Did you know that 88% of employees have confessed that they procrastinate tasks for at least an hour every day

Chronic procrastination often results in compromised productivity and an unenthusiastic and disillusioned workforce. If not handled carefully, this issue can escalate and impact the entire organization’s performance.

It is high time that managers take this issue seriously and handle procrastinators intelligently.

Do you also have chronic procrastinators in your team?

Or are you a chronic procrastinator yourself?

In either case, you have reached the right place.

In this blog, we’ll understand what is procrastination, why employees procrastinate and how it can be overcome. 

What is Procrastination?

Many managers across industries want to know what is procrastination? Procrastination can be defined as the act of pointlessly postponing actions or decisions. It stops people from achieving what they set out to do.

Procrastination is constantly escaping from tasks that need to be accomplished within a specific time frame. It often leads to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and self-doubt in the minds of master procrastinators.

According to the TED Talk “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”, there are primarily two types of procrastination:

  • Procrastination With Deadlines
  • Procrastination Without Deadlines

What are the Dangers of Procrastination in the Workplace?

Why do people procrastinate? According to psychologists, procrastination can become paralyzing and chronic if not addressed at the right time. As far as employees are concerned, it can result in:

  • Poor Professional Performance
  • Short Employment Tenure
  • Higher Chances of Underemployment
  • Low Productivity
  • Poor Career Growth
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Increased Stress Levels
  • Professional Incompatibility in Diverse Teams
  • Conflicts with People in Power

Procrastinators aren’t just making their lives harder, they also make the lives of those around them harder. For example, if an employee in the service industry is constantly missing deadlines it will eventually lead to unhappy customers. This will impact the performance of the team and eventually the company. These are the dangers of employee procrastination for the organization:

  • Low Organizational Productivity
  • Loss of Projects
  • Low-Quality Work
  • Frequent Reworks
  • Lower Job Satisfaction in the Workforce
  • Lower Employee Retention

Why Do Employees Procrastinate?

Here are some common reasons for workplace procrastination:

  • Feeling Overwhelmed – Did you know that over 80% of the employees in the US feel stressed at their workplace? It is one of the biggest reasons for procrastinating at work.
  • Abstract Goals – Impractical deadlines and impossible processes can compel an employee to delay the task at hand.
  • Fear of Failure – Lack of confidence or fear of failure can also encourage an employee to delay the project.
  • PerfectionismProcrastination also happens when an employee aims to deliver every task with absolute perfection.
  • Anxiety – Employees who fear negative feedback or lower work ratings also prefer to stall the task till it is assigned to someone else.
  • Task Aversion – Employees prefer to procrastinate on tasks that are non-appealing and boring.
  • Lack of Motivation – Employees who lack motivation in their professional life generally draw their feet on projects.
  • Mental or Physical Exhaustion – Employees also delay tasks when they are already overburdened with work to the point of exhaustion.
  • Resentment – Employees who feel that their manager is biased towards them also resort to workplace procrastination.
  • Lack of Support – Employees do not always procrastinate due to laziness. They also delay projects due to a lack of support from their own team or other concerned parties.
  • Problematic Environment – A distracting and stressful working environment is also a significant reason for workplace procrastination. These can range from workplace bullying, lack of diversity and inclusion, no paid time off, and many others. 


What are the Stages of Procrastination?

There are six stages of procrastination in the workplace that employees who shirk responsibility go through. 

Stage 1 – Pre-Procrastination

  • It starts when your team manager assigns you a task with a deadline.
  • Your first reaction is complete disbelief.
  • You start getting frustrated at the thought of completing this task on such a short deadline.

Stage 2 – Denial

  • Denial is a stage wherein you start thinking of passing on this task to someone else in the team. But unfortunately, no one is ready to take up the task.
  • You are in a state of shock, and you finally decide to stall the task as long as you can.

Stage 3 – Productive Procrastination

  • You start finishing other tasks initially assigned to you.
  • You check your inbox and spam folders to find unfinished tasks.
  • In other words, you take up random stuff to look busy in the office.

Stage 4 – You Start Seeking Motivation

  • Once you realize that the deadline is approaching, you start seeking some motivation.
  • But working under pressure might compromise your productivity and quality of work.
  • The thought of procrastinating strikes your mind.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

  • At this point, you realize that it is much too late and you probably won’t be able to finish the task today. 
  • You will eventually acknowledge that you have landed yourself in a pickle.
  • However, you promise yourself and your manager that this won’t happen again.

Stage 6 – Repeat Mode

  • Despite all the assurance and promises, you tend to repeat the same behavior every time a task is assigned to you.
  • In other words, it becomes a never-ending cycle of procrastination. 

Obviously, even the most chronic procrastinator doesn’t defer all tasks at work. But most employees certainly try to defer the tasks they find the most boring.

How Can Employees Overcome their Habit of Chronic Procrastination at the Workplace?

To control chronic procrastination, employees first need to determine their goals and identify how procrastination might prevent them from achieving these. Understanding the root cause of the issue and breaking the project into smaller tasks can immensely help rectify this.

Moreover, creating a plan of action, implementing it, and refining it if required is also crucial to overcome chronic procrastination.

Set Your Goals

The primary step of overcoming procrastination is to determine goals. Make sure your goal is clearly defined and practical. For instance, completing a part of a task every day is a vague target. On the contrary, writing 3000 words in a day is a crystal clear target. It is also crucial to set meaningful and achievable goals. It will help you in making concrete progress.

Once you are done with this, you can move on to the next step to identify the core cause of your habit of procrastination.

Identify the Root Cause of the Problem

It’s time to identify the when, why, and how of your habit of procrastinating. What are the factors that are compelling you to delay a task?

  • Is it your laziness or any other issue that management should be aware of?
  • Are you unsure of your project delivering abilities?

These are some questions that will help you in identifying the root cause of this issue with procrastination. 

Create a Plan of Action

You need to create a plan of action that will prevent your urge to procrastinate tasks. For this, you need to, first of all, figure out the right anti-procrastination technique and ways to use them. The primary types of procrastinating techniques are behavioral and cognitive.

Behavioral techniques will modify your actions, while cognitive ones will modify your thought process and instill positivity. You can also go for a combination of behavioral and cognitive techniques to accomplish your goals.

Take the First Step

Once you have identified the significant factors behind your chronic procrastination habit, it is time to take the first step.

You need to start afresh. Encourage yourself to begin your tasks early, especially if you are handling a big and complex project. This will give you time to research solutions, adapt them for your problem and troubleshoot if required. 

It will enhance your confidence and make the project seem much more manageable.

Set Bite-Sized Tasks

Your manager in all likelihood will only give you a deadline to submit the task. But it is up to you to divide it into manageable bite-sized tasks. 

The main idea here is to ward off the risk of feeling overwhelmed and push yourself to complete all these small tasks with time to spare. The best part is, these mini-tasks will also make the entire project more interesting and give you small achievements to savor.

Involve Your Workplace Friends

Employees who suffer from chronic procrastination issues should loop in at least one workplace friend. They can share their task details and issues they may be facing with this colleague. They will not only motivate the employee but also remind them of their goals. It is a great way to stay away from negative thoughts and workplace demotivation.

A Gallup study found that those who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs. They’re are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being and are less likely to get injured on the job. 

Get Organized

Chronic procrastination and chronic disorganization go hand-in-hand. In other words, disorganized employees often have the habit of delaying their tasks and projects.

If you wish to overcome this bad habit, you need first to organize your working style and processes. Try to declutter your workplace and mailbox to pave some way for positivity and productivity.

Moreover, you should also try new methods to accomplish your professional goals and eliminate workplace procrastination.

Control Temptation

Chronic procrastinators are adept at finding excuses to delay work again and again. Spending time on social media platforms, chit-chatting with colleagues, or surfing the internet are a few procrastination examples that can distract them from work. So, if you wish to overcome this issue, you need to resist this temptation. Make sure you focus all your efforts on completing the projects.

You can also take the help of your manager and other colleagues in this process.


The 5 Stage Process to Overcome Procrastination

Here is a 5-stage process model that can help you in overcoming the habit of procrastination:

  1. Precontemplation – It is the first stage where you are either oblivious of this problem or do not know how to fix it.
  2. Contemplation – This is the second stage wherein you acknowledge the presence of an issue. You also intend to do something to overcome it. But finally, you give up as you do not know how to not procrastinate.
  3. Preparation – The issue of procrastination is increasing day by day, and you plan to do something about it. You resume a specific course of action to combat this problem.
  4. Action – The habit of procrastinating work is starting to affect your productivity. Hence, you need to implement the action plan as soon as possible to solve this problematic behavior.
  5. Maintenance – This is the last stage, wherein you know how to control your procrastination habit. You now have a foolproof plan to ensure you do not relapse.

Some Quick Tips for Employees

The habit of procrastinating work can prove to be lethal for your professional career. Still unsure where to start? Follow these simple, quick tips and initiate the process of change:

  • Take a fresh piece of paper and write down the task given to you by the manager.
  • Also, mention your goal to stop procrastinating. Refer to it every time you think of resorting to excuses.
  • Do a power hour exercise. Refrain from distractions like smartphones, social media platforms, and the internet surfing for one hour. You can instantly see the change.
  • Discuss all your concerns with your manager. They will make every possible effort to get you out of this situation.
  • Try to make your tasks enjoyable. Listening to your favorite song or the Pomodoro 25-minute Technique can be great ways to focus. 

What Should Organizations Do to Prevent Procrastination at the Workplace?

Managers must understand that procrastination is much more than laziness. It is a complex situation that can harm productivity and derail the professional progress of an employee. So, how to stop procrastinating instances in the workplace?

Make Every Task Important

Employees start procrastinating when they feel that what they are doing is not essential. In other words, they believe that their task has no meaning, and hence, they ignore it.

You see, if the employee does not feel engaged with the project, he or she might resort to procrastination. Therefore, the team leader or manager needs to put in extra effort to make every task meaningful and vital. This practice will motivate the employees to take the task seriously and complete it on time. Managers must also show the employee how their productivity is going to impact the entire organization.

Finally, recognizing the efforts and dedication of the employee will make them more accountable and take them away from the habit of procrastination.

Hold Regular Meetings

Apart from the regular team meetings, managers should also conduct one-on-one meetings with their subordinates. It is a great way to identify what is going on inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

Knowing their version of the story is crucial to overcome their issues. Make sure you do not criticize or argue with any potential procrastinator in the meeting. On the contrary, you should make efforts to encourage and support them. Moreover, try to make these individual meetings more personal and present yourself as a friend rather than a manager. You should also show empathy towards the employee because it’s very rare for a chronic procrastinator to be doing so intentionally.

Guide them and assure them that they are not alone in this. They will always have their manager’s and colleagues’ support. You can also send them some famous procrastination quotes to boost their morale.


Create Milestones

Procrastinators can relapse if they get large projects to complete. To prevent this, managers should create smaller milestones with shorter deadlines for the employees. Dividing the entire project into smaller tasks will reduce the work pressure on the employee plus, it will make it more doable.

The best part is that the manager can also keep a check on the project’s progress and offer assistance if required. They can also share a project management board or tool with the entire team for their convenience. It is an excellent way to manage deadlines plus give everyone an overview of other’s progress. Creating a spirit of healthy competition will boost the confidence of the project members.

They will also work harder to keep up with other teammates and eventually lead the race.

Prevent Assigning Multitasking Projects

Managers who are dealing with chronic procrastinators should avoid assigning multitasking projects to them. You see, multitasking projects require a lot of concentration. And a person who is habitual of dawdling things can feel overwhelmed with the complexity of these tasks. 

Piling up work on their desks will only lead to burnout and unnecessary work pressure. Therefore, managers should assign them tasks one by one.

Set Defined Timeframes

At times, employees delay taking up projects because they do not have a defined deadline to follow. Vague working styles and unclear goals further add to the woes of such employees. Therefore, managers should give a defined work structure to the team to let them stay focused. It also helps in maintaining the workflow and productivity of the employees.

Similarly, make sure the deadlines are not too far. More extended deadlines are most prone to delays. Simultaneously, deadlines should not be too tight and cause discomfort and pressure on the employee.

So, you see, balance is the key to overcoming procrastination in the workplace.

Reward and Recognize Improvements

Lack of motivation is one of the significant causes of procrastination in the workplace. Therefore, every employee who takes the initiative to overcome their procrastination habit should be recognized and rewarded by their manager.

It will motivate them to keep up the good work. Moreover, offering small incentives and rewards will boost the employee’s productivity, job satisfaction, and morale. Managers can also plan some creative team games to increase the fun element of the project.

These small and simple efforts will create a happy, fulfilling, and healthy environment in the team.

Allow Time for Procrastination

Yes, you read that right. You cannot expect a procrastinator to change overnight. Managers who have chronic procrastinators in their team should allow them some time for procrastination.

But how? By giving a deadline that already includes the buffer time. So, even if the employee delays the project, they still have enough time to complete it. This practice will make them confident of their abilities to complete tasks on time.

It will also create a sense of accountability and maybe even a small measure of guilt in their mind. The next time they will focus on completing the given project on priority rather than finding excuses to stall it.

Get Personally Involved in the Task

A good leader works and grows with their team. You should also get personally involved in the projects to guide and motivate the procrastinators in your team. By becoming a part of the task, you can also encourage the procrastinators to find creative ways to attain their goals.

Moreover, having the manager around will also keep the procrastinators away from distractions and boost their productivity. However, you should also not refrain from showing too much strictness and authority in case of any lapses.

Understand Your Team

Every manager should know their team members inside out. Knowing everything about their strengths and weaknesses will help in allotting the right tasks to the right employee.

The manager should also take special care of the procrastinators in the team. Although to err is human, a good leader is the one who helps their team members to overcome any bad habit that can hamper their productivity and efficiency.

Procrastination at the workplace is much more common than we presume and can hurt both the employees and the organization. Procrastinators can overcome this habit with the help of better self-discipline, time management, and planning.

The managers should try to maintain a healthy working environment that will boost the morale of the employees and prevent them from procrastinating.

Remember, combating procrastination at the right time will always lead to a more productive workforce and a successful business. Do you have any interesting stories about procrastination to share with us? Reach out to us at @HarmonizeHQ and share them.