In one way or another, everyone is affected by someone else’s procrastination.
There’s no question about it.
So, what can you do to eliminate procrastination from your team or, even harder, from your own list of bad habits?
The Internet is full of advice, hacks, self-training tutorials, and tricks on how to live procrastination-free. I myself am the queen of dilly-dallying and I tried many of those so-called golden rules and tricks, but hardly anything had the effect I so desperately needed.
What did I do?
I decided to write a mini-guide for those who are dealing with this nasty habit or have it on their team. And I decided to do it thoroughly and to seriously address the subject in question.
Our first stop is a dictionary.
To procrastinate is to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring.
If it’s OK with Cambridge Dictionary, I would like to add a few more motives and causes to the list of reasons why people procrastinate.
In order to avoid facing a situation and to put off making a decision, people tend to delay that certain moment when this “awful” task finally comes for repayment.
We could also easily add to the list a factor of someone’s laziness, stress, burning out, lack of both motivation and discipline, poor time management techniques, lack of skill, and perfectionism.
As you are no doubt beginning to see, this is not some simple issue of attitude and organization. Rather, it is a very complex behavior with many possible causes.
Adrenaline junkies and those with low self-esteem
Of course, there are those who deliberately procrastinate just to feel the adrenaline rush when a deadline brings closer all kinds of consequences due to the unexecuted task. These are the people who actually give their best when working under pressure.
Others might be afraid that they’ll disappoint their boss with poor results so they often avoid working on a project.
And last but not least, some people simply want to escape the responsibility for whichever option they choose and the decision they make.
The main consequence of having this habit is the workload a procrastinator puts on others, creating a great grudge among the co-workers. The burden of evaded responsibilities always falls on someone else’s shoulders, so it is very important to detect procrastination—whether you are the problem, or you work next to one.
How to recognize a procrastinator
- He or she always has excessive excuses as to why things aren’t getting done. You will hear everything from, “My dog is dying,” to, “That client obviously hates me and gives me more work than a human being can bear.”
Without noticing, you will know everything there is to know about both his personal and professional problems and issues. Or maybe you are the one with the dog?
- Usually, this kind of person does not respond quickly to emails, phone calls, and messages. And when we say “does not respond quickly,” we mean that you can wait the entire day for that important info you asked them for, but your inbox hasn’t got any good news for you.
- A procrastinator takes loooong and frequent breaks and spends a lot of time on non-working activities. He seems to really enjoy chit-chatting with other co-workers, Internet surfing, and lunch breaks. Also, he is a heavy smoker as he takes a cigarette break every half an hour.
- When the current project comes up in conversation, this person shows a whole range of mood changes—from totally excited and enthusiastic, all the way to a totally negative attitude where he has some serious misgivings about the way the project is being run.
*There are some more signs, but these ones are the most common. If you recognize any of them in your or your co-workers’ behavior, it’s time to raise a red flag. *
Eliminating procrastination on a personal level
- No matter how much time you dedicate to a task at first, it’s important to start. However, a minimum should be about 30 minutes at least, without any distraction or interruption. The trick is to do it with zero disturbance so you get to feel the task and grasp its essence.
- Change your work philosophy. Try something different so you can enjoy your professional life—maybe not as much as your private life, but enough to not make you frustrated. Alter your thought process. Experiment a bit with how you organize tasks—make some improvement regarding your priorities and do not give up if nothing changes. You need to keep taking risks and change things until you reach the level where every piece of the puzzle fits.
- Control your time. And don’t allow time to control you. Make a date, and be realistic about it. Do not set some vague global goals, but divide your share of work into small tasks and sub-tasks, and then create non-negotiable windows of time for those; these will have deadlines that you will treat as a date with a very important person. You wouldn’t stand up a VIP, would you?
- Be self-aware. Admit to yourself that you are a procrastinator. Once you learn to acknowledge it for what it is, the entire “healing process” will be much easier.
- Willpower is a limited resource, and it can be depleted easily, just like any other form of energy. What you need to do is save it.
Do this by resisting any temptation there is. Eliminate everything that might distract you—if not in the beginning, then later in the day. If necessary, block computer diversions that might impose. Do not be shy; ask your colleagues to help you. And do not worry that you will reveal your big secret. Trust me, this is something they not only already know, but that is very much discussed among your co-workers.
- Do not be a perfectionist. Let go of these tendencies that will bring only trouble. Be happy with imperfection. It’s much healthier, more constructive, and more efficient than you might think.
It’s not an easy-peasy process, but the more you get into it and more effort you invest, the happier you’ll be with the result.
And we are not talking only about your office life. Eliminating procrastination will have a great impact on your personal life as well. Just imagine what kind of world it will be when you no longer leave your office frustrated and embarrassed.
Eliminating procrastination from your team
You do not need to point fingers at that “special someone” to eliminate procrastination. All you need to do is make a few changes in your team. Communicate with the entire team and approach this issue jointly. Follow these steps and have a lot of patience.
- The first change should be in the way all tasks are assigned. You can start structuring tasks with more minor deadlines and check-ins. This is how you will deprive the procrastinator of opportunities for slacking. Prioritize knowing that a short-term task provides more opportunities for success, and that brings motivation to life. A misstep is often caused by failure to see the link between efforts and their benefit. Teodesk might help you with that, click here
- When it comes to assigning roles and responsibilities, make sure you fairly and accordingly distribute them. Do not overburden anyone, no matter how slick he is. Also, do not spare anyone, no matter how weak this link might be. Create an atmosphere of equality and you will receive quality.
- Make a list of daily, weekly, and monthly to-dos, and their order of importance. Bring it to the table whenever you can. Once a week is the minimum. Consult your co-workers in order to find out their thoughts on your to-do list.
- Don’t constantly ask for status updates. Do not stamp every single thing with an “urgent” label. If everything is always “urgent,” then nothing is urgent anymore.
- Reward not only outstanding performance but the good ones as well. Remember, the procrastination is ultimately about motivation. Or, should we say, the lack of it.
- Hold employees accountable. Stick to it no matter what. A good trick is to pair two employees to work together on something of great importance. Working as a team somehow has the power to make them feel obligated to do the job faster. Using an internal communication tool will allow you to involve the entire team and foster responsibility.
- Talk openly about the procrastination, and while doing do, make your message loud and clear. The sad truth is that sometimes, those people have no idea about the extent to which they can slow a project down. Use hard numbers to illustrate the problems they are causing.
- And, of course, you can be straight-forward as hell. Just hold a staff meeting every morning and ask the potential procrastinators on the spot about their progress. In time, you will see the change in their answer. Sometimes, embarrassment does wonders.
The bottom line?
There are many ways to help yourself or help the team to improve and achieve effective collaboration. One must work hard and stay unremitting. It is not a fun game to play; that’s why it is so important to try to prevent procrastination as much as possible. If you see someone struggling with this habit, stay close to that person, offer your help, and talk to them. Like with almost every other problematic issue, communication is the key. And a bit of solidarity doesn’t hurt.
The main thing about this problem is to recognize when you come across procrastination and act —both as an individual and as part of a team.
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Funny twist to think about
A New York Times article by Adam Grant was addressing the myth of procrastination. The author discussed its curse and whether it is as bad a thing as people think it is.
Grant cited some research results which reveal that almost 20 percent of people are habitual procrastinators.
However, this author doesn’t condemn this behavior. He also doesn’t have any advice on how to stop it or help someone else to stop. No. He actually believes that it is a virtue for creativity, although it is a vice for productivity. He fosters this theory by literally teaching himself how to procrastinate. Like Steve Jobs did, according to Grant’s sources.
Because, he said, the creativity happens not in spite of procrastination, but because of it.
Read more on this interesting point of view:
In the meantime, think about all the signs we presented you. Try to recognize this pattern of behavior and do something about it. But do it now. Not tomorrow. Not starting from Monday. Now!