Not in the mood. Not feeling it. Spring or summer fever, then winter blues. There’s always something more interesting to do. These are just a few of the ways you may find yourself putting work projects on the backburner and procrastinating on starting them.
Procrastination happens when you don’t feel motivated to do something you need to do, so you continue pushing it back for as long as possible, coming up with excuses to wait on getting started.
While procrastination may seem harmless and quiet quitting (where employees do the bare minimum at work) is currently trendy, the fact is that putting key projects on the backburner and underdelivering on your company’s or clients’ needs can hurt your career over time. Occasionally putting a pause on your forward momentum at work may not be a big deal, but once this becomes a habit, your boss and colleagues may notice and your performance may suffer. Procrastination can cause you to miss deadlines, fail to complete tasks that are assigned to you and generally brand you as a poor performer.
Let’s look at some red flags that suggest you might be procrastinating too much on the job, then dive into some strategies to turn this unhelpful tendency around before it’s too late.
Signs of Procrastination
It’s not always obvious whether you’re just taking a healthy break from your duties or getting led off-track by procrastinating behaviors. Here are four signs to watch for and avoid:
You keep finding ways to avoid working on a key project. Are you compulsively checking social media feeds to distract yourself from your to-do list, texting a friend rather than starting a report, or deciding to throw in a load of laundry instead of calling a client? These types of questionable decisions are classic for procrastinators.
You’re running out of time to meet deadlines. Are you always scrambling at the last minute to get your assignments done and turn work in when it’s due? If you continuously cut yourself short on the hours required to do the job right, then you’re procrastinating.
Your boss and co-workers are always sending you reminders. If you’re not getting things handed off to your colleagues when they expect them, chances are that procrastination is to blame.
Cleaning suddenly seems really interesting. If you’d rather do almost anything than the urgent work in front of you – including tedious tasks like tidying your office or setting up a new organization system – you might be falling into a procrastination trap.
Ways to Overcome Procrastination
If these signs of procrastination are all too familiar to you, then it’s time to turn things around. Try out these three proven strategies to nip the bad habit in the bud:
Plan around your projects. Without proper planning, it’s easy to get hijacked by the latest shiny object, being led away from the tasks that you should be working on first. By planning your day in advance and prioritizing what needs to be completed, you can keep yourself from succumbing to procrastination.
Time block your calendar. If you know you’re at risk of procrastinating on a project, keep yourself honest by scheduling specific hours to work on it, just like you’d schedule other important appointments and commitments. Use the time blocking method – which involves dividing your day up by tasks and then blocking out the hours required for each task on your calendar – to ensure that the projects you’re likely to procrastinate get scheduled.
Stow away distractions. When people procrastinate one thing, they often do so by busying themselves with another. If you have specific “temptations” – such as your smartphone or sugary snacks – that tend to sidetrack you from your most important items, then remove them from your desk, work area or line of sight to avoid getting hooked. If personal email, texting or social media are among your vices, close the programs and apps when it’s time to do your work.
If your job is important to you and you want to succeed, then it’s critical to quash your procrastination habit before it damages your professional life. Be alert for signs that you’re putting things off too often, for too long, and take quick action to overcome the urge to procrastinate before it derails your career goals.