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Workplace procrastination: Why we do it and how to kick the habit

Many of us are guilty of leaving certain tasks until the last minute while at work – whether that be a new assignment or a particularly challenging task. However, falling into a habit of procrastinating can be a slippery slope and extremely frustrating and disheartening for those who procrastinate regularly.

A recent study by Lenstore found one in four Brits say they have a short attention span with one in six participants admitting they cannot go 10 minutes without checking their phone at work. With this in mind, Lenstore has partnered with career and work coach Jimi Wall and counsellor Hillary Sims to explain why procrastinating at work is so common and tips on how to reduce procrastination.

5 common reasons why we procrastinate at work and why it can be damaging 

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of judgment by superiors
  3. Feeling overwhelmed by our workload
  4. Lack of belief that we will do a good job
  5. Trying to do things perfectly, which is not possible

Counsellor Hillary Sims explains: “Procrastination can lead to an increase in stress levels as we are not able to complete the tasks on our to do list. After spending time procrastinating, we can beat ourselves up because we see it as a failure which can reduce our self-belief.”

6 tips on how to stop procrastinating while at work

Career and work coach Jimi Wall and counsellor Hillary Sims suggest the following 6 tips on how to stop procrastinating at work:

  1. Identify the ‘big goal’
    Identify the ‘big goal’ you need or want to achieve (such as writing a report), write it down along with the deadline, and work backwards to plot some achievable and realistic milestones as a timeline.
  2. Complete small activities first
    Think of the minimum action you will commit to taking, by beginning small and choosing an easily achievable task you are less likely to feel overwhelmed.
  3. Identify when you have the most energy
    Identify when in the day you feel most energetic, and complete the tasks you perceive to be most arduous tasks then.
  4. Don’t be afraid of asking for help and support
    Procrastinating can often be caused by feeling overwhelmed and stuck, asking for help and support is an important step in overcoming this.
  5. Accept that you will sometimes make mistakes
    Accept that when you are doing things, sometimes you do make mistakes. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning curve.
  6. Give it your all and believe that is good enough
    Complete tasks to the best of your ability and believe that your best is good enough.

9 tips on maintaining concentration at work

  1. Schedule your day first thing
  2. Schedule in email/social media ‘on’ time and strict ‘off’ time within the working day
  3. Use anti-distraction apps
  4. Consider using the Pomodoro Technique – 25mins work, 5mins break
  5. Use a Focus Playlist on Spotify/Apple
  6. Give yourself regular breaks.
  7. Make sure you switch off from work and give yourself time to recharge your batteries.
  8. Do not agree to do tasks that you have not got the time to complete – it is ok to stay you have not got capacity.
  9. Focus on one task at a time, do not try to do two things simultaneously