Procrastination is what makes us think we can get everything done – just not right now. Despite how appealing it is to push things off, overcoming procrastination is one way you can drastically improve your career and personal life.
It is something that can plague us from the time we’re in school until we’re living our adult lives and working for a company. Understanding that the majority of people procrastinate regularly is key to creating a work environment that gives people enough structure to stay on task.
Every teammate is different, but you can promote certain activities or organize your team’s work schedule to overcome procrastination.
Why procrastination is such a big problem
Many people get caught in an endless cycle of procrastination. Procrastinators end up stressfully powering through a project before the due date. No matter how caffeinated and “motivated by pressure” you are, working in this cycle is ultimately unsustainable.
The majority of procrastinators believe that procrastinating actually saves them time. This misunderstanding is common because people think that, with a deadline rapidly approaching, they’ll get their best work done.
This idealized justification of procrastination quickly unravels. After all, if you’ve been thinking about how much work you need to do while you’re procrastinating with Netflix, you never actually got to relax. Chances are, you spent that 5 hours thinking about the project and anxiously preparing for your impending work sprint.
Procrastination not only wastes a lot of your own time, but it also drops work efficiency and drives up the costs for a business. This is because a piece that really only needed 30 minutes of dedicated work took you three hours to complete.
The extra time wasn’t filled with taking the project to the next level. Instead, you may have spent the rest of the time screen-hopping between your project and Facebook. In the end, procrastination can affect your personal time, stress-levels and work quality.
What you can do to prevent procrastination
Whether you’re guilty of procrastinating on your own responsibilities, it’s important for managers to help prevent procrastination in the workplace. Here are 16 productivity hacks to help you avoid the effects of procrastination bringing down the quality of your business.
1. Understand why you procrastinate
To get over this nasty habit, people will have to first understand why they procrastinate.
It can be because they believe that they work better under stress. Or maybe they’re overwhelmed by the project and don’t know where to start.
Ask yourself these questions and consider the responses. Then have your team do the same so that everyone can understand the root of why they’re procrastinating. By facing this truth, you’ll be on your way to overcoming procrastination.
2. Give yourself realistic timelines
Another major factor of procrastination is having a skewed timeline. Some people may believe they can really finish a project in 30 minutes, but whether they can or not is almost beside the point. The goal here is to minimize the wasted time for the sake of your business and that person’s personal life.
This means that you should set realistic timelines for your team to inspire them to create honest workflows for themselves and learn how to be more efficient.
If you know that you benefit from creating the written posts for a social media campaign first, you can schedule that for a day or two before you design the corresponding graphics. By understanding your needs and what kind of timeline is feasible, you’ll be able to finish much more efficiently.
3. Reward yourself
Another way that people are able to overcome procrastination is by incentivizing their work.
Almost everyone loves treating themselves, and this is a great productivity hack that will reduce the effects of procrastination. By telling yourself that finishing a project means that you can spend the rest of the day playing video games, you are dangling a nice reward in front of you.
Suddenly, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
You can also create more active rewards for yourself, such as taking your dogs out on a long walk if you can finish your work in an hour or less.
This is a process that can be set up on a personal level or for the entire team. Incentives, such as an early release if they get five sales, can be a powerful thing that supports good work.
4. Schedule breaks
Another factor of procrastination is the idea that once someone starts working, they’ll be trapped in that workflow for hours at a time. To delay the inevitable discomfort of completing a big project, people procrastinate. In the end, they will finish the project under extremely stressful circumstances. This will only reinforce the original idea that finishing the project will be uncomfortable.
To avoid this particular problem, simply schedule breaks.
It’s possible to still be extremely efficient and on-point even though you have breaks scheduled throughout your day.
These breaks will give employees, and yourself, a great chance to reset and decompress after a good work sprint. If they were really able to relax for a few minutes, you’ll notice that employees return to projects feeling rejuvenated.
5. Schedule your day with a task management tool
Another great tip to help someone overcome procrastination is actually using a task management tool.
Many people get overwhelmed by the number of things they have to do in a day. When you use a tool that can organize your responsibilities, you can prioritize and list all your tasks.
If your task list gets too long, you will have a visual representation that supports the fact that you have too much to do in a day. So, instead of becoming overwhelmed, you can move low-priority tasks to another day.
You may find that using a task management tool can also help fight procrastination by giving you a better way to manage your time so that you can get more accomplished in the same timeframe.
6. Create an outline first
If you dread starting a project, an easy kick-off point is to create an outline.
Making an outline, or list, for a specific project can help you gain perspective on just how much you can complete in a certain amount of time. It also gets you thinking about the project in a critical way, which will allow you to simply run through your outline without too much thought once you do get started.
7. De-stress whenever you can
An important part of managing your procrastination habit is giving yourself the time and space to de-stress. As we mentioned earlier, people who procrastinate often struggle with feeling overwhelmed. Ironically, the pressure of impending stress only makes us try and delay the inevitable – which only causes more stress to build.
Stop this cycle in its tracks by de-stressing. Take a few minutes to walk around the building, stretch in your office, or lean back and close your eyes. Whatever method helps you disconnect and gain perspective about what you need to complete, will be helpful at this stage.
8. Fight perfectionism
Those who struggle with procrastination often have a problem with perfectionism as well. People may view procrastinators as “lazy,” but sometimes the opposite is the case.
Workers who procrastinate will often push off a project because they believe they won’t be able to do it up to their standards. In effect, they’re setting themselves up for failure by overthinking and underacting.
Let your team know that their work may not always be up to their own standards, but that you appreciate it and it’s perfect for your needs.
9. Get rid of distractions
Whenever possible, get rid of distractions in your work environment. Things like cell phones, errands, and even laundry can end up being distractions while you’re working.
Sometimes, the temptation can be too great and distractions can get the best of us.
Make sure you’re operating at 100% by silencing your phone, or leaving it in another room, and setting boundaries for your workspace. Whether this means that you only check your email every other hour, during a specific time slot, then so be it.
10. If you work at home, get dressed
People who work from home can be especially likely to fall victim to procrastination. These bad habits can sneak up on remote workers, who aren’t physically motivated by a busy office to keep up their workflow.
If you work at home, one of the best things you can do to avoid the effects of procrastination is to get dressed. By creating a set schedule that mimics getting ready for the office every day, you can get into the mindset of “I’m at work” versus “I can probably get that extra load of laundry done today.”
11. Get an accountability partner
For some, getting an accountability buddy is the best way to fight procrastination. Similarly to how people who are looking to get into a good exercise schedule benefit from having a gym partner, procrastinators could also use a mentor.
Simply put, when you have someone to check in on and support you, you’re more likely to complete your work.
12. Stop multitasking
If you have a lot on your plate, it can be easy to think that you can multitask and finish faster.
When you multitask, you end up working on projects in a fragmented manner. This will decrease your efficiency as you constantly shift your thoughts to different things.
To avoid this problem, make sure you are sticking to working on one thing at a time and that you are keeping distractions from sneaking into your day.
13. Listen to the right kind of music
Some people find that listening to specific types of music helps them overcome procrastination.
In some cases, this means listening to music without any words, regardless of genre. Others benefit from listening to high-energy club music to stay focused.
You should support whatever works for you, and your individual team members. Simply plug in a pair of headphones and get into a flow. There are endless amounts of playlists and mixes to help people focus, study, and complete their work.
14. Find the right kind of motivation
It’s every manager’s dream is that the success of the company totally motivates their employees. Unfortunately, the reality is that this doesn’t always happen.
Your employees should all find their own sources of motivation to complete their work. Procrastination comes into play when people feel unmotivated to get work done and don’t enjoy what they’re doing.
To combat this, some people motivate themselves by thinking about how good this completed project would look in their portfolio. For others, being a great role model for their kids is enough to keep procrastination at bay.
15. Weigh the consequences
There’s a consequence for everything. Thankfully, there can be positive consequences just as easily as negative ones.
Make sure everyone on your team has a good sense of the needs of their teammates. If someone procrastinates on a project and is late to submit it, the next person in line now has a disadvantage.
If you create a good team culture and collaborative work environment, it will motivate employees to complete their work.
Overcoming procrastination is possible
When you’re in the midst of a stress-fueled work session an hour before the deadline, things can get chaotic. It’s important that everyone on your team understands how to ask for help and how to self-motivate to get through a project effectively.
By fighting procrastination in the workplace, you and your team can enjoy a productive, stress-free environment.