How to Stop Procrastinating at Work
You’re on the job and supposed to be working but your mind is elsewhere. For example, planning vacation, meeting friends for dinner, and what about finally getting that car washed? Basically, everything except for what you actually NEED to do.
The anxiety of doing something you are dreading can cause you to distract yourself with other activities. Anything to sidetrack from the task at hand is welcomed. In fact, procrastination is a common experience.
But if done frequently enough, it can start to hinder progress and overall job performance. Learning how to stop procrastinating at work involves first identifying when you are doing it and then practicing different strategies to reduce its occurrence.
Clues That You Are Procrastinating at Work
- Engaging in lengthy conversations with coworkers
- Looking at your phone for new text message
- Scrolling through non-work emails
- Browsing social media
- Switching between multiple computer tabs (even non-work related)
- Doing other work while putting off the one you actually need to do
Emotional and Physical Experiences:
- Anxiety, nervousness, worrying
- Increased heart rate or sense of panic
- Muscle tension in the body
- Fidgeting and restlessness
- Trouble concentration
- Frequently getting up from your workspace
- Frustration, irritability, overwhelm
These are just some clues highlighting common emotional and physical experiences and how they influences behaviors. When you procrastinating at work, you are essentially practicing avoidance. Avoidance is a commonly used coping strategy that temporarily relieves anxiety and stress.
While avoidance temporarily alleviates work-related stress, it’s also counterproductive and can have negative consequences. Examples include a decrease in work productivity, receiving negative work performance evaluations, and being viewed as uninterested or uncooperative.
Consistently waiting until the last minute to start a work-related task leaves little time to review your work and make any revisions. In addition, procrastination at work can lead you to fall behind, creating more stress to catch up. Eventually, this may affect your self-esteem and confidence in your ability to do your work.
For these reasons and more, it is beneficial to figure out ways to stop procrastinating on the job. Learn to get unstuck from this unhelpful coping pattern, get work done, and feel better about yourself.
How to Stop Procrastinating at Work
Tune Into Secret Sabotaging Thoughts
- “I can do it later”
- “I work better under pressure”
- “I’m a last minute type of person”
- “I always get it done anyway”
You may always be responsible and get the work done. But, we all know the pain that procrastination causes. Be aware of thoughts that trick you into believing that you can always push the task to the back burner.
Even if you do have a lot of time, you will rarely regret getting the task off of your mind. Thoughts convincing you towards being less productive can sabotage your overall work performance.
Challenge yourself to fight through these thoughts and replace them with more positive, encouraging thoughts. For example, “Starting this task will give me momentum in the right direction”.
Focus On Future Career Goals
Thinking about your overall future career goals can help redirect your mind from the current distress you feel. Take a minute to envision the potential future benefits of pushing through a present rough patch of low motivation.
What do you have to gain? What would you like to accomplish in your work? For example, a raise, a promotion, earning respect from your boss, building new relationships within the company?
Or is it gaining an excellent recommendation to another position you have been eyeing with another company?
Keep your eye on the prize. Doing your work today may not have any tangible, relatable, or exciting compensation. However, what you do today can have significant impact on the future of your career success. Think about the benefits that lie ahead if you master the skills on how to stop procrastinating at work.
Focus on Future Feelings of Relief or Accomplishment
In the same vain, focus on positive feelings you want to experience after you complete work tasks. If you focus on the negatives like anxiety, feelings of dread, and irritation, you will put off the task.
But, if you imagine what you will feel when this is crossed off your to-do list, you may just get started. Focus on feelings of relief, accomplishment, confidence, proud, etc.
Practice Home and Work-Life Balance
Life is always happening. Sometimes our thoughts and emotions with regular life stuff can get in the way of productivity at work. Figuring out how to stop procrastinating at work can be more challenging when you are already dealing with outside issues.
Stressors that are not work-related can carry over into your workplace. For example, maybe an issue with a family member or significant other is really the cause of your distress. You may be pushing work aside and delaying getting started because the mind is focused elsewhere.
The practice of healthy boundaries is important to implement here. Be aware when you have an urge to problem-solve issues related to your home life. This will be normal especially if you have a particular concern.
However, if you have a particular work goal you want to accomplish, it’s okay to redirect your mind to work. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the people in your life.
Give yourself permission to create boundaries and think about work at work. When the mind drifts, bring it back to the current task at hand.
Sometimes procrastination comes from the expectation and need for things to be perfect. If you have perfectionism, you may have high expectations about how something needs to be done.
Being a perfectionist has its benefits as perfectionists tend to be detail-oriented, efficient, and consistently meet high standards.
But, for some perfectionists, a deep desire to achieve excellence can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Perfectionists also experience analysis paralysis and delay on making decisions until all facts are appreciated.
Commonly, perfectionists tend to struggle with starting something until they determine that they will successfully meet a high expectation. If not, procrastination and other avoidance behaviors are used as ways to manage the stress associated with the work task.
Examples of perfectionism and procrastination:
- Spending more time gathering information or preparing instead of just doing the task
- Apprehension to start due to uncertainty about their performance
- Fear of failure or fear of not meeting high expectations
- Hyperfocusing on details, overthinking, and getting lost in the weeds
- Difficulty sharing tasks and doing more work than necessary
- Distrust in others’ ability to the job just as good
- Overthinking to the detriment of their emotional and physical health
Managing perfectionism will involve learning to accept mistakes. It’s practicing being ok with meeting regular standards and not always having to meet excellence. Moreover, it is accepting the notion that having imperfections does not equate to unworthiness or low self-worth.
If perfectionism is causing your procrastination, practice managing expectations of yourself and others in the workplace. Practice letting go of the need to have perfect workplace conditions.
Practice Flexible Thinking
Rigid thought patterns can prevent successful completion of work and career goals. Due to the economy and various other circumstances, employers are commonly increasing the workload they give employees.
You may asked to perform tasks unrelated to your current job role, title, or position. For example, helping a coworker to catch up on their work or help train a new employee.
Gaining new responsibilities without increase in pay or other incentives can feel frustrating. It may even lead to feeling unappreciated, overworked, and build feelings of resentment toward your boss, workplace, or coworkers.
These negative emotions can also carry into the way you do your work and influence procrastination. You may feel inclined to do the bare minimum or purposely not get things done if you aren’t receiving direct benefits. This thinking will prolong the amount of time it takes to get started on the task.
Practice taking a step back and look at the whole picture. Allow your mind to be flexible and consider how you want to be as an employee. Do you identify as a hard-worker, value being helpful, or appreciate seeing success in yourself and others? Find ways to identify your positive attributes and show these positive traits in your work.
Maybe you are taking on more work, but if you value being helpful, you may view helping a coworker as an opportunity to act as a mentor. Focus on how your work tasks align with your value system. It may feel better for you to do a task and reduce delaying it if you know that it will have a positive impact on the life of others.
Flexible thinking means looking beyond the immediate situation. Flexible thinking is opposite of black and white, all-or-nothing, and rigid mindsets. Find creative ways to find your bigger purpose in the workplace. As you do, it may feel less daunting to learn how to stop procrastinating at work.
Get Rid of Distractions
Distractions at work are plentiful. Put constraints around the amount of time you spend in conversations with coworkers. Limit the amount of time you spend scrolling on the phone. What other things are your stealing your attention away from work?
Identify what things have the best chance of interrupting your concentration and make an effort to remove them from your work area.
How to Stop Procrastinating Working From Home
Create a Designated Work Area
If you work from home, removing distractions is often more difficult. Try to create a designated work area that is used solely for the purpose of your job.
Keep this area decluttered, with easy access to all the materials you need to do your job.
Finding ways to stop procrastinating is imperative when you are in the comfort of your own home. You have access to all of your favorite things in your home.
Moreover, you may have access to other people you live with or your beloved pets. If you don’t have a designated workspace, the mind will wander and engage in more enticing activities.
When you are procrastinating at work, the pile of laundry all of a sudden looks pretty good to tackle now. All of a sudden, paying your home electric bill needs to get done. Or the bowls in the cabinet need to be organized.
If you find yourself switching into housework and other tasks, you are full into avoidance! Even though you are still active, you are not doing the thing that you need to do at work!
Hold Yourself Accountable
If you are an entrepreneur or operate a business from home, learning how to stop procrastinating at work is a different experience. You don’t have to report to anyone but yourself. Only you will know whether or not you did the thing on your to-do list.
And you have the power to get away with it without being penalized. Hold yourself accountable and do what you set out to do in your workday. Maintain a calendar and create your own work schedule. Take small, manageable steps towards your goal.
You are an entrepreneur for a reason and in order to stay an entrepreneur, you need to work.networking and finding other persons in your community that are in similar position as you. Meeting with like-minded people, that have achieved success, can help motivate you to stop delaying hard tasks.
Take Mindful Relaxation Breaks
Taking breaks may sound counterintuitive because you may think you are relaxing by avoiding and putting off a task. But just because you aren’t actively doing it, doesn’t mean that you aren’t actively thinking about it. Your mind and body are very aware of what you are putting off and can manifest this as stress.
Mindfulness and other stress reduction exercises throughout the day will help manage built-up tension. Mindful walking, breathing exercises, light body stretching can do a lot in reducing body tension and anxiety associated with work tasks.
Schedule small 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day to help get you back into a working mindset.
Build In a Reward System
Reward yourself for moments of productivity. This helps you to associate and remember that you can do hard tasks. If you have been procrastinating at work and finally motivated yourself enough to get moving, keep the momentum going!
Small rewards can go a long way to building and maintaining motivation. When choosing a reward, make sure that it is healthy, promotes your emotional, physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing.
The purpose of a reward is to invite positive feelings and consciously take timeout to relate to yourself in a positive way. You are allowed to feel proud of yourself for pushing through when things get difficult.
Think of activities that promote wellness. For example, having a meal with friends, spending time with your family, finally going to see that movie, or getting that much needed haircut, etc.
Practice self-care. You deserve it!
Support on How to Stop Procrastinating at Work
The Counseling Perch offers mental health counseling to help address anxiety, stress, perfectionism and other underlying contributors to procrastination.
If you live in the Rockland County NY area or anywhere else in New York State, call 845-305-5322 to schedule an appointment today. Online therapy allows for convenient support.