Overcoming Procrastination at Work

How can you harness your energy so that you perform more effectively at work?  In a nut shell we are talking about overcoming the dreaded procrastination!

What causes your procrastination?

Have you ever considered what it is that stops you, slows you down or frustrates you about getting work completed? What is it that saps your energy? What it is that you procrastinate over? Reasons might include:

  • Not wanting / knowing how to do the task
  • A messy desk or cluttered work space
  • A difficult relationship with a colleague
  • Too many emails
  • You cannot find things
  • Being pulled in too many directions
  • Temptations to do the easy, rather than the more difficult but important tasks
  • Fear

The list is endless! Michelle Tullier, a guru in this area, writes that you can broadly categorise these reasons under two headings. Firstly, environmental reasons e.g. the main trouble stems from situational factors like overload, distraction, disorganisation and secondly reasons to do with your mind which have a psychological root! So in this post I will examine the environmental reasons. Look out for another post when I will discuss perfectionism, fear of success or failure, overwhelm etc.

The 3 key Environmental Reasons for Procrastination

Getting started on tasks or completing projects you have begun, relies on a critical thought to action link, says Tullier. You have the thought, but action doesn’t always follow. Obstacles get in the way. “I won’t go to gym because the wardrobe where I keep my gym clothes stored is messy.” “I won’t finish that project because there is a disarray of papers and it’s difficult to keep track of where I am.”! There are 3 key reasons or hazards that Tullier describes: those of people, places or things.

People – these are your partners in crime, fellow procrastinators who convince you of a million other things you’d rather be doing or people who just nag or drag you down.

Places – here Michelle refers to your workspace and the excuses we find to avoid working. Namely, the desk, the lighting, the temperature and all the other ergonomic factors!

Things – Papers, files, folders, junk. Stuff that clutters and crowds us from clear thinking and action. One of the major causes of procrastination is too much paper and disorganised papers. In addition, too many commitments can clutter and overwhelm us causing a drain in energy.

Top tips to create action


  • list all the people who contribute to your procrastination and think of ways to stand up to them or avoid them.


  • to overcome those excuses of “If only I had the right desk, chair etc” just do it, get started.


  • Plan in regular admin time with a deadline as if you were doing this for someone else. Play some good music to enjoy at the same time. Remember daily, weekly and monthly admin tasks. Think of some treats or rewards to look forward to.
  • Create physical space to be creative and productive in your office, workspace, or at your desk.
  • Plan in some regular breaks as this does actually make you more productive!
  • List all your commitments and identify where any delegation, breaks from the commitment or support can be brought in. If saying “no” is a problem, look at ways to improve your assertiveness.
  • Don’t over schedule, leave room for the unexpected.
  • Distractions like chatting on the phone, watching TV, surfing the internet, playing PC games are all BIG enemies of action so plan in such activity when you have completed your important tasks. (It may help to log how long you currently spend on these activities so that you are in a better position to manage them).
  • Keep a success diary. Once you get started and begin to see results this will motivate you further.
A New Perspective

Cheryl Richardson recommends in her book to identify the things that drain your energy- the energy that allows you to get things done, connect with others and stay physically and emotionally fit. For most people who live stressful lives, this energy is limited and usually running low. Normally we think of our energy levels rising and falling based on what we “do”. However, it is much more than that says Richardson. Every action you take uses energy. What you may not have considered is that actions you don’t take use energy as well – mental energy, emotional energy, energy that could be used in a more positive way. The items on your mental to do list, the ones you have been procrastinating about, distract you or make you feel guilty. She suggests noticing what gets your attention and steals your energy!

The commitment to make difficult but necessary changes that will restore your energy can have an immediate positive impact. Energy is one of the critical ingredients for success. You decide who or what gets it. Choose wisely!

Next Steps

Create your top 10 procrastination list by recording all the areas that drain you at work or home. Prioritise the list and identify what you can do and by when. Focus on just changing one thing at time and only one and stick with it for a week.  Start in the next 48 hours if possible!  

If you need extra support with reducing procrastination, we have a great E-book that can help. 

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