Procrastination is so commonplace that it is something that nearly everyone suffers from at least once in their lives.
There are tons of information about it, books, studies, research… This just speaks of the magnitude of the problem. And it is a problem that everyone has experienced, but few talk about.
If you experience procrastination at your job, it can have a serious impact on your job performance. Fortunately, we have done the research and put together this guide on how to stop procrastination in the workplace.
Let's get started.
Humans are a bit short-sighted time-wise. We feel that a smaller reward now is better than a bigger one sometime in the future. Especially if we think we can have both.
Procrastination is based on that same premise. There are well-known excuses (or lies) that we tell ourselves so that we can feel better (or less bad) about procrastinating. The classics are:
1. I work better under pressure
2. I’ll need a few uninterrupted hours to do this, and I don’t have that time now
3. I’m not in the mood / I’m not inspired
4. I’ll be better prepared sometime in the future
Another good reason for procrastinating is - it is really easy to get distracted. Most of us work on a computer with internet access.
With the promise of fun and laughter only a few clicks away, who would want to start working on something difficult that can take hours?
First, let’s get rid of the “excuses”.
The odds are that most of the people do not work better under pressure. It’s just a trick that our mind plays on us making us remember that one time in college when we got a great grade on an essay we did the night before.
The other 9 times when we didn’t get a good grade on the-night-before-essay are not so clear in our memory.
This might be true, but the untrue part is that it can’t be done otherwise. For most tasks, it doesn’t take more a few minutes to start them.
Once you’ve started them, all tasks seem less overwhelming than they did prior to the beginning.
The famous painter Picasso said it the best. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Start working now and chances are, you will get in the mood to excel and get the job done right.
If you don’t start doing something now, you’ll be at the same place tomorrow, next week or next month. The only way to move forward is by doing.
Now that the excuses are dealt with, how can we make the whole process more enjoyable?
If you regularly watch sports on a Sunday night or have a relaxing bath on Tuesdays at 10 p.m., then the term “Sunday night” or “Tuesday at 10” become synonymous with the enjoyment you feel.
You can do that with working. When your mind plays tricks on you with your memory, it is only fair for you to play tricks on it to make working a much more enjoyable experience.
You can link a task you avoid doing with something you enjoy. That way you get both the immediate enjoyment and the pleasure of finishing a task.
You can listen to your favorite music only when you are sorting the files on your desk. You can drink your coffee only when going through the heaps of emails in your inbox. You could even try making your coffee breaks even sweeter by convincing your boss to buy the office one of these fancy espresso makers.
You can eat a bite of chocolate whenever you finish a page of paperwork. Alternatively, you can work the other way around.
Tell your boss that you’ll finish that project by the end of the day, even though the deadline is still a week away. This would have a two-fold purpose: You get to test if you really work under pressure.
And secondly, if you don’t do it, you come off as an inefficient worker, and you let the team down. Maybe place a bet with a coworker – whoever finishes their project first gets coffee from the “loser”.
If you aren’t ready for these steps, you can limit the time you are procrastinating.
Like any old habit – procrastination is pretty hard to kick. But if you recognize yourself as a procrastinator, get used to living with it. Plan your day having procrastination in mind.
Allow yourself an hour or two to go for a walk or plan time to watch an episode from your favorite show before work or browse some of the popular social media networks, if that’s your thing.
Some of the most popular social network sites have built-in time tracking that shows you how much time you’ve wasted on there.
When you see that you have been looking at funny cat videos for the last 35 minutes you are bound to feel compelled to get some work done.
Now, when you’ve turned off social media and video sharing sites, go to the next step.
Starting a large project with the end goal in mind is always detrimental. Instead of thinking of finishing the project, separate it into small attainable goals.
This also serves two purposes. The first one is when you get to finish a milestone in a project you get pleasure from your accomplishment.
The second one is that when you’ve accomplished something you get momentum going forward and you’re more likely to finish another small milestone from the project.
The milestone can be finishing a step in the project you’re working on, or it can be just a decision to work 15, 25, 30 minutes on a given project.
Additionally, try utilizing special tools to stay organized at work. They can drastically improve your efficiency and stop procrastination.
Well, what if I really believe that I work better under pressure? Or that I need to be in the right mood to finish a task? If I get it done, then it’s all the same, right?
Sadly, the answer is no. There are quite a few studies done that link chronic procrastination to serious health issues (anything from constipation, to a weakened immune system).
It is expected that procrastination creates stress (when the previously put-off tasks are due) and stress can be blamed for anything and everything.
Additionally, it can have an awful effect on your job performance, thus preventing you from excelling at your job, which can affect your entire life.
Whichever method you choose to try, do try something now. Stop procrastinating on your procrastination!