27 Tips On How to Deal with Procrastination at the WorkPlace
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again, you’re not alone. In fact, many people procrastinate to some degree – but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it stops them fulfilling their potential and disrupts their careers.
The key to controlling this destructive habit is to recognise when you start procrastinating, understand why it happens (even to the best of us), and take active steps to manage your time and outcomes better.
What Is Procrastination?
In a nutshell, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favour of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.
According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent writer on the subject, procrastination occurs when there’s “a temporal gap between intended behaviour and enacted behaviour.” That is, when there’s a significant time period between when people intend to do a job, and when they actually do it.
How to Overcome Procrastination. Follow these steps to deal with and control procrastination:
Tip # 1 Job description is your main guide
You got that much coveted job. It’s tailored fit to your skills and experience. The perfect job, congratulations!
So as not to procrastinate in this new job the way you did in the previous one, sit down and examine your job closely with a fine-toothed comb. Assess what the priorities might look like, and what the most difficult tasks will be, based on your past experience.
Then map out a navigation chart, with AVOID PROCRASTINATING as your guiding principle. Imagine different situations that might occur, and the relationships you need to cultivate and nurture that will help you accomplish your objectives.
Study the short term goals versus the long term goals. Remember: companies measure your performance using certain parameters. One wrong move and it will obliterate all the good deed you did the month before. Don’t give them the satisfaction of labelling you a procrastinator.
Tip # 2 Hone that keen sense of smell
If you’ve developed a strong sense of smell and have judged character with surprising accuracy, use that to your advantage. Try to distinguish the good colleagues from the back stabbers.
It’s easy to receive cooperation from the good ones, harder from the blockers or those who resent you. If hostile feelings are preventing you from doing an effective job, don’t procrastinate because you dislike confrontation.
Deal with the problem. Nip it in the bud, as they say. Try every trick in the book to win their confidence and trust. Help them not to procrastinate so that you don’t procrastinate.
Tip # 3 Procrastinating can lead to tunnel vision
If you analyse a lot, you could get paralysed and stay stuck analysis mode. This could lead to tunnel vision.
If you eliminate procrastination from your life, you avoid tunnel vision. As Jane Smith said, “there is always more than one way to get to where you want to be. Make the effort to look for the alternatives even if they are hard to find at first.” (Successful Work Habits in a Week, Hodder & Stoughton, 2002).
Tip # 4 Learning to say no
Its one thing to try to win your colleagues’ collaboration, playing martyr is another. Learn to say no, no matter how much you like or admire a colleague.
Don’t see the office as the place for cementing friendships. Stick to your agenda and do the work. Keep the emotions of your colleagues – and yours – at bay. If a colleague is in trouble and you’ve helped her in the past, let her deal with it herself this time. Don’t leave a task undone just so you can offer a helping hand to everyone.
Tip # 5 “We’re a great team!”
You have a great team? Good for you. Use it to your advantage. If your team members are performing to your satisfaction, you have more confidence in delegating tasks to them, freeing up considerable time for you to attend to your important duties.
Knowing that you have a team you can rely will make you procrastinate less. Delegate tasks based on each team member’s strength and limitations; it’s one of the more effective ways to obtain results.
Tip # 6 “I’ve got some problems with my team”
It’s not the end of the world. This situation can be salvaged, but it’s up to you to do damage control. Don’t give up on your team members. It will take time to teach them leadership skills. Invest the time now rather than later.
It takes an exceptional leader to get everyone to cooperate and share the same vision. It’s your job to make sure that the team produces for the overall good of the company.
An unhealthy team mired in hostility and aggression is the # 1 barrier to productivity. Many managers have procrastinated in doing their jobs because the team is divided.
Lacking support is the sure way to procrastination, and procrastination equals non-productivity. If you’re busy putting out fires and mending hearts, you might be next in line before firing squad.
Tip # 7 “Urgent” is the flavor of the day
Unless you’re in the business of saving lives, then be wary of managers who say “it’s urgent.” You see this happening everyday in the office.
Workers are pushed to produce busloads of reports. How much of it gets read? A large company produces at least 100 different reports a day.
Take one example. One of the large companies we worked for had at least five different reports on inventory: inventory of return merchandise, inventory of obsolete parts, inventory of parts on allocation, etc. And as the years pass, the inventory spreadsheets on inventory get larger and longer.
While it’s good to sift through reports, it’s also a sign of procrastination. Who said a company will fold up because managers don’t devour the 101 reports a day?
Get to the bottom line. Filter through the essential data and read those. Identify those tasks that are truly urgent.
Tip # 8 Workplace safety
Government authorities are breathing down the necks of companies to implement work safety facilities and procedures. Companies must comply with regulations and must ensure the physical well-being of employees.
If you notice that there are potential causes of accidents in say, the parking lot (e.g. broken bottles, ice, large potholes, sluggish security gates and card readers) report it immediately to the appropriate department. Don’t wait for an accident to happen.
Tip # 9 Get to the bottom of things
If your boss requests that you investigate an incident, do a thorough job, not a half-baked one. Use your detective skills so that you submit a full report giving all the facts and circumstances of the incident. By doing a thorough job the first time, you avoid having to do a re-investigation because there were questions from the boss you couldn’t answer.
Tip # 10 Ah, those back-to-back meetings
There must be something about board rooms and conference rooms that make people gravitate towards them. Is it the mahogany wood, the jelly croissants that are served every morning, the new projector, the cushy leather chairs? Meetings take up a lot of time.
Not that they’re useless, but there are far too many meetings being held. If you take the number of man hours per day that are taken up by meetings, multiply that number by 5 days and then multiply that again by 50 (excluding Christmas and New Year).
Compare that figure to the company’s annual generated revenues. If we took half of those man hours and made managers stay at their desks doing their work, imagine how much more revenues can be earned.
Don’t doubt it – meetings are a great time to daydream and give in to our distractions. It’s a “perfectly legitimate” excuse not to review last month’s accounting expenses that are due soon.
Tip # 11 “You’ve got 28 voice mails” and “you have 55 unread messages”
How much time would it take to go through all those messages? Voice mails and e-mails take you away from your main functions. Deal with the important ones and decide which ones can be dealt with this afternoon, tomorrow, and next week. And do file them away in a sub-folder so they don’t take up visual space on your screen.
Some workers tend to answer each and every message they receive, since it’s a great escape from the real task at hand. For non-urgent matters, devote 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm (when things begin to wind down) for answering non-urgent messages.
Tip # 12 Are you a morning person?
Fitness trainers ask people this question a lot because exercising at a specific time of the day is an effective method for maintaining discipline. The same applies to the office. If you’re a morning person, tackle your difficult responsibilities when you’re most energetic and productive before lunch.
Leave the less essential ones for another time. And then there are some people who like to work through their lunch hours because that’s when they reach peak energy levels; that way they leave the office early to have that extra hour to spend with family.
Tip # 13 Do what you hate most first
There are certain aspects of our job we don’t like. But you need not let these unpleasant tasks derail you. If you make it a daily habit to tackle them first, they become easier for you to do and won’t be as unpleasant. You’ve saved yourself precious minutes by not procrastinating.
Tip # 14 Arrgh, here comes the collection bag again
Do you know how much time is wasted when people go around collecting money for things like birthdays and retirements? The actual celebration takes just as long. If you’re the manager of a department, tone down on the merry-making. Birthdays are meant to be intimate celebrations, not a means to procrastinate. Sign memos instead of hordes of birthday cards!
Tip # 15 Heap praise on a job well done
Employees thrive on positive feedback. A sincere compliment for a job well done is a strong motivator for employees to do even better next time. Be fair in granting salary increases. Promote an employee if he or she deserves it. Happy employees are good for the company’s profit and loss statement.
Tip # 16 And Cy Charney says…
Cy Charney wrote “The Instant manager” (American Management Association – AMACON, 2004) and his thesis was on how to become an effective manager. One of his recommendations was to respect the time of your team members, just as they do yours.
Mr. Charney said, “Don’t ask them to do things that others should be doing, unless it is an emergency. Don’t continuously interrupt them unless absolutely necessary. Let them complete each task.”
Tip # 17 If you’re stuck, ask
Instead of wasting time wracking your brain, be humble and approach a colleague even if she’s a subordinate. Say, “I’m running out of ideas, can you brainstorm with me?” or “I can’t solve this problem. Maybe you see something in it that I don’t?”
Procrastinating in asking for help won’t solve anything, but swallowing our pride can yield tremendous benefits. It makes your colleague feel good, and she can offer a fresh perspective on the problem.
Tip # 18 Hurry, put the punch clock right by the water fountain!
If water fountains could record conversations between office workers, the tape and timer would probably run out. It’s like a tower transmitter that emits data at many kilobytes per second.
If you were to “clock” workers who spend too much time by the water fountain, it becomes apparent who the true procrastinators are. They should be at their desks dealing with the paper work or satisfying irate customers, but no, they avoid angry customers by quenching their thirst and turning it into some kind of art form.
Tip # 19 Office cafeteria: Saturday Night Live!
There are days it doesn’t look like an office cafeteria anymore; it has the air of a cruising bar – and not just on Fridays! Meeting who’s who at the cafeteria is a daily sacred ritual so woe to the person who stands in the way of the socialisation process.
“You need to reach out, interact with human beings, otherwise the company turns into an impersonal arena,” they say defiantly.
Okay, folks. Socialise all you want, while that webcam conference is going on. It’s only the president talking about freezing salaries and downsizing the work force. Lingering in the cafeteria to make small talk is a glaring form of procrastinating. At least you got to agree to this one.
Tip # 20 Birthday bashes take 1-2 hours of planning and celebrating. Do you know how many hours it takes to plan the company Christmas party?
If you pay close attention, some companies actually form committees for purposes of planning the annual Christmas employee party. Five to six members assigned to food and beverage, another three for the live band and perhaps one to four people to think of games and kiosks.
And God forbid, let’s not forget the gift exchange. The Christmas party is a whole movie production of sorts. And obviously an excellent reason to escape the drudgery of memos and customer calls and filling out return merchandise account forms. Procrastination at its most festive!
Tip # 21 “Hey, did you hear about Felicity and her husband? Thirty years of marriage and now this…”
The latest scoop is always the juiciest. In a large company of 5,000 employees, for instance, if you were to tally the number of lovers’ quarrels, miscarriages, divorces, children on drugs, children who dropped out of school, cosmetic procedures done, who’s wearing the latest hi-tech heart pacer and who got terminated, you’d probably come up with an astonishing number.
But there’s no need to take pen and paper to tally up the figures because this is where word of mouth works best. The rumour mill has never been riper and…juicier.
If you try to camouflage your procrastination by pretending to be genuinely concerned about the gruesome details of a divorce or mastectomy, you’re only cheating yourself. Basking in the misery of others is counter productive to professional achievement.
Tip # 22 To echo the martyr idea mentioned earlier…
Mentoring is one of the more valuable contributions you can make to a company. Its positive effects must never be underestimated. Many a successful human being had a mentor or several mentors at different stages of his life.
But anything carried out to excess has a negative effect. If you think you have a sacred duty to mentor your subordinate because you want to develop his potential for a managerial role, then do so. Just don’t do it excessively, or else someone above you will begin to think, “Those who can’t, teach.” Apply the brakes on your predilection for over-mentoring.
Tip # 23 Watch out, if you’re networking to the hilt, this could just be your way of dodging your responsibilities!
Your secretary looks up, surprised, as you bolt out the door. “Where are you off too?” “To my networking club”, you say.
“But that’s where you were all afternoon yesterday!” she persists.
“I belong to another networking club. It’s called diversifying your contacts, my dear. Got to expand those contacts, otherwise, the company can’t sell what’s left in our inventory.”
Go ahead and network, if you must. But if the excess inventory runs out of control, don’t go crying to your networking buddies. They’re not buying any of that excess inventory.
Tip # 24 And if you’re no longer happy on the job…
Don’t procrastinate about leaving and seeking better opportunities elsewhere, if you’re no longer happy on the job. If you and upper management no longer see eye-to-eye on your role in the whole scheme of things, then cut your losses (emotional losses included) and hand in your resignation.
If your salary is your sole means of support, then time your departure in such a way that you have another job waiting for you. Don’t let a regular paycheck or stock options or sheer convenience feed your procrastinating habits.
Tip #25 If you are interrupted often on the job, Smith says, “Remain standing.”
People like to mill in and out of private offices just to make small talk. They’re the classic procrastinators at work. If they enter your office uninvited and appear to be engaging you in idle chatter, here is Jane Smith’s tip (Successful Work Habits, Hodder & Stoughton, 2002): stand up and remain standing. And don’t ask your unwanted visitor to sit down!
Tip # 26 Upgrade skills and expand knowledge base
A corporation does not need stale ideas from stale employees. Invest the time in upgrading your skills and expanding your knowledge base.
Learn a new language, add to your repertory of software, and take life-enhancing courses offered by your local college or university.
Don’t procrastinate, because you’ll never know when your company will create a position requiring a foreign language.
Tip # 27 Don’t procrastinate in ensuring a smooth transition for your successor
Your successor deserves a smooth transition. Schedule your departure intelligently. Tie up loose ends so that you can hand over your files and pending matters to whoever is taking over your job.
Help her succeed by not procrastinating. Type out an information sheet resembling a Frequently Asked Question list and give it to her.
This way, when the actual transitioning takes place, you don’t waste time addressing routine questions, leaving you more time to show her the key aspects of your functions.