Posted by : Amanda Stein Thursday, November 8, 2012

Procrastination – to put off, delay, postpone, adjourn, drag your feet, defer, dawdle. These are some of the dictionary terms to describe the word. Do you recognise any of these words in relation to you or your company employees? Even you may be guilty at times – and it is your responsibility to keep your business moving forward efficiently and effectively. Most people procrastinate sometimes, especially if it is a job they do not want to do or a decision they are reluctant to make. However, procrastination is a negative phenomenon for your business and you must recognise and deal with it without delay.

Most procrastinators are efficient at doing the jobs they enjoy and are comfortable with, but therein lies the problem. Work tasks can be many and varied. Some will be daily or weekly small duties, some will be projects with deadlines and some will be proactive or reactive tasks. Everything needs to be done, but we have to prioritise. It is very easy to put off the non-urgent chores until they become urgent. The following are ten ways to prevent procrastination in the workplace.

#1 - Recognizing Procrastination

The key to controlling this negative habit is to recognize when you or your employees are procrastinating, understand why it is happening and take effective steps to manage time and outcomes in a better way.

#2 - Why is it happening?

This can be for a number of reasons:
*Finding certain tasks disagreeable or boring
*Being disorganised
*Feeling that a task takes people out of their comfort zone
*Being a perfectionist, and thus feeling that tasks may not be performed to the desired standard
*Not having good enough decision-making skills.

#3 - Emails

Emails can be a great time-waster. Determine that you and your staff are not constantly interrupting essential work by checking every email as it arrives. Unless expecting an urgent email, get into the habit of checking just a few times a day. Choose times when you are not concentrating on something else – eg first thing in the morning, just after coffee and lunch breaks.

#4 - Time Management

Time-consuming projects can be tasks which people tend to put off as, subconsciously, they feel as though they have not achieved anything if they spend the whole day working on something which is not finished. Ticking small jobs off the ‘to do’ list looks and feels more productive. However, keeping the project going before the deadline becomes an issue eases pressure. Encourage staff to create a time management plan to encompass all tasks. That way, everything is being dealt with and employees will feel that they have achieved something each day. They must think about the benefits and pleasure they will get from completing the job, rather than the process itself.

#5 - Small Rewards

Promise yourself a treat, such as a nice cake for lunch or a visit to the cinema after work if you complete or move on a task you have been putting off. Ask a colleague to check you are doing well. Think about the fact that you have been given this task, so your company is believing in and relying on you. These simple ideas can motivate you.

#6 - Tackle the Least Favourite Job First

Allocating morning time to employees’ least favourite tasks and those which they are delaying can be a good way to tackle these. That way, there will be no time to procrastinate and they can get on with more enjoyable tasks later in the day.

#7 - Break Overwhelming Projects Into Smaller Tasks

Assignments which are ongoing can feel overwhelming. Encourage your staff to break these down into smaller and more manageable parts. Completing these will give people a sense of satisfaction and make them more confident about tackling the rest of the project.

#8 - Advice and Clarification

Ask your staff if they understand what is required if you find they are procrastinating about certain tasks. They may have had the job on their ‘to do’ list for a while, and may be reluctant to start it because they cannot remember the original instructions. Clarifying what is required can give them the motivation and confidence to start.

#9 - Distraction

It is easy for people to subconsciously be distracted by carrying out easier and more enjoyable tasks, thinking they are having a productive day. But, ultimately, the ‘elephant in the room’ will still be there waiting.

#10 - Tick Off Tasks As They Are Completed

Most people have multiple tasks to complete within their job description. An action plan and/or ‘to do’ list for the day, week or month can help concentrate their minds on what needs to be done and alerts them to deadlines. Completing several different tasks every day can produce a sense of satisfaction.

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