Procrastination – the art of delaying important or unfavourable jobs and filling one’s time with less pressing tasks, or outright distractions.
Most of us have been guilty of procrastination at some point or another. Household chores, managing the finances, and even booking medical appointments are just some of the numerous duties we shirk. Instead, we find ourselves scrolling through our phones, checking our emails, watching TV, reading, and filling our time with more enjoyable activities. However, when procrastination finds its way into the workplace, it can significantly impact on productivity and performance.
Why is procrastination at work a problem?
The reason procrastinating at work could be perceived as more problematic than in our day-to-day life, is that it can have an impact beyond the individual. Consistently avoiding or delaying tasks can lead to:
- Work piling up and getting out of hand
- A knock-on effect, impacting other colleagues
- Clients or customers losing confidence
- Negative impacts on profits
- Disciplinary action against the procrastinator
- Losing one’s position
Tips for conquering procrastination
The first step in defeating procrastination is acknowledging that you are guilty of it. Once you become aware that you tend to defer responsibilities you can begin to get back on track.
1. Understand why
Once you have accepted you procrastinate, you next need to understand why you do so. Is the task too difficult? Does it go against your beliefs, or cause you emotional distress? Perhaps you don’t know where to start? Or maybe, it is simply unenjoyable? By establishing WHY you avoid certain tasks, you can better decide how to tackle them.
2. Set deadlines
Setting deadlines, even unofficial ones, can spur you into action by creating a sense of urgency. Tim Urban’s Ted Talk offers a delightful analogy and explains how deadlines can activate the 'panic monster'.
3. Remove distractions
Distractions come in many forms, from electronic devices to our own family members. Removing distractions where possible can help you stay focussed on the task at hand. If you find yourself distracted by the conversation of colleagues, consider popping in your headphones and listening to motivational music. Is your mobile your vice? Leave it in your bag or commit to switching to airplane mode for a portion of your day. Alternatively, if you work from home, perhaps using a shared office space can offer you the environment you need in order to focus.
If the task is too complex, or, you just don’t like it, then perhaps you could delegate. Appointing someone else to do jobs we don’t enjoy is not uncommon, hiring a gardener or cleaner for example. However, it is important to delegate responsibly and ethically. Passing tasks onto our colleagues must be justified and sufficiently rewarded, and not simply a way to pass the buck.
5. Seek help
When a task is challenging and leaves you shying away from it, then ask for support! There is no shame in admitting we need help sometimes, and the sooner we get advice or assistance, the sooner we can tick that project off our to-do lists.
"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."