“Not Now!”

“As soon as I finish this, we’ll address that issue.”

“I’ll do that tomorrow.”

I haven’t decided yet.”

“That can wait.”

“I’ll get to it when I can.”

“If I only had more time…”

Have you ever caught yourself using one of these excuses? Or heard your boss use them with you or a colleague? If you answered yes, you are not alone. We are all guilty to varying degrees of this common, but costly practice of putting things off. Everyone procrastinates at one time or another. When a particular task seems unpleasant or undesirable, we tend to put it aside and tackle something that we find more appealing.

Procrastination is the act of deliberately delaying things that need to be accomplished. In some instances, delays are necessary, requiring permission, more information or collaboration with others. But many times we choose to delay certain tasks in order to avoid them all together. If you are dodging projects that you should be working on, you are procrastinating. And when people procrastinate in the workplace, the business pays the price.

There are two types of procrastination that commonly affect people in business.

Classic Procrastination is when someone consciously avoids doing something that they know they should be working on. These people are fully aware of what they are doing. Although this can be costly and lead to disruption within the organization, it is not the worst form.

The second, subtler form of procrastination is called Priority Dilution. These people avoid the day’s most important responsibilities, and allow their attention to shift to less essential, but perhaps seemingly urgent activities. Although they aren’t lazy, apathetic, or disengaged, their inability to prioritize is damaging to the business.

Their businesses are in a constant state of interruption, with endless fires being put out. And their employees are robbed of the ability to complete crucial assignments for which they are responsible.

Priority Dilution is a product of endless breakdowns within their business, such as customer service emergencies, disruptions in delivery of product and/or service, underperforming employees, a workplace culture that lacks composure, poor workflow management, excessive emails, over-scheduling of employee time or last-minute emergency meetings due to lack of preparation.

Unfortunately, by delaying execution on the critical tasks in their business, many companies accrue the most expensive, invisible cost they face today, procrastination. It is not the result of employees deliberately avoiding their work. It simply means that the business is not utilizing their people as efficiently, intelligently, and profitably as they should be. How then, does procrastination equate with business costs?

A study polling 10,000 U.S. employees revealed that the average worker admitted to wasting 2.09 hours each day on non-job-related activities.  That equates to one quarter of the workday. A salaried employee earning $40,000 would then cost their employer more than $10,000 per year due to procrastination.

Other research shows that up to 64% of employees wasted time on a daily basis viewing non-work related websites.  These additional delays in productivity can lead to staggering amounts of wasted time and money.

While wasted time is lost forever, it is possible for business owners to stop the unwanted drainage of this invaluable commodity.  This requires real determination by management. By controlling the workflow in every aspect of their business, from the top down, they will not only create added structure in their execution, but it greatly improves the focus and morale of everyone in the organization.

By closely evaluating the overall corporate workflow, areas of specific responsibility can more readily be defined and assigned to the proper employees.  The level of importance for each task can then be prioritized accordingly.

Employees who know exactly what is expected of them, and who have a clear understanding of their deadlines, will perform with much greater proficiency, provided they do not fall victim to symptoms of priority dilution.

There are specific actions that management must take in order to optimize their operation and to avoid self-procrastination within their business.

  • Eliminate useless tasks. Put an end to unproductive functions that aren’t important to the business. This helps to free up work schedules and eradicate unnecessary distractions.
  • Repetitive tasks must be streamlined and automated.  Set rules and guidelines addressing common requests for your assistant to manage on your behalf.
  • Delegate all tasks that can be done by subordinate employees. Management’s hourly rate may be as much as five times higher, saving time and money.
  • Set short-term deadlines. Deadlines are essential, and when followed, will assure a high level of efficiency within the business.  If, however, the deadline for a major project is too far in the future, break the project into small tasks and set due dates along the way to keep employees motivated.  The project will always be fresh and the deadlines will be met.
  • Look to collaborate with the employees. Employees can be a great source for determining what extraneous and wasteful tasks can be streamlined or eliminated.  Use their experience to your advantage whenever possible.

Time is money, but when not managed appropriately, it can become very costly.  No one consciously decides to become a procrastinator. Most people strive to be productive and aren’t even aware they are doing it. Everyone must take a look at themselves, and do their best to help improve the overall proficiency of their business.