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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Procrastination in the Workplace

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Procrastination in the Workplace

Inefficiencies are the enemy of productivity in the workplace. Organisations normally address inefficiencies in process pretty quickly, but often forget to account for personal ineffectiveness.

One of the biggest time wasters is procrastination and it can affect almost every employee at some point in time. Understanding how to address and overcome procrastination is an important step to ensuring productivity in the workplace stays at a maximum.

What is procrastination?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, procrastination is:

“The act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring.”

The basic premise of procrastination is the overall avoidance of working on a task that needs to be accomplished. If you procrastinate regularly, you become very good at ‘leaving things to the last minute’ or you may even put a task off for so long that you forget all about it.

Procrastination will often lead to poor quality work and extra workplace stress as you struggle to get a task done in a narrowed time frame.

What does procrastination look like?

Procrastination in the workplace can take on many forms such as:

  • Spending too much time on emails;

  • Watching the clock and putting off work till it must be done;

  • Taking excessive breaks;

  • Spending time talking with people rather than focusing on tasks;

  • Focusing on personal tasks while you are at work;

  • Struggling to start a task;

  • Spending too much time daydreaming; or

  • Getting involved in other people’s work/projects at the cost of your own.

What causes procrastination?

It is important to know the main causes of procrastination so that it’s possible to address these issues in order to overcome it. Some of the main causes of procrastination in the workplace are:

  • Fear or anxiety: Letting fear or anxiety of doing something new, or something we are unsure of, impact our ability to start the task.

  • Opting to do it later: Prioritising other things first as there is no set deadline to have the task completed.

  • Completing smaller tasks first: Putting off large tasks in order to get smaller tasks completed first.

  • Lack of motivation: Letting a lack of sleep or energy stop us from working on a task.

  • Lack of training: Putting a task off due to a lack of training, skills or expertise that are needed to complete it.

  • Distractions: Letting distractions such as chatting with colleagues, answering emails, making phone calls etc, prevent us from getting on with a task.

  • Being overwhelmed: Becoming overwhelmed by the work or effort required to complete a task. Sometimes it can feel like you are standing at the base of a mountain that you need to climb and knowing where to start can overwhelm us.

The impact of procrastination:

Procrastination in the workplace can lead to a number of negative impacts, such as:

  • Major inefficiencies within your team/department;

  • Missed deadlines, deliveries or even lost customers;

  • Ongoing stress in the workplace if your procrastination causes tight deadlines;

  • Needing to work overtime as a result of poor time management in order to meet deadlines; and

  • Being performance managed.

Strategies for overcoming procrastination:

By working to overcome procrastination you can become a more effective employee and prevent the negative impacts that can come hand-in-hand with it.

Addressing procrastination does not mean that you have to take on every task immediately, but it can mean making some changes to the way that you manage your time.

Some strategies for dealing with procrastination are:

  • Use a schedule for your time during the day and try to stick to it as much as possible;

  • Prioritise your tasks so that the most important task is completed first (even if it is not the task you would rather do first);

  • If you don’t know where to start, just start anywhere. There is no rule saying you must start at a certain point. Start with the parts you can do and hopefully you will become more motivated along the way;

  • Don’t leave the worst task until last, it is better to do it first and get it out of the way. Finishing it so you can move on should be motivation;

  • Set yourself a goal to complete the task and then reward yourself with a treat/reward of some sort, this might be going for a short break or doing a task you really enjoy;

  • Ask for help from others or delegate tasks to others; and

  • Think about why you are completing the task; this might be to get paid, to improve your products or services or to receive recognition from your manager. Often these reasons can motivate us enough to get moving.

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