In a previous job, I had a brilliant assistant. He was awesome. However, he was terrible for procrastination at work. He’d leave the toughest tasks until the last minute and end up stuck in the office until 9 pm. Then complain to me that he had too much work and why wasn’t I working these ridiculous long hours?
The problem wasn’t that the work was unfairly split. What was happening was that I was working effectively and not procrastinating, and unfortunately he just wasn’t. I knew I had to do something to help him, as he was such a good assistant, so I developed a training programme for preventing procrastination at work.
The Causes of Procrastination at Work
1/5 of adults and 1/2 of students are estimated to suffer from procrastination. There are a number of causes for this procrastination.
- Your Personality
Studies show a correlation with those who have either a neurotic or conscientious personality.Neurotic personalities tend to worry about making a mistake, leading to them putting off the task until they absolutely have to do it. Conscientious personalities are more concerned with producing a perfect piece of work, again leading to procrastination via excessive planning or redrafting.
- Poor Time Management
Not planning time properly, can lead to an assumption that a task with a longer deadline doesn’t need starting at the time it is assigned. When newer short term tasks come in this list of things to do grows and grows continually putting off the initial longer task.
- Previous Experience
Perhaps you’ve done a similar task before and it didn’t go well. This can lead to a reluctance to get on with the task in hand and procrastinate at work.
- Fear of Failure or Acknowledging Your Weaknesses
I confess this is something I’ve been guilty of. I put off starting this blog because I feared I would be bad at it. And I’m not alone. Fear of failure is a common reason people procrastinate at work. The thought of having your work thought of as poor can be paralysing for many.
- Stress or Lack of Self-Care
If you are already stressed and not taking good care of yourself, you may be procrastinating further. This creates a vicious cycle of continued stress and procrastination.
The Consequences of Procrastination at Work
Procrastination can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance. Last minute deadlines and heavy built up workloads result in working long hours, as well as having the tasks continually on your mind.
Furthermore, this way of working can certainly contribute to stress and anxiety. The continual pressure of incomplete tasks, compounded by colleagues or clients questioning why work isn’t complete, results in a lack of sleep, feelings of dread, and overall tension.
At it’s most extreme, procrastination at work can lead to the loss of a promotion, client, or in some cases your job. Continually failing to meet deadlines gives you a poor professional reputation. By procrastinating you don’t just let yourself down, you let those working with you down too.
5 Approaches to Overcoming Procrastination at Work
- Eat the frog first
Sounds crazy right? Who would want to eat a frog? But let’s imagine you’re in a survivor-style competition. To win £10,000 you need to eat three things; a chocolate bar, a cream cake, and a frog. You eat the delicious candy bar. Then down goes the cake. Now by the time you get to the frog it feels like the hardest thing to eat ever. So eat the frog first and you know you’ll have the candy bar and cake afterwards. It’s a much easier challenge. The same goes with your tasks – do the toughest task first, and the rest will seem like a breeze.
- Get a routine in place
Automating your day helps you to keep on top of the regular tasks without forgetting or running out of time. Routines help you work your best and also reduce stress.
- Consider the worst case scenario
If you have fear of failure consider the following – what is the worst case scenario if you do this piece of work? You might need to redo the work once or twice. Maybe you’ll identify a training need. You could even learn something new. Now compare this to the worst case scenario of not doing the work at all. Which scenario sounds better?
- Get a motivation buddy
This could be a good friend, your spouse, a colleague, or even your boss. A person who will get you motivated to get the job done. Ask them to prompt you to talk about your task and encourage you to get it done.
- Take care of yourself
Alleviate stress by taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing. Take regular breaks, and spend your evening doing something you enjoy. Get plenty of sleep, eat well, and drink lots of water. Limit your alcohol and prescription intake.