Workplace Procrastination: How Can I Stop?

In this article, we will delve into the root causes and effects of procrastination in the workplace, and explore practical strategies and tips for overcoming procrastination and enhancing productivity at work. So, if you've been feeling stuck in a procrastination cycle or just wondering about the psychology behind this behaviour, keep reading, this article is for you!

Sarah Korba
Sep 21, 2022
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Have you recently found yourself lost in the rabbit hole of Instagram? What about scrolling through your LinkedIn feed when you were supposed to be completing a work-related task? These behaviours are often attributed to procrastination, the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing working on a task. Contrary to popular belief, procrastination at work is not attributed to a lack of discipline, self-control, time management or laziness. Instead, it is often driven by negative emotions like anxiety, stress or the fear of failure. Without proper intervention, procrastination can create a detrimental cycle of self-criticism, negative or judgmental thoughts, and further avoidance of work. In this article, we will delve into the root causes and effects of procrastination in the workplace, and explore practical strategies and tips for overcoming procrastination and enhancing productivity at work. So, if you’ve been feeling stuck in a procrastination cycle or just wondering about the psychology behind this behaviour, keep reading, this article is for you!

What is procrastination?

As mentioned at the beginning of our article, procrastination can be defined as the act of voluntarily and unnecessarily delaying or postponing the completion of tasks or work. It is a behaviour characterised by avoiding work or important responsibilities, often resulting in last-minute rushes or missed deadlines. When you procrastinate, you may find yourself engaging in various activities or distractions that provide temporary relief or escape from the task at hand. However, the consequences of procrastination can be significant, especially in the workplace.

Here are some common signs of procrastination:

  • Constantly delaying the start of tasks or projects
  • Feeling overwhelmed or anxious when faced with work
  • Engaging in unproductive activities as a means of avoiding work
  • Putting off important tasks until the last minute
  • Experiencing a cycle of guilt, stress, and self-criticism due to unfinished work

Workplace procrastination

Procrastinating at work can have several negative effects on both individuals and organisations. Recognising the signs of procrastination and understanding its effects helps individuals and organisations take proactive steps to address this behaviour and create a more productive and efficient work environment.

The potential negative consequences of procrastination in the workplace

Workplace procrastination has a range of negative effects for both employees and the company or organisation at hand, including:

  • Low job performance
  • Shorter employment duration
  • Increased mental health issues such as feelings of anxiety and guilt
  • Reduced productivity
  • Low team performance
  • Missed deadlines

Types of workplace procrastination

Procrastination can take several forms in the workplace. Here are some common types:

  • Socialising: this implies overly engaging in non-work related conversations instead of focusing on tasks. Socialising at work is important for building relationships and fostering a positive work environment. However, if you spend a large amount of your work time discussing the latest version of a video game with your colleagues or friends, or engaging in debates about the best restaurants in town, this is a prime example of workplace procrastination.
  • Task-switching: a common behaviour that involves switching between different tasks or projects without completing them. For example, imagine you are working on a complex project and your concentration is interrupted by incoming e-mail notifications popping up on your laptop screen. Despite your initial intention of staying focused on the project, you could not resist the temptation and found yourself navigating through these messages and engaging in other tasks while your main task remains unfinished and hanging.  
  • Overplanning: when you spend excessive time planning and organising without actually taking action on the task. Hours slip away as you find yourself deeply immersed in planning your project, making to-do lists, creating colour-coded calendars, or just waiting for the “perfect” moment to get started.
  • Lack of priorities: when you fail to set clear priorities and spend time on less important tasks while neglecting the more critical ones. As a result, you become preoccupied with low-priority tasks, such as organising files instead of working on important projects that require immediate attention.

By recognising these types of procrastination, you can gain insight into your own behaviours and develop strategies to combat them, ultimately improving productivity and work performance.

How to overcome procrastination

One way to break the procrastination cycle is to understand why procrastination occurs. Temporal motivation theory explains that there are four factors that determine our motivation to complete a task:

  • Value: how much we value the reward of completing our task
  • Expectancy: our perception of how likely we will achieve our task
  • Delay: how distant we are in time and/or effort from achieving the task
  • Impulsiveness: how prone we are to react on distractions

How to stop procrastinating at work

Luckily, there are many steps you can take to overcome procrastination and increase your productivity in the workplace, including:

  • Set clear goals and deadlines: goal setting is a powerful and motivating tool that will help you maintain a realistic vision of how your work will be achieved. Setting clear and realistic goals helps you stay focused and on track. Clearly define what needs to be accomplished and establish specific deadlines for each task.
  • Prioritise tasks: setting clear priorities helps you gain control of your time and energy, and identify the tasks that require immediate action. Make a list of what you need to get done and sort your tasks according to their level of importance and urgency, and let go of the tasks that are less critical.
  • Find your why: having a clear reason as to why completing the task is in your best interest (no matter how unattractive the task is) can help increase your motivation. Find a reason and state it clearly to yourself. Remind yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and relief will be experienced once it is all said and done.
  • Create a plan: having a clear plan with a concrete goal with concise instructions helps push your mind to take action. Breaking down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks can help make the task at hand seem more manageable and make you feel closer to the goal — reducing the overwhelming feelings that we experience when procrastinating. 
  • Steer away from distraction: staying focused while working can be very challenging. If it was easy, we wouldn’t be writing this article about procrastination! Turning off your electronic devices and disconnecting from social media are two excellent ways to reduce distractions. By controlling your devices instead of allowing them to control you, it is much easier to boost your overall productivity.
  • Try the Kyan Health app: Kyan Health’s “Beat Procrastination” practice in the self-care section is designed to help you get immediate help with procrastination. Our “Mindfulness” meditations will also help you find the right state of mind to focus and reduce procrastination in the long run.

To conclude, overcoming procrastination is possible by understanding the underlying factors, implementing effective strategies, and creating a conducive work environment. By breaking free from the cycle of procrastination, people can increase their productivity, achieve their goals, and experience a sense of fulfilment in their work.

If you are interested in learning more about how to tackle procrastination in your life, book a demo with us today or visit to learn more about our comprehensive well-being solutions.

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