Are You a Jogger or a Sprinter?

I just learned that the week of March 6-12 is National Procrastination Week.   I wish I could see the range of reactions to this!  It seems there is a national week and a special named day for anything and everything now a days, from National Hamburger Day (May 28) to Hug your Cat Day (June 4) to National Flower Week (3rd week of September).  There are so many special days that the list can go on and on, but let’s not steer off course in discussing all the other National Days because although it would be fun, that would simply be…procrastinating!

Procrastination by definition is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished.  It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.

We all procrastinate at some point in our lives, some people more so than others, and some of us do it all the time.  But why does procrastination have such a bad rap?  As long as you get your tasks done on time then what is the big deal?  Why is it that people sometimes feel bad about procrastinating and why do others make procrastinators feel bad?

We are all unique individuals and have our own way of working and approaching tasks.  Some of us work better by doing things little by little over time while others do their best work by waiting until the last possible minute to start on a task.  Neither approach is better than the other.  What is important to focus on is which approach works best for you in whatever situation you are in.  Just because someone procrastinates doesn’t mean that they’re not as good at their job when compared to someone who rarely procrastinates.

In one of my first organizing courses I learned about an intuitive concept – the difference between a jogger and a sprinter.  These concepts come from Wilma Fellman, author of “Finding a Career That Works for You”.

Jogger: When faced with a deadline or project, a jogger breaks the project down into small tasks and does a little at a time until the project is complete.  They take a steady approach to projects and complete them in a more predictable manner.  Joggers will oftentimes finish the project well before the assigned deadline.

Sprinter: A sprinter will typically pay no attention to the project for days or weeks.  They tend to work on tasks in bursts of energy and will oftentimes have lapses of time when they’re not working on the project.  Sprinters tend to start the project right before the deadline and will do most of the work in one long session until the task is complete.

I find these action styles very interesting and have learned that neither is better or correct.  Keep in mind that working with a Jogger when you’re a Sprinter, and vice versa, can sometimes be challenging because they’re such different work styles and approaches to time management.  Joggers have to be patient with Sprinters and trust that the work will get done eventually and not immediately.  Sprinters might have to explain their work style with Joggers at times so that their pace isn’t interpreted as laziness or purposeful in any way.

The idea of Joggers and Sprinters can be applied to any kind of deadline, project, task, and of course organizing.  I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly ok to be a Sprinter, or a procrastinator as it is more commonly referred to.  Whether you are procrastinating during National Procrastination Week or anytime of the year for that matter, focus on how you can be a better Sprinter or Jogger.  Sprinters can work on giving themselves enough time to meet deadlines, just in case a single burst of energy at the last minute isn’t enough.  And Joggers can work on being flexible when the designated time for working ahead may need to be postponed for something more urgent.

So are you a Jogger or a Sprinter?  Share your thoughts on how these concepts apply to your life and work in the comments section.