Procrastination is the deliberate act of delaying, unnecessarily, what needs to be done. Some delays are necessary: waiting on permission, waiting on information, waiting on collaboration. But many delays are optional We choose to delay because we are avoiding something else. If you are holding back on work that you are able to begin, you are procrastinating. And when you or others in your business procrastinate, the costs to your business start adding up.
Time-cost is one of the first things that comes to mind when we think about procrastination. When we procrastinate, we may be doing useful things, such as organizing the files or returning phone calls. But useful things are not always important things.
Time spent on non-important (but useful) tasks is time we do not spend on the important projects. Maybe you did reach inbox zero. Maybe you do have a really organized office. But how about those billable hours? Did you log any of those in by the end of the day? You know what makes money for your business: finished work and billable hours.
Research shows that up to 64% of employees waste time daily on the Internet, using non-work related sites. Procrastination is nothing new, but the Internet has made it so easy - and so interesting - to procrastinate anytime. For your business, let's estimate on the low end, and assume that you - and your employees - only waste 2 hours a week surfing the web. That's 2 hours a week per person. How many people are involved in your business? 10? There's 20 hours a week down the drain. Could your business have profited from those 20 hours being used to help clients, finish projects, and bill hours?
A study conducted by management consulting firm Proudfoot Consulting found that the time cost of unproductive workers added up to a loss of around 33 days per worker, per year. The estimated monetary cost of lost productivity came in at $598 billion annually for U.S. companies alone. What is your piece of that very unpleasant pie? Divide your gross profit from last year by the number of days in your work year to get your daily profit average. Then think about the amount of time lost daily in your business due to unproductive habits. If there's an average time loss of 2 hours per day, that's 25% of an 8-hour workday. What could your daily profit average have reached if those 2 hours were spent productively? Not all lost productivity is due to procrastination, of course. There's inefficiency, indecision, poor planning, and waiting on other people. It’s probably not surprising to you that waiting on other people is often due to procrastination on their end.
Procrastination creates stress, because by procrastinating we lim it the options and increase the pressure. Job stress has a consistently negative effect on work quality. Time diaries and work research have shown, again and again, that creativity hides when it is under an immediate deadline. When we have some room to breathe, however, we feel more relaxed and open, which gives our brains freedom to make creative connection and come up with unique solutions. If you or your team members procrastinate habitually, you will face looming deadlines and high-pressure scrambles to finish projects on time. The result will be less creative work, and lower-quality work.
Job stress is a key cause of employee dissatisfaction. If there is serial procrastination happening in your business, the stress on everyone is increasing in proportion to it. When overloaded, employees may tend to procrastinate more instead of less. They feel taken advantage of, and they feel simply incapable of doing all that is asked of them. So, they give up. They doodle around. They surf the web. They procrastinate. And as a result, they get less done and their feeling of being stressed and overloaded grows. Even one person's procrastination can negatively affect an entire business. You can't eliminate procrastination entirely, but you can take it seriously. By refusing to let yourself procrastinate, and rewarding others who do the same, you set the tone for your entire business.
And that may just save your business thousands, in hours, dollars, and, well, happiness.