Is Procrastination Killing Your Productivity?

procrastinationProcrastination. It is the quiet achiever in the office and turns up to work every day. Quietly ensuring that your precious time is being eaten away little by little. Businesses throw training courses at their workforce in hope that knowledge and new skills will stick and translate into profit down the line. But procrastinations main job is to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Procrastination is an often overlooked factor in organisational performance and is costing organisations around $16,000 per employee annually in lost productivity. It costs large companies millions and our country billions.

However procrastination costs nothing to be in action and works dutifully against all your good intentions. So who is coming out in front in your work place?

There are a number of reasons that people procrastinate. It can be in relation to how goals have been set, the level of clarity an employee has about their job outputs,  how they plan their work and ultimately, how empowered they are as an individual.

How Procrastination Impacts Your Results

When procrastination is in control, productivity is slowed down, which creates a domino effect on everything else down the line from missing deadlines, delays in production, customer dissatisfaction, impacting morale and employee relationships to ultimately cash flow and profits.

It is insidious because we rationalise ‘activity’ as productive. Common ‘activities’ that workers rationalise as valid work efforts include, but are not limited to ‘researching’ when it is not specific to a particular goal outcome, but general in nature. Others include perfecting, cleaning up email box, and answering non-urgent or un-related emails to the days tasks. Talking to co-workers about a project and veering off the subject. Prioritising small tasks over large work items is also common and choosing more favoured, interesting, and easier tasks that don’t push us out of our comfort zones are also killers.

Sounding familiar?

How To Beat Procrastination

Procrastination is a habit. Just about all habits take time and focus to overcome. You can’t change them overnight. The fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is by first understanding how one enters into what is called ‘The Failure Cycle’. That is an individual needs to be aware of, and recognise the exact point at which they are about to procrastinate. We have inbuilt warning systems that we don’t take heed of. This is called our inner ‘self-talk’. Examples include ‘I’ll just have a coffee before I start that next thing’ or ‘I’ll make a few phone calls, and then do it’.

Knowing what kind of procrastinator you are can help with identifying what your triggers are.

There are basically 4 types:

1. The Vacillator:

Indecisive and can’t decide which way to go, so delays a decision and goes nowhere.

2. The Pressure Performer:

These are people who believe that they produce their best results when they leave it to the last minute and are forced to perform and rise to the occasion under pressure. The reality is that they don’t produce better results, they just produce any result.

3. The Deceiver:

These procrastinators deceive themselves, and others, into believing they are going to start something with definite commitment, but as time goes by the task hasn’t even been attempted. It get’s demoted as a ‘work in progress’, never to be completed.

4. The Temporiser

The temporiser feels overwhelmed by the task or is in denial about a situation. They delay action with a vague hope that time will work things out on their own.

Procrastination is also usually connected to a lack of motivation. Motivation in turn is linked to our values system. So if what we are doing at work is not in alignment with what are our driving motivators or values, we avoid it.

Some Tips to Beat Procrastination:

  1. Plan out your day with 3 top priorities and focus only on those. Additional tasks that crop up during the day go on a second list.
  2. Learn to negotiate time frames and say no to non-priority issues that interrupt what you are doing.
  3. When you have ‘drop ins’ to your office or work station that ask ‘have you got five minutes?’ be clear on the time frame that you have. Give them an option to schedule a meeting with you at another time.
  4. Shut down email for specific periods of the day and plan this at the start of the week for each day of the week. Set a timer or reminder to shut down email at that pre-planned time.
  5. Curb internet surfing with internet apps such as Self Control (for MAC) and Cold Turkey (for Microsoft) these apps allow you to self regulate what internet sites you choose to block yourself from and for the period of time that you set.

Good luck with this.  It’s not easy, but as long as you don’t procrastinate over starting, you should be fine.


Anne-Marie Orrock

Anne-Marie Orrock is Director of Corporate Canary HR Consulting and helps companies with developing the sophistication of their Human Resources & recruitment strategy around new technologies, social media and talent branding.

Anne-Marie is a sought after media commentator on HR, leadership, and business and has appeared in various publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Boss Magazine, NETT Magazine, Marie Claire, CLEO, My Business, Dynamic Business, Cosmopolitan & HR Monthly. In June 2012 Anne-Marie Co-authored ‘Mind Your Own Business’, a guide for small businesses, published by Mithra Publishing in the UK.

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