Procrastination in the workplace

Procrastination in the workplace refers to delaying or postponing tasks which could often lead to stressful, last-minute rushed work and an unsatisfactory quality of work.
Procrastination in the workplace is a common challenge that can negatively impact an individual’s productivity and overall performance. There are so many reasons why a person may procrastinate at work. Understanding and addressing these underlying reasons could help improve a worker’s productivity, efficiency, and overall performance.
If we look at Behavioural psychology, there is such a phenomenon as “time inconsistency” which helps us understand why we procrastinate. Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value instant gratification more highly than future rewards. The human brain tends to lean towards working on tasks that give immediate rewards instead of working on a task that may be due sometime in the future and the rewards may not be immediate or in the present. The same is the case with the consequences of procrastination. People procrastinate because the negative consequence is only to be faced in the future. When time runs out for a task and the consequence becomes due today, only then do people think about starting the task.
Some of the common reasons for workplace procrastination and ways to address these issues are as follows:
Lack of motivation
A person may procrastinate work when there is no motivation for the task at hand. Lack of motivation pushes the person to keep postponing the task because one cannot come up with a clear plan to achieve the goal of the task. Lack of motivation also blurs the person’s goal for the task.

One way to address this issue is to draw up a clear plan, prioritizing important points and creating smaller, more manageable tasks while keeping in mind how the completion of the tasks contributes to the overall success of the team and the organization.

Task difficulty

Task difficulty often contributes to work being procrastinated. One may prioritise easier, more manageable tasks before even attempting to take on the difficult task. It is better to tackle a difficult task by breaking it into smaller, more manageable tasks and by completing one small step at a time.

Fear of failure
When there is fear of failure, a person keeps questioning himself when presented with a task. There is an overwhelming amount of doubt in himself to even begin the task. It is important to understand that everybody makes mistakes. It is even more important to understand that these mistakes can be used as a learning process and should be taken as lessons instead of failures.

Lack of structure

Not having a structure or creating a clear work plan can push a person to procrastinate. Creating a schedule or a to-do list that prioritizes tasks can help a person to have a clear plan for the day and help manage time effectively reducing the likelihood of postponing the work.

Distractions are one of the simplest reasons for procrastination be it digital, physical or mental distractions. It is best to identify and minimize potential distractions so that we can create a dedicated workplace to enhance focus.
Often times a person would be unable to complete a task because the person may be a perfectionist. It is important to understand that being perfect all the time is unattainable and that it is okay to set realistic standards for yourself and focus on completing the tasks to the best of your ability within the given time frame.
Poor time management
Lack or poor time management is one of the reasons for procrastinating a task. Learning to prioritise tasks based on importance and deadlines could help limit procrastinating. One could use time management techniques such as Pomodoro Techniques to help stop procrastination.
Lack of interest
A lack of interest in a particular task could also lead to procrastinating. Finding ways to make tasks more engaging; connecting them to your interest and considering how they contribute to one’s professional growth could help one from procrastinating one’s tasks.
Unclear goals
A clear understanding of one’s short-term and long-term goals can help one provide clarity, motivation and direction lessening the possibility of procrastination.
Sharing goals with a colleague or a supervisor can help one be accountable. Having somebody to share the progress of one’s work would help one be motivated and can reduce the likelihood of procrastination.
COPE centre understand


Clear, J. Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating.