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The Psychology Behind Workplace Procrastination

Updated: Feb 2


The author Valerie Sawade of the article:" The Psychology Behind Workplace Procrastination".

Publication date: 28.09.2023





In the bustling world of modern workplaces, procrastination often lurks as a persistent productivity thief. Despite our best intentions, we find ourselves putting off tasks, only to face a mounting pile of work later. But have you ever wondered why we succumb to this counterproductive behavior? Exploring the psychology of procrastination uncovers an interplay of emotions, cognition, and environment driving this behavior.


The Temptation of Instant Gratification

At the heart of procrastination lies the allure of instant gratification. Our natural inclination is to pursue pleasure while avoiding discomfort. Procrastination offers a quick escape from the discomfort that tasks perceived as challenging or tedious can bring. Engaging in other non-essential activities provides an immediate sense of reward, making it difficult to resist the urge of procrastination.


Fear of Failure and Perfectionism

Fear of failure is another psychological driver of workplace procrastination. Striving for perfection often leads to delaying tasks because the fear of not meeting exceptionally high standards can be paralyzing. Ironically, the fear of failure can result in not even attempting the task, hindering progress and productivity.


Time Discounting and Present Bias

Time discounting: a crucial role in procrastination

The human brain tends to prioritize immediate rewards over future ones, a phenomenon known as time discounting or present bias. This plays a crucial role in procrastination, as tasks with distant deadlines seem less urgent. Biases convince us that we have time to complete them, only to feel the pressure intensify as the deadline comes closer.


Decisional Procrastination

Sometimes, procrastination emerges from the inability to make decisions. When faced with a multitude of options or a complex task, individuals may postpone taking action due to the cognitive load of decision-making. This form of procrastination can be particularly sneaky, as it disguises itself as careful consideration rather than avoidance.


The Dopamine Loop

Engaging in pleasurable activities triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. This dopamine loop contributes to procrastination by making non-essential tasks more appealing. So, checking off small, easy tasks feels rewarding, even though they might not contribute significantly to overall productivity.


Dopamine loop contributes to procrastination

Overcoming Workplace Procrastination

Understanding the psychological underpinnings of workplace procrastination is the first step toward conquering it. Here are some strategies to help you regain control over your productivity:


1. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

Divide larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Each completed step triggers a sense of accomplishment and makes the overall task seem less daunting.


2. Set Specific Deadlines

Assign specific deadlines to tasks, even if they are self-imposed. Setting deadlines for yourself helps to create a sense of urgency and accountability.


3. Use Time Management Techniques

Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique can help maintain focus and prevent burnout. It involves working for a set period and then taking a short break.


4. Visualize the End Result

Envisioning the positive outcome of completing a task can motivate you to start working on it.


5. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that nobody is productive all the time. What’s more, you should accept that occasional procrastination is normal, and focus on improvement.


Why is there procrastination at the Workplace?

Procrastination at the workplace is not merely a matter of poor time management. In fact, it is a complex interplay of psychological factors that influence our behavior. By understanding these drivers, we can adopt strategies to combat procrastination and pave the way for a more productive work experience. Remember, it is not about eliminating procrastination entirely but learning to manage it effectively.


 

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