4 Ways To Fight Procrastination Within Your Team

Yuliya Skorobogatova
Apr 28, 2016
Last updated: Dec 3, 2018
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Do you procrastinate? Surely you do. We all do. There is something in our human nature that makes us put off things that must be done and kill time instead. A Greek poet Hesiod wrote in the poem Works and Days: “Do not put your work off till to-morrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his barn, nor one who puts off his work: industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off work is always at handgrips with ruin.” The poem was written in circa 800 BC, almost 3000 years ago!

It is difficult to overestimate the negative impact procrastination has on any business. According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report seven out of 10 workers in the US say they aren’t fully engaged at work, meaning they aren’t working to their fullest potential. The resulting loss of productivity can cost companies between $450-$500 billion a year. Is there anything to improve the situation? Can you make your employees procrastinate less and be fully engaged in their professional duties? Yes, you can!

A Fish Rots From The Head Down

As SHRM research about Workplace productivity states poor management is one of the top factors which negatively impacts employee productivity. So maybe your team is procrastinating because you as a manager are doing something wrong. Make sure that your employees have all the resources and support to do their job. Some HR specialists recommend managers to avoid micromanagement and set reachable goals.

Everything Happens For A Reason

If you want to fight procrastination in your team you should understand why each particular team member puts the tasks off. The most common reasons are fear of failing, inability to make a decision, feeling of hopelessness, tiredness, overwhelming workload, avoidance of work they don’t like. By understanding what exactly leads your team to procrastination, you can help them eliminate those reasons and work at their full potential.

Carrot And Stick

Believe it or not, but the combination of negative and positive incentives is a proven psychological trick that will motivate your team to work more efficiently. At least my boss believes it does. So imagine a situation when your employee has no good reasons to procrastinate: all the resources are available, no pressure, no work overload, but the job is not done. If you first show your employee some negative consequences of the delay and then highlight pleasant outcomes of the completed task it will naturally increase their motivation. This method requires deep understanding of your team members and their psychological triggers. As Alan Moore wrote in his novel Watchmen “We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings.”

Tick Tock Goes The Clock

At the end of the day it is not so important how many hours your team members work daily. The most important are the results they show. If your colleagues need 2 hours of procrastination to accumulate energy, get inspired and produce something extraordinary, maybe you need to give them this time. The recent study published in The Economist supports it and states that working less may make us way more productive.

Productivity management is a complex process. Different teams require different approaches. But if you achieve a balance between results orientation and employee needs you will not only boost the productivity of your subordinates but also make them loyal members of your team.
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