16/02/2015

By Rhydian Lewis, CEO, RateSetter

Entrepreneurs are not procrastinators. Or at least that’s what I thought before embarking upon RateSetter’s recent #MakeTodayPay campaign. Instead, the Company’s online procrastination quiz diagnosed him as a ‘rebel’, the iconoclast of the procrastination world who puts off adhering to the rules purely to defy convention.

A bit of fun? Yes. Wholly inaccurate? No. We are all guilty ‎of procrastination, with research identifying that the average Brit procrastinates for 55 days per year. Narrow this down to our daily procrastination time and we each spend 43 minutes a day procrastinating at work alone. It may not sound like much, but for fast growth businesses in particular this degree of daily dawdling can severely impact upon the bottom line. The same research discovered that workplace procrastination is in fact costing British businesses £76bn every year, an expense they can hardly afford.

So, how can businesses clamp down on procrastination? Or indeed, in a climate where ‘mindfulness’ ‎is the topic du jour, can a spot of thinking time breed greater productivity? I partnered with coach and founder of Life Clubs at Work, Nina Grunfeld, to offer some insights on what businesses should do when procrastination becomes a problem:

1. Create think space

‎Procrastination can be insidious, with many employees dragging their heels without even realising it. Often, it sets in when productivity tails off. Conducting the tea round or sneaking a quick glance at Facebook can offer light relief when you hit a mental block. There is nothing wrong with building strategies to combat brain ache, but it’s the regularity of these distractions that can be cause for concern.

Creating a culture that encourages optimum productivity‎ is essential to preventing procrastination from spinning out of control. A workplace environment that supports regular breaks throughout the day and offers break-out spaces for creative thinking and discussions can be more conducive to productivity. Turning your office into Google HQ isn’t necessary, but creating space for reflection and ideas is a must.

2. Offer help

That serial dawdler, guilty of frequent loo breaks and incessant snacking should not be neglected. Their procrastination is likely a symptom of an underlying problem. Many people procrastinate purely because they don’t have a firm grip on the task at hand.

Rather than scorn, bosses can offer help. Making sure you set a thorough brief, reiterate it in written form and create regular check-points to discuss progress is beneficial. The procrastinator who feels overwhelmed, simply doesn’t know how to handle the brief or requires more training to efficiently deliver upon expectations will soon be identified. ‎Though time consuming at the outset, upskilling employees will ultimately breed more action and nip procrastination in the bud.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Many workplace procrastinators expend their energy fixating on their to-do list. Ticking off small tasks can create a great sense of achievement, but what we don’t realise is that we’re often inadvertently avoiding bigger jobs.

When you sense you or a colleague might be focusing on the minutiae, pause for a moment and ask whether these small tasks should be on your to-do list or someone else’s. If time is tight and colleagues would relish the opportunity to take on the task, don’t be afraid to delegate. Equally, start by checking whether every item on your list demands your attention; if there is no material benefit to the business from completing the assignment, ditch it altogether. If the job is in fact one for you, rank it among your priorities and set yourself a deadline. And when it continues to sink towards the bottom of your to-do list, book out time to complete it first thing in the morning, when productivity is high and you will enjoy the sense of achievement for the remainder of the day.

Procrastination need not be the silent assassin of workplace efficiency. Build strategies to ensure you and your colleagues tackle it before it becomes a problem and recognise that occasionally pausing for thought can in fact breed greater productivity.