longer than three weeks.

In most cases this is quite easy but there are two exceptions which can be dealt with in different ways.

  1. The activity that must take 3 months like aging studies. Simply put the product on the shelf or in the incubator and set an alarm on your calendar to take them out and examine or test them on that date. Those tasks won't come in late because you are typically waiting until the second you can remove them and test to see if they still work..
  2. The vendor with a six month lead time. Try to ask them to break down their activities to the sub task level so that you can follow up closely on their progress. But they may not do it. Therefore, you need to manage this activity closer than other activities on the project. Call them often to ask about their progress. Visit them. Be a pain in their side so that the only way they can get rid of you is by finishing the activity.
This should help you with late activities throughout the team. But you admitted that you are the procrastinator so how can I help you with your problem?
Once you have broken your activities into smaller than three week units, work on those that are on the critical path. Be honest about the %complete these activities are on a daily basis. For example, if the activity is scheduled to last two weeks, every day you should be 10% further along. Set yourself a goal to exceed that percentage and give yourself a little reward if you achieve that goal. If you get behind on one day, you don't get the reward unless you completely catch up the following day.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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