5 Tell-Tale Signs You're a Chronic Procrastinator

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

20% of people are chronic procrastinators. So, what can you do about it? Here's how to break the cycle and starting getting stuff done NOW.

If you delay writing a report, the world may not come to an end. Everyone puts off unpleasant tasks from time to time. Chatting with colleagues and checking your email during breaks is acceptable, if done in moderation. But when staff procrastinate regularly, or habitually, it signals a larger problem.

When procrastination becomes widespread and institutionalized within a work culture, companies pay a steep cost in individual and team productivity.

Read: Time Management Tip: Real Leaders Say No

According to one study, 20 percent of the human species are chronic procrastinators. And this doesn't take into account occasional and moderate procrastinators.

Understanding why we procrastinate, and what can be done to address is, is an important inquiry for staff at all levels of a company. Think about it: procrastinators aren't necessarily aware they are procrastinating; sometimes it's done unconsciously, which is why we're shining light on this important issue with this workplace report.

Here are 5 Signs You May Be A Chronic Procrastinator

1. You have difficulty coping with change and transitions.

When a project ends, you feel anxious and aimless. You take your time before diving into a new project. A few days pass, maybe a week, even longer. This void creates a performance gap that prevents departments and companies from running at optimal efficiency.

2. You're lost without a road map.

When you begin a new project, initially you feel overwhelmed by its enormity. You're not sure where to begin. You can't see the trees from the forest. Better to put it off, right? But, avoiding unpleasant tasks doesn't make them disappear.

3. You are chronically late.

Chronic procrastinators are not exactly known for their punctuality. They frequently underestimate the amount of time a task will take, are routinely late to meetings, and are notorious for missing deadlines.

4. Pinocchio is in Awe of your Things-to-Do List

You invest a good amount of time dutifully preparing your things-to-do lists, even including a little box to check off once a task is completed. You feel good about yourself; no one could accuse you of not being organized. Except for one problem – the list is growing longer than Pinocchio's nose, and the boxes are not being checked off.

5. You focus on non-essential office work instead of what needs to get done.

We're fooling ourselves when we putter around the office, engaging in trivial work when we ought to be tackling the high-priority project staring us in the face. True, it doesn't feel like we're procrastinating, because we're getting stuff done – just not the right stuff.

Read: How Toggle and Other Time Management Apps Keep Entrepreneurs Sane

Surprise, surprise – a Robert Half Management Resources survey of chief financial officers suggests that company bigwigs are not thrilled with the advent of social media. More than one-third of the CFOs surveyed indicated that, of all the ways to procrastinate at work, social media is the biggest distraction of all.

What to Do About It

If individual staff members are procrastinating, leaders must try to understand why they are less engaged at work. Perhaps they are bored or don't feel challenged, or don't understand their role.

Meanwhile, employees who know they have a procrastination issue can use these strategies to manage, and hopefully conquer, their procrastination – before it becomes chronic.

Break your project down into its component pieces.

If it seems enormous and overwhelming, simplify the project so it's easier to manage and less threatening. Once you've reduced the project down to a series of specific action steps, it's less daunting to get started.

Start with one task, and one task only – ideally, something that seems easiest or most enjoyable to you. Complete that task and then the others, one at a time, using your action plan as a road map.

Use Peer Pressure.

If you know you're going to be held publicly accountable, you will do anything to avoid being publicly humiliated. When a new project comes down the pike, share your goals, tasks, and deadlines with your co-workers.

Read: Infographic: Top Time Management Hurdles

Write them on your whiteboard so everyone can see and when the task is done, share the good news.

Consult with your doctor.

Many procrastinators become paralyzed because they care too much what others think of them. They may be quite competent, but the pressure to perform, and to be perfect, is just too much for them to bear.

In some cases, medication (with your doctor's guidance) may help you focus better at work and live in the NOW. It can help ease some of the worries and anxieties which, in all likelihood, are the root cause of procrastination.

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