How To Stop Procrastinating At Work (With Helpful Tips)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Procrastination may be a complex issue, but understanding it can help you avoid it and stay productive at work. Staying motivated and productive at work can help you meet your targets and feel a sense of accomplishment. There are several strategies you can use to help you overcome procrastination. In this article, we discuss what procrastination is, show you how to stop procrastinating at work and provide useful tips to help you.

What is procrastination?

Before knowing how to stop procrastinating, it is important to understand the definition of procrastination. Procrastination is the practice of delaying or avoiding tasks or actions until their deadline Procrastination is an acquired behaviour that can also affect the way people feel about themselves. People can overcome procrastination by regularly focusing on maximising productivity and careful planning to manage their time better.

Related: How To Practise Self-Discipline In The Workplace

How to stop procrastinating

Here are the steps that show how to stop procrastinating at work:

1. Determine if you are procrastinating

It is not necessary that everyone who postpones work is a procrastinator. Some people delay their tasks for valid reasons. For example, a professional may delay completing a certain task if their loved one is sick. It is important to determine whether you are procrastinating. You might procrastinate if you experience any of these:

  • forgetting about less urgent tasks because you prioritise the tasks approaching the deadline

  • avoiding work because you do not know how to start

  • waiting for the deadline, assuming that you work better under pressure

  • engaging in unnecessary activities to have the right mood to begin an important task

2. Identify the tasks you typically delay or avoid

Once you know you are procrastinating, you can start working to overcome it. Try to identify the tasks you often avoid or delay. Observing your work patterns can be an effective way to start. Consider whether there are any tasks or projects on which you avoid working. You can also create a list of such tasks for future reference. For instance, you may realise that you usually postpone reconciliation tasks or sales proposal writing.

3. Understand why you are procrastinating

After compiling a list of the tasks you are delaying, think about why you avoid them. For instance, you may find the tasks boring and repetitive. Alternatively, you may delay large projects because of their complexity or you may not know where to start. Analysing the signs of procrastination can help you discover the reasons for your procrastination.

4. Make a plan to overcome procrastination

After identifying the tasks you avoid or delay and the reasons for your procrastination, you can make a strategy to change your habits. Gradually improving your practices can help you easily overcome procrastination. Identifying the right method that works for you can be crucial to help you stop your procrastination. Many strategies and ideas exist to support you in becoming more diligent at work. You can consider the following process to help you stop procrastinating:

  • streamline your tasks

  • make a routine and adhere to that

  • measure your progress and reward yourself for achieving milestones

Read more: What Is Strategic Planning And How To Do It In 6 Steps

10 helpful tips to stop procrastinating at work

Here are some tips you can consider to prevent yourself from procrastinating at work:

1. Envision your goals

Visualise yourself finishing the tasks on your list. Envisioning the good and accomplished feelings of achieving your goals and finishing tasks can motivate you to complete them. Examine the objectives you aim to achieve and the steps necessary to accomplish them. These goals may even help you progress in your career or get a salary increase. Consider achieving these goals as you encourage yourself to complete tasks.

2. Divide larger projects into smaller tasks

Dividing bigger projects into smaller tasks can make them appear less challenging. For instance, if you have the assignment to create a 50-slide presentation and you are uncertain where to begin, create a to-do list of smaller tasks and assign each one a deadline. You can start with the simplest task possible to facilitate the process, such as researching other presentations for inspiration.

Related: What Is Self Motivation? And How To Use It To Meet Your Goals

3. Consider the two-minute method or Pomodoro technique

Completing larger tasks in smaller increments can make them easier to complete. You can try a few techniques to retain your motivation. The two-minute approach determines how much further you prefer to pursue a task by using a time increment of two minutes. For example, if you write a 40-page sales proposal, set a timer for two minutes. By the time the alarm rings, you may have become so involved in your project that you may decide to continue working on it.

You can also try the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique emphasises the importance of taking frequent breaks to facilitate your brain in concentrating more effectively. For example, working for 25 minutes using a timer, then taking a five-minute break and after every four intervals of working, taking a 15-minute break.

4. Create a to-do list

You are more likely to complete tasks if you have a to-do list. This keeps you accountable for completing them and acts as a reminder to finish them on time. You can create a list of each task, then prioritise them by listing those with upcoming deadlines near the top. This also simplifies the process of adding these items to a schedule.

5. Make a schedule to set deadlines

By adding your to-do list items into your schedule, you can better manage your tasks and easily define deadlines. For this, you can also use a planner, an online calendar or project management software. Consider noting down the scheduled time to work daily on specific projects.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition And Examples

6. Determine your most productive hours

Knowing your peak productive hours can be critical for overcoming procrastination. Determining your constructive hours and scheduling your most complicated tasks in that certain hours can help you complete the works you are avoiding. For instance, you may be enthusiastic in the morning but feel less energised in the afternoon. Scheduling tasks that require attention to detail in the morning can enable you to complete them without distraction.

7. Remove any distractions

When certain items on your desk, such as your phone, are readily available, it can be too easy to pick them up and divert your attention away from your work. Consider putting your phone away if you are not using it and clean up any clutter. You can also disable or restrict notifications from apps that stimulate procrastination.

If your work environment appears to be distracting, look for ways to change it. For instance, if employees frequently visit your desk to socialise, tell them when you intend to focus on other tasks so they can come to converse with you when you are available. In case you work from home, restrict outside distractions by setting boundaries for your availability.

Related: How To Write An Action Plan (With Template And Example)

8. Work in a comfortable environment

When you work in a comfortable setting, you may feel more productive. You can enhance your office environment by adding plants to your desk, additional lighting or decoration to create a more positive and relaxing atmosphere. If you work remotely, you can have a dedicated workspace to better separate your work and personal lives during the work shift.

9. Remember your self-worth

You may find it challenging to begin a project if you have a fear of being unable to do the job perfectly. Consider taking some time before starting your task to remind yourself of your self-worth and positive characteristics. You can remember previous positive feedback to strengthen your confidence. Even if the project result does not meet your expectations, you may remain a valuable member of your team. When a task appears challenging, try telling yourself some motivational statements. This can increase your self-esteem and take you into a positive mindset.

10. Focus on completion rather than perfection

If you are focused on making a task perfect, you might be nervous to work on it, which can lead to procrastination. There are many instances when completing a task with minor error is more suitable than not completing it at all. A critical component of overcoming procrastination is working on a task and ensuring that you complete it first before thinking about perfection. Try to start tasks early focusing only on completion. Then you can take time to edit or review your work to ensure it is accurate.

Explore more articles