8 Examples of Procrastination and Solutions
Do you know any active procrastinators? Are you one? Do you wait until the last minute to start working on a project? It’s been on your plate for months and the due date is tomorrow! You’re not alone. Did you know Mozart procrastinated composing music? Frank Lloyd Wright procrastinated designing houses. And Steve Jobs was also a procrastinator!
Around 20% of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators, according to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done.”
Carefully think about the major impact of procrastination on your life and the effect it has on both your short-term and long-term goals.
Stress levels rise when you are not prepared. You can disappoint your manager and team when deadlines are not met. You may even lose your job. Procrastination may even start affecting your physical and mental health.
What is the Definition of Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, an employee is procrastinating when they delay working on a task. They know it demands their time and is an integral component of a large-scale initiative. The team is counting on them to meet the deadline. But they wait until a few days or hours before it’s due to even start.
“Do not put off until tomorrow what can be put off till the day-after-tomorrow” - Mark Twain
Understanding Procrastination: The Why
Why are you procrastinating? Do you find yourself browsing on social media? Are you liking your friends’ Facebook posts instead of working on a project? You know you should get started, but why are you avoiding doing so?
Procrastinators let’s get started on writing a list of uncompleted projects. Note when you started the project and why you stopped and be specific. Look for patterns of starting and stopping the project. What are the commonalities? These are your WHYS, your examples of why you procrastinate.
Of course, these reasons are only a sample of why some employees procrastinate. Each person will need to get to the root of their own particular procrastination problems.
How can management motivate and support procrastinators? One way is to offer bonuses and incentives for meeting tight deadlines on major initiatives. For those with intrinsic motivation, challenge them to meet deadlines before the due date. Or add an element of fun to the project by seeing who on the team will finish their task first.
What should you do when chronic procrastination affects the return on investment (ROI) or other team members? Management needs to draw the line. They still need to be supportive but also imply the possibility of a poor performance review if improvement is not made. Be sure to schedule periodic and scheduled accountability meetings. This will help gauge how and when things begin to go off track and how to, hopefully, head off any potential problems.
Knowing the root causes of procrastination (the why) can point to the best ways to solve procrastination issues.
Based on our 8 procrastination examples, we also want to offer solutions. Know that some of these are immediate solutions, while others will take longer to resolve procrastination issues.
#1: Fear of failure or being judged
- Do you have low self-esteem?
- Do you have a genuine lack of proper training and/or the necessary skill set?
- Are you concerned about negative consequences, such as a poor performance review?
Fear of failure is a common cause of procrastination. Reduce that fear by actively listening and taking detailed notes. This helps to ensure you do not miss anything pertinent. Don’t make assumptions. Always ask questions when in doubt. If you still find yourself procrastinating, be transparent with your manager. Ask for a mentor and skill set training. You may also wish to contact your company’s Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) provider for confidential professional therapy.
#2: Fear of success or exceeding expectations
- Do you downplay your accomplishments or not communicate them?
- Are you worried you're setting yourself up for future tasks with “impossible” standards?
- Concerned about succeeding in your role? Being promoted and stepping out of your comfort zone?
Fear of success is a form of self-sabotage. Figure out why you fear succeeding. If you can’t pinpoint the issue, you may want to contact your EAP provider. Once you identify the trigger, change that fear to caution. Eventually, your cautious behavior will subside, and your procrastination behavior will be a thing of the past. Imagine your future self as a confident and successful professional. As always, it’s good to have open and honest communication with your manager.
#3: Unpleasant tasks/Negative emotions
- Do you find yourself daydreaming instead of working on a task?
- Are you not seeing value in the work and wondering why put forth the effort?
- Are you uncertain where to even start? Did you receive little or no direction on the project?
Tackle your most unpleasant task first to get it behind you so you can work on what you enjoy. Control your negative feelings by finding a positive purpose in the task. If you don’t know how a particular task fits in with the overall picture, ask. Get past your negative emotions as quickly as possible and spend less time worrying and procrastinating. This will help you move forward.
#4: Challenging and time-consuming projects
- Do you avoid time-consuming tasks, as they are energy zappers?
- Do you not know where to even begin when assigned a big project? Unsure how to juggle all your other expected tasks?
- Do you find yourself working on projects that aren’t due for weeks? And ignoring a big project that takes time and is a higher priority?
One reason we procrastinate is the work is overwhelming. Our Procrastination Buster tips below will help you tackle those challenging and time-consuming projects and you’ll still be able to manage and accomplish your other projects. Having a timeline with firm deadlines is a good idea. It can be motivating and help you stop procrastinating. Feel free to download.
#5: Personality traits
- Are you always energized by the last-minute rush?
- Are you a perfectionist and everything must be 100% plus?
- Are you disorganized and not even sure what’s all on your plate?
Many procrastinators claim they do their best work under pressure. They always wait until the last minute to finish. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lack of attention to detail as you rush to meet a deadline. Not to mention the added stress put on the rest of the teams as they sit and wait. Make a concerted effort to stop these behaviors. Understand the big picture. Always focus on finishing the project as the end goal.
We should strive to do our best but don’t let perfection stop you from completing your project! Stop revising it and instead revisit with a fresh set of eyes later. This will save time in the long run. Remember draft versions are fine. No need to get it 100% right the first time.
Disorganized? Start with your workspace. Keep a schedule of projects in a visible place. Organize your computer files and emails. When you have an organized workspace, it’s much easier to focus on your priorities.
#6: Poor time management skills
- Do you have difficulty gauging how long a project will take you to complete?
- Are you constantly interrupted and not sure how to handle the interruptions?
- Do you find yourself working late at night as you did not realize the project would take this long?
Surveys show we have interruptions every 3 minutes! Phone calls, messages over Teams or Slack, emails...constant bombardment. What are we to do? If you are struggling with poor time management skills, turn your phone on silent and respond to all voicemails and emails in order of importance. In addition, time management training is in order.
We also highly recommend starting time blocking!
#7: Lack of motivation
- Do you find your task not personally meaningful?
- Was the task assigned to you without soliciting your buy-in?
- Did you say “yes” on a whim? Did it sound like an exciting project? Do you have way too much on your plate already?
Sometimes we put off a small task because it’s too boring or monotonous. You know that you must finish what you started, and you know the requirements of the job. What can you add to the project so it can be personally meaningful? Try asking questions that may spark an interest or buy-in to the task.
If you really do not have enough bandwidth, speak candidly with your manager. Set boundaries before saying yes. Ask about the workload. Check your calendar to see what other things are due around the same timeframe. Due dates too close together may cause project completion delays. Sleep on it; don’t say yes right away. Remember the importance of a healthy work/life balance.
#8: Personal life or physical health problems
- Are personal life issues causing you higher levels of stress than normal? Are your kids running you ragged?
- Are you caring for an older parent?
- Did you recently experience a divorce or a death? Are you experiencing any mental health conditions, such as depression?
Alert your manager about situations in your personal life that are causing work-related procrastination issues. You never need to share personal details unless you wish to do so but cluing your manager in to what is going on will help everyone in the long run. It’s always wise to take short breaks between projects. This gives you a mental break before jumping from one challenge to the next. And remember to reach out to EAP to speak with a licensed therapist.
HSI Can Help with Training
HSI offers a wide variety of off-the-shelf programs for employees’ diverse needs and experience levels. Several key topics include courses specifically about procrastination and project or time management.
- Common Time Management Problems: Procrastination
- How to Finish What You Start
- Project Management
- Becoming Detail Oriented
- Effective Time Management: Time Blocking and Focus Time
- Effective Time Management: Workday Planning Techniques
Many of our clients open their HSI training library for self-directed employee learning. This empowers them and makes them feel valued and motivated. Employees can choose off-the-shelf training video courses best suited for their unique needs. Request a free trial of our HSI. You will have access to our Business Skills library, to watch any of the courses mentioned above.