- to defer action; delay: to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost
- to put off till another day or time
You or someone on your staff may be causing significant damage to your business by putting off decisions or projects—things aren’t getting done when they should be completed.
Procrastination puts undue stress on the organization and disrupts teamwork.
For the procrastinator, it taxes personal relationships and often results in physical problems like insomnia, immune system and gastrointestinal issues.
Realistically, everyone puts things off sometimes. But approximately 20 percent of people qualify as chronic procrastinators: habitually avoiding difficult tasks and deliberately looking for distractions.
Unfortunately, in business today, procrastinators have a multitude of potential distractions at their fingertips. The computer they’re using to work on a project is also the gateway to YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
It’s fairly common for procrastinators to claim they perform better under pressure. However, research has proven that isn’t the case; usually it’s simply an excuse to put things off.
The biggest problems with procrastinators for your company is when they put off the task long enough to frustrate the rest of their team. They’re frequently counting on someone else to pick up the slack. If that happens frequently enough, it won’t be long before anger and resentment fester in your workplace.
Psychologists have identified three types of procrastinators: pleasure seekers, avoiders, and optimists.
These are people who put off doing what they’re supposed to do until they feel like doing it. Sometimes, they never feel like it.
Freud observed that people have a natural drive to seek what feels good and to avoid whatever is painful. So, instead of doing what they’re supposed to do, the pleasure seeker chooses to do something that they enjoy doing more.
A red flag with pleasure seeking procrastinators is:
- When others describe the individual as lazy and/or inconsiderate of the team . . . and you know that person is perfectly capable of doing the task
- Impress upon the pleasure seeker that they may never be in the mood to do the project, so they may as well get on it and get it done to quickly move on to something they’d rather do
The avoider puts things off because it makes them feel bad. The negative emotion could be fear of failure . . . or fear of success. Either way, they are concerned with other people’s opinion of them.
Or the avoider may suffer from anxiety, boredom, or the feeling of being overwhelmed by the task he or she is expected to do.
Red flags that you may be dealing with an avoider are:
- They make lots of to-do lists to convince everyone of their priorities
- They make elaborate excuses why the job isn’t done
- They have trouble coming up with workable plans, so successful completion is in doubt
- Identify the skills or knowledge that qualify the individual to do the job.
- Break the job into manageable pieces and have the avoider complete them one at a time
The optimist is convinced that a task isn’t going to take as long as it actually does. They believe they have more time to finish a job and are therefore persistently late.
Red flags that you may be dealing with an optimist are:
- An individual who ignores warnings about approaching deadlines, believing that those consequences will never happen
- An individual who initially impresses you with their attitude, only to disappoint you with their lack of follow-through
- Help the optimist create an action plan that clearly identifies “points of no return” on a calendar noting when negative consequences will become inevitable if the work isn’t complete by that date