Why procrastination is happening and what you can do to help your team

Could putting a stop to putting things off improve wellbeing on your team?

If you find that you or members of your team are procrastinating more than usual, you’re not alone. When life feels so far from normal, it’s hard to stay on schedule. Like stress, procrastination is one of those obnoxious problems that pretty much all human beings suffer from, in good times and bad, but especially in bad.

The stats don’t lie. Procrastination is all around, keeping all of us from getting things done (at work and in all areas of life) and to add insult to injury, causing us stress, too.

Procrastination isn't just bad for hitting goals—it’s terrible for wellbeing, too.

94% of people say procrastination has hurt their happiness.   Studies also link this sort of delaying behaviour to higher stress and reduced performance, increased levels of depression and anxiety, and reduced satisfaction during working hours and leisure time.

So if it’s so harmful, why do we do it?

Blame your brain

In the end, it all comes down to that goopy mass of grey matter popularly known as the brain. When there’s something that we don’t want to do (for whatever reason), the unconscious pleasure center of our minds, or the limbic system, battles for control with the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that functions like a friendly administrative assistant trying to get us to our next meeting on time.

A basic instincts autopilot of sorts, the limbic system’s pretty pushy. And a lot of the time, that’s a good thing. After all, this part of the brain helps keep us from doing dangerous things (definitely a plus), but it also tends to help us talk ourselves out of doing unpleasant things (not always to our advantage).

On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex is all about conscious thought, and it isn’t as automatic (or nearly as overbearing) as the limbic system. That’s why substantial effort is required to keep it going while keeping the limbic system’s bullying at bay.

So sometimes, when we’re stressed by outside events or a task is especially unappealing, the brain (specifically, the limbic system) just isn’t having it.

And then, procrastination happens.

So what can we do to keep procrastination from getting out of hand?

@herlifeinpixels via Unsplash

1. Break projects down into manageable pieces with specific due dates.

Often we put things off because a project feels too big and it’s hard to know exactly where or how to start. Make getting work done easier for everyone by wrangling that project into smaller, less scary chunks.

2. Give your team the flexibility to work on projects at times that work for them.

Sometimes we delay getting started because we’re trying to work at a time of day when our minds aren’t at peak performance. If it’s an option for your team, encourage them to arrange their schedules to tackle their projects at times when their minds, moods, and general energy levels work with, not against them.

3. Give your team access to practical tools to manage their moods.

Often, procrastination has more to do with how we’re feeling than the task at hand. Give your team access to practical tools like wellbeing apps and encourage them to use them to manage their mental wellbeing and figure out what’s at the root of their procrastination.

4. Use rewards to motivate as needed.

Incentives (whether they’re a bonus when a big project is successfully completed or something small like a gift card) are especially important for those dreaded and much-loathed tasks that everyone on your team tries to pass off or avoid until the last possible minute.

How do you and your team manage procrastination during stressful situations? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com.