They aren’t always mutually exclusive of course, but at some point, usually in adolescence, we discover that there is a chasm between those things we want to do and those things we must do. This often brings about two schools of thought. School one, the ‘Doers’, get the necessary tasks done as quickly and as effectively as possible. The second school, the ’Delayers’, try and pretend that said tasks aren’t looming over them until the very last minute.
Procrastination always paves the way for problems, especially in the workplace.
Why Do People Procrastinate?
The reasons behind why people avoid starting (much less finishing) delegated tasks are numerous. The most common cause however is dread. If someone is required to do a presentation in front of new clients for example, this may induce all kinds of anxiety and rather than face the issue, they avoid it.
Similarly, boredom often causes this ‘head in the sand’ reaction, it is all too easy to allow ourselves to become distracted with much more appealing pastimes (getting lost on YouTube, creating yet another cat related meme) when the alternative; an annual turnover report, is considered so painfully mundane.
Perfectionism is also another means of procrastination. There are many writers who spend too long scribbling ideas in notebooks that they never actually commit to a first draft because they are still in pursuit of the ‘ideal’ finished product.
Lastly and much less common is simply rebelliousness. If a colleague isn’t getting along with their manager they may balk at the notion of completing a task assigned from him/her. Whilst outright defiance is often a step too far, delaying task completion and toying with the notion of not completing it feeds into the power play and sense of ‘I’m winning’.
Signs They May Be Procrastinating
The most obvious sign that someone is procrastinating is general stalling. Lots of excuses that can range from other work related duties taking up their time to some family problems. For a master procrastinator, the longer they can hold you off the more time they have to catch up and do what they have allegedly been doing for the last month.
Tied in with this is a shift in communication frequency. If they are usually on the ball with their emails and respond to you promptly, only to slow up when deadline time begins to roll around you can be fairly certain they are trying to avoid the topic. By not responding, or doing so hours after you ask, they limit the amount of excuses they need to put your way.
Equally, you may notice that their breaks become increasingly more drawn out, as is their time spent at their desk. Again, it’s simple avoidance and is usually a noticeable change in behaviour.
Effects of Work Place Procrastination
Workplace procrastination has an effect on the whole team as well as the individual. If everyone is pulling together to complete one big project and there is a procrastinator in the midst of it you are bound to come across some resentment. This can have a knock on effect for future projects and cause general discord amongst your team.
It also means a great deal of anxiety for everyone. If the project fails this places the company under a great deal of stress and the procrastinator then has to deal with some significant repercussions that more likely than not will affect many other facets of their lives.
Deadlines get missed, resentment builds and anxiety levels sky rocket. So, how to make sure you have a team of doers rather than delayers?
Solutions (because there is no Tipp-Ex for life problems)
To help those in your team who are known procrastinators it is first essential to pinpoint why they are stalling. Dealing with anxiety as opposed to dealing with boredom are two very different issues and cannot be given a blanket solution.
If boredom is at the heart if the problem then where possible you need to make sure the tasks given are varied enough to make some boredom (of which we all endure) tolerable. It is much harder to keep someone motivated if they are continually lumped with all the less glamourous tasks.
If anxiety and under confidence is the key then it is important to talk through those feelings and try to formulate a plan to make the process a learning curve, rather than a nightmare. Extra training and lots of verbal praise work wonders on those who are unsure of their abilities. After one success, the presentations and pitches that follow should come easier.
Perfectionism is essentially a trait you want to keep but tone down. Delaying ‘great’ to hold out for ‘perfect’ is a never-ending and thankless task. The nature of perfect is that it is idealistic and unachievable. The key idea that your company’s perfectionists have to try and grasp is that not achieving perfect is not by default failure.
For those who delay out of some rebellious motive it is essential you discover why the resentment is there in the first place. Until you do that you cannot fix the problem and will have continual difficulties with future projects. Get the people involved sat down together and try to determine where the complications are and how they can be solved.
Think, Go, Do
Remember, those that procrastinate in the workplace tend to be the ones that respond this way in all walks of their life. By addressing the issue you are not only helping the team at large, but also the individuals in their personal lives too. To ensure your current ‘Doers’ never become ‘Delayers’ be sure that your company has a transparent, open approach to problems. If a member of your team feels confident enough to speak to you about a problem today, there won’t be any need to stall you later.