Friday, April 29, 2016

Dealing with Procrastination in the Workplace

Procrastination is the thief of time - unknown defines procrastination as “putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.”  My favourite definition is from Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines Procrastination as “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.”  Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the "last minute" before a deadline. People may procrastinate work obligations, such as, completing a report or a specific task, thereby leading to goals not being achieved and/or deadlines missed. Procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt.

So why do people procrastinate? Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, identified three main reasons to procrastinate:
1. To feel the adrenaline rush - some employees like the feeling of accomplishing a goal and cutting it close, so they put things off to get their blood pumping.

2.  To avoid the situation out of fear of something - Others are afraid that they’ll disappoint their co-workers and boss with poor results so they avoid working on a project.

3. To avoid making a decision - Some workers just want to avoid making a decision entirely because then they’ll have to take responsibility for whichever option they choose.

You might be wondering whether there are consequences to procrastination. Of course, there are three things that come to mind when employees procrastinate in the workplace:
1.  It puts the workload on others. Considering that people work in teams in the workplace, the likelihood that the delayed work will be transferred to another person to complete is very high, as the company would want to meet its obligations to its clients. This is a case of one employees non-delivery on time becomes the emergency of another, thereby leading to resentment of the employee who procrastinates.

2.  It creates anxiety which could lead to errors. The employee who waits till the last minute will become anxious when the deadline draws closer, and could even make mistakes in the course of trying to beat time. When these errors occur, the work would have to be reworked. Sometimes, because a particular employee is fond of procrastinating, it could lead to the whole team being worked up and anxious that the job will not get done. This is a great source of high blood pressure which could have been avoided if the task or job was delivered way ahead of time.

3.  Things don’t get done. When an employee is fond of delivering just at the nick of time, one day he/she might not deliver leading to work not done and could cost the company so much money, credibility and reputation.

Having examined what procrastination is all about and its consequence, it is appropriate at this time to review practical ways to dealing with procrastination in the work place.  I have had to proscrastinate at one time or the other. I will share some of the personal steps that I had taken which worked for me, and will work for anyone who is interested in dealing with procrastination:
1.  Break your work into small pieces. Sometimes, when we look at the task we are given to accomplish, it might look so big and overwhelming, hence we procrastinate. The secret to completing the task is to break this overwhelming task into small pieces and then complete each piece at a time. Before you know it, you would have completed the whole task easily.

2.  Change your environment and workspace. Your environment and workspace could make you productive or otherwise. A clean and organised work space improves your productivity, while a disorganised and littered workspace would make you feel overwhelmed, disorganised and unproductive.

3.  Create a detailed timeline with specific deadlines. As pointed out in step 1 where you are expected to break your goal into small pieces, you need to have deadlines for each of these small pieces of task that would lead to the completion of the overall goal.  This therefore means that you would have one global deadline with small pieces deadlines that cover monthly, weekly and daily tasks until the goal is achieved.

4.  Eliminate distractions that could lead to procrastination. You need to disable email notifications and message alerts from your phone that are likely to distract you when you are working on a task. Have specific time when you check your messages e.g. after completing a particular small piece of the global task.

5.  Hang out with people who inspire you to be productive. This could be a face to face hangout or reading their works in order to learn habits of how to be productive and successful, especially in achieving task and getting work done well and on time. Before you know it, you would be living out these habits.

6.  Get a buddy whom you can share your goal with. Select a buddy who also has goals to achieve. This will help both of you to hold each other accountable of your goals and plans.

7.  Seek out role models. Seek out people who have accomplished the goal you are currently working on in order to find out how they did it. This will help you learn and believe in yourself that since this goal has been accomplished by someone else, then it is possible for you to accomplish same.

8.  Stop looking for a perfect time. There is no perfect time to carry out a task. If you are waiting for a perfect time, you might end up not doing anything. If you have a job to do, just start and keep at it until you complete the job.

When employees are in the habit of procrastinating all the time, this could be a sign that the employee lacks time management skills and/or lacks the capacity to actually deliver on the goal or task assigned.  In the words of Alex Elle, I would like to conclude that “It's never too late to start over. If you weren't happy with yesterday, try something different today. Don't stay stuck. Do better.”



  1. Delivering at the nick of time is almost inevitable. Especially when you have task that weighs above working hours. I agree that it shouldn't be habitual also.

    Great piece!

    1. Thank you Id Kuti for leaving a comment on this article.

  2. Great article!

  3. Every Article I have read here has been exceptional. You're doing a great job

  4. Very educative article. Thanks sir

  5. Very nice article... i really grasp something from this write up. Keep it up Boss!

  6. Am also a victim of procrastination. Reading this article has really opened my eyes to certain things.I am going to work on myself