Who hasn’t been guilty of being a bit tardy at work occasionally? Leaving a task to the last minute or putting the same job in the too hard basket for no good reason. In fact isn’t that how most of us got through school or university? I remember many late night cramming sessions, starting assignments at last minute… I’ll put my hand up now and say I am still a little guilty of procrastination. It’s a simple, human trait so pervasive that I bet you’re putting off something else while reading this.
Procrastination in the workplace is not only common, it’s part of our daily routine. It can be walking around the office with no specific purpose, having a casual chat with a colleague, getting a coffee you didn’t really need. Over the course of writing this article I will have checked my emails, called clients and spoken with candidates at the end of almost every sentence – that’s a lot of calls, not to mention a lot of cups of coffee!
So if this is a phenomenon that everyone engages in, is it really a problem? Well, a recent article published on an online business blog estimates that procrastination costs UK businesses over £76 billion (AUD $155 billion) per year. To put this into perspective, IBISWorld reports the entire banking industry in Australia has an annual revenue of AUD $168 billion. It seems like procrastination is a HUGE issue for business and the economy as a whole.
But before you leap to the conclusion that procrastination must be costing your company big bucks, spare a thought for those “lazy, useless, unproductive bunch of social parasites” the Brits at London Loves Business are referring to, wonderfully parodied by Ricky Gervais in The Office. How about those times you stay back late, or the hours you put in after work or on the weekend? I’d argue that the flexibility afforded by a few minutes here and there is much more valuable. Consider too the positive impact of reprioritising our ‘less important’ tasks (while stalling on this blog, I’ve been otherwise very productive).
Ever wondered where the time has gone when you’re hard-pressed to complete an urgent task? Deadlines stretched to the limit could be because you put off completing work when you knew you had the opportunity to do it, or simply because you stopped to listen to someone who needed your ear. Logically we tell ourselves that had we avoided those timewasting traps, we would have got through our ‘important’ work.
Naturally your decisions impact your team, the division, in fact the whole organisation. As a manager I can see the less tangible benefits of some internal PR with a colleague or getting some fresh air to refocus. If you’re looking for harder evidence, see our recent post on Three Scientific Reasons for Taking a Break.
Finally, before I get back to other work, here are five proven methods for beating procrastination courtesy of Business Insider:
- Start with easy tasks to build momentum
- Know your work style and preferences
- Break down complex tasks
- Find a reason to give your tasks purpose
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
You found time to read my article, you may like to watch their video. In the meantime I’ll just grab another coffee.
What are some of your tips to avoid the traps of procrastination? What else have you achieved while procrastinating?