Although “procrastination” is a term we associate with our past experiences in school, there is no denying that this issue manages to sneak its way into our habits at work. The deadline for a document or project is quickly approaching, but without any hesitation, we put it off for later. Instead of working on it, we habitually surf the Internet, chat on Facebook, or better yet help someone else with their work- we’ll do anything to distract ourselves from what we need to get done.
Procrastination may not be concerning to us at all, especially if we end up completing all of our tasks before (read: right before) the deadline. The link between procrastination and psychological well-being has not been widely studied, but it has been been linked to some negative effects. As such, we should still survey the pros and cons of this behaviour that we so easily fall into executing:
- Work related goals are accomplished in a seemingly shorter time frame.
- Time pressure helps us produce better quality work by improving our focus/attention.
- By leaving things to the last minute, we’ve ensured that we also spent time doing other tasks we enjoy or make us happy.
- We learn to “hack” the system; accomplishing tasks in a fraction of the time can lead to some creative ways of doing our work.
- We get a self-confidence boost after we’ve completed a project that someone else would have to spend significantly more time on.
- By giving in to procrastination to feel better in the short term, we end up with a worse mood in the long run (Sirois & Pychyl, 2013) including feelings of anxiety and other kinds of psychological distress (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015).
- Procrastination has been linked with decreased levels of wealth (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
- Procrastination leads to decreased workplace productivity and increased costs to the employer (Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012).
- It has a negative impact on the entire group at our workplace by forcing other employees to bear the weight of others' procrastination (Skowronski & Mirowska, 2013).
how do i stop procrastinating?
The mechanisms behind why we procrastinate are not well understood and as a result have been tied to many types of explanations in the literature: genes, personality traits, addiction, poor self-regulation, and others. Below are some of the "solutions" being explored in the research:
- Forgive: rather than punishing yourself, telling yourself that it is okay that you have procrastinated may reduce subsequent procrastination on future tasks (Wohl, Pychyl, & Bennett, 2009).
- Time Management: it has been proposed that for some individuals, procrastination is actually the result of poor time management skills, rather than personality traits or learned behaviour (Ferrari, O’ Callaghan & Newbegin, 2005). Click here for our tips on how to better manage your work-related tasks.
- Mindfulness: this approach to meditation has recently become quite popular and it has been correlated with self-regulation (Howell & Buro, 2011; Sirois & Tosti, 2012). Click here for reviews on mindfulness apps that you can download straight to your phone.
- Cognitive/Behavioural Therapy Techniques: if your workplace has an employee assistance program (EAP) you may be able to benefit from counselling and psychotherapy which has been shown to improve procrastination behaviours (Balks & Duru, 2007).
the bottom line
Ultimately, because people procrastinate for various reasons, finding ways to tackle the issue needs to be approached in an individualized manner. Handing someone an agenda or recommending an app that limits social media use will not work for most people and chances are they have already tried these approaches.
As a procrastinator, the best thing we can do is not give up on finding an approach that works for us; this behaviour will likely not resolve on its own.
As the co-worker/friend of an employee who struggles with procrastination, the most supportive thing we can do is not label the person as a "slacker"as most people who have this issue are exhausted by it and recognize the need for an alteration in their behaviour (Skowronski & Mirowska, 2013).
Are you a procrastinator? How has it impacted your health and productivity? Were you a procrastinator? How did you break the habit? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Abbasi, I. S., & Alghamdi, N. G. (2015). The prevalence, predictors, causes, treatments, and implications of procrastination behaviours in general, academic, and work setting. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 7(1), 59-66.
Balkis, M., & Duru, E. (2007). The evaluation of the major characteristics and aspects of the procrastination in the framework of psychological counseling and guidance. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 7(1), 376-385.
Gupta, R., Hershey, D., & Gaur, J. (2012). Time perspective and procrastination in the workplace: An empirical investigation. Current Psychology, 31(2), 195-211.
Ferrari, J. R., O'Callaghan, J., & Newbegin, I. (2005). Prevalence of procrastination in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia: Arousal and avoidance delays among adults. North American Journal of Psychology, 7(1), 2-6.
Howell, A. J., & Buro, K. (2011). Relations among mindfulness, achievement-related self-regulation, and achievement emotions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 1007-1022.
Sirois, F. M., & Pychyl, T. (2013). Procrastination and the priority of short-term mood regulation: Consequences for future self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(2), 115-127. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12011
Sirois, F. M., & Tosti, N. (2012). Lost in the moment? An investigation of procrastination, mindfulness, and well-being. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 30, 237-248. doi: 10.1007/s10942-012-0151-y
Skowronski, M., & Mirowska, A. (2013). A manager's guide to workplace procrastination. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 78(3), 65-94.
Steele, P., & Ferrari, J. (2013). Sex, education and procrastination: An epidemiological study of procrastinators' characteristics from a global sample. uropean Journal of Personality, 21(1), 51-58. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/per.1851
Wohl, M. J., Pychyl, T. A., & Bennett, S. H. (2010). I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 803-808. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.029
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