Sophisticated (hidden) Procrastination. And, How to avoid it?

Playing the meta game and not the actual game is another form of procrastination.

Sakthitharan S
3 min readMar 29, 2023

Playing the Meta Game and not the actual game is another form of procrastination

Procrastination comes in many shapes and sizes. Most of them are apparently bad, yet some of them don’t look like procrastination.

Sophisticated Procrastination is hiding the procrastination by doing the things around the work but not exactly doing the actual work. Thus getting a sense of false fulfillment by doing them.

Working around the work? What is it?

Work requires one thing, and that is doing that. Taking action to complete it. Maybe in some cases a little planning or research. A little and necessary amount of research is good.

Scenarios like Planning on how to do the work, calculating all the possibilities, buying proper tools/apps for it, searching for multiple methods to execute it, setting up a system for similar work that may or may not come in the future, analyzing the different approaches, mentally calculating the accuracy of outcome in different possibilities, worrying about the influence of the environment, tweaking the parameters of external environment before working on the actual work, building a system before starting work, trying different systems for perfection, looking out for different strategies used by other popular figures or experts, etc, etc.

This is called the Meta Game. 1 (No, not the Facebook company)

Sophisticated Procrastination involves in focusing on the Meta Game (the game about the game) but not on the actual game.

Out of 100 tasks we carry out, only 2 to 5 tasks need very good strategic planning. Those few, novel projects need planning, approach, and strategy.

Why do we do this?

Maybe fear of failure (in some cases) to act on the task or project. Over aspiration to perfection. (Leaning more on using the perfect system, methods, and strategies instead of believing in your abilities.) and many more. You know them from your personal experience.

But the actual reason is,

You want to avoid the guilty feeling of procrastination. And you get a sense of (false) fulfillment by doing this. Sophisticated procrastination creates the feeling that you’re actually working on the task while you’re not. The apparency is deceiving here.

People who look for the best productivity methods, best productivity systems, and best personal knowledge management systems fall into this category if they do it frequently.

Note: Check Tools Repo where I listed the most useful methods, mental models, and systems to start with. (It gets updated frequently, so Subscribe to my newsletter, Snippetter to be on track with the top 1% achievers)

How to avoid this?

You can avoid procrastinating sophisticatedly by changing your mindset. The following mindset may help you.

Prioritise “Progress over Perfection”.

Allow your products to have 20% imperfections and ship them immediately. Allow yourself to be a little imperfect. Read my article on Pareto Hack to understand why you don’t have to cover the last 20%.

Sharpen your axes, but sharpening them is not the job. It is not even part of the job.

Remember, Anything that doesn’t complete the task is not work. Do not consider preparation as work. It is just a warm-up.

No need to waste your precious time searching for the perfect system, perfect methodologies, and the perfect approach. It doesn’t exist. When trying new methods, use them in actual work.

Build a system while you work on the project and add features as your work needs them.

If you’re strategically planning your projects, stay away from your tools and apps. Meditate on it at a separate time. Always keep in mind, you didn’t start the work yet.


  1. Metagame, hypergame,1 or game about the game, is an approach to a game that transcends or operates outside of the prescribed rules of the game, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. — Wikipedia