Conquering procrastination; be productive and drop the guilt

Procrastination is the delay of a task or activity despite that delay harming the task and oneself. It is experienced by many of us at least on occasion. But if you procrastinate regularly, this is likely to impact your performance, career, and well-being. Procrastinators are suggested to be unhappy. This is likely due to motivation.

Motivation is linked to procrastination. If one experienced low motivation this could lead to them procrastinating more. Motivation can be reached if one perceives that they are competent at the task, have autonomy over the task and have a connection with the team concerned. Individuals may meet tasks that have a financial penalty for late completion with less procrastination. Similarly, if a task leads to an outcome that is personally meaningful for instance directed at a cause or charity the individual is less likely to procrastinate.

Some jobs are prone to fostering procrastination. For example, if tasks are considered boring or effortful. Similarly, workplaces represent environments where our attention wanders easily. Remote and hybrid working where teams are supervised less can mean greater procrastination by individuals.

It is essential, therefore, that leaders invest in designing good quality jobs with motivational factors and recruit for the desired competencies.

Workplace outcomes are also harmed by procrastination. An organisation may miss out on time-bound opportunities. A major project may be delayed costing millions. Each experience can leave employees feeling unsatisfied, with little opportunity for progression and lead them to quit. Recruitment and training costs run into the thousands for each role replaced. It is important, therefore that organisations help mitigate procrastination.

Not all is as it seems, however. Conscientious employees are desirable to employers. Conscientiousness, however, can be linked to perfectionism in turn promoting procrastination. Seeking perfection is largely unrealistic in the modern workplace. If perfection doesn’t exist, why start the task if only to result in failure? It’s easy to see how this behaviour cyclones making it unhelpful.

Procrastination suffers from an image problem. It’s In the correct measures, a level of procrastination can help leaders avoid jumping to spurious conclusions and decisions. It need not be seen as something inherently bad where the sufferer lacks self-control and discipline. We’ve illustrated here that that is not necessarily the case. It is, therefore, important to have honest conversations about it at work. As a leader, you can identify projects or occurrences where procrastination might exist and mitigate this by following our tips.

Final takeaway tips for leaders:

1. Ensure that the work utilised individuals’ skills
2. Help individuals be autonomous by providing variety and discretion in their work
3. Ensure work is designed to culminate with desired recognition and rewards
4. Promote a sense of belonging and community to help employees support and achieve shared goals
5. Give support to your teams as a line manager and encourage peer-support

2 thoughts on “Conquering procrastination; be productive and drop the guilt”

  1. I love your reference to ‘behaviour cyclones’. It made me think of whirling around unproductively, while convinced I was being ‘busy’. Great visual analogy!

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