Around one in five adults admits to being a chronic procrastinator. People who have a tendency to put things off are tricky to keep on track, but careful management can bring them in line, writes Theodore Kinno for Strategy+Business.
Team members who drag their heels and consistently fail to meet deadlines can be both frustrating and potentially damaging to your business. Having 20% of your employees avoiding what you pay them to do is a nightmare in terms of schedule planning and teamwork. But writing them off as wholly ineffective isn’t necessarily the right, or best, strategy.
Kinno knows from personal experience what it’s like on that side of the table. And he’s in good company – with names like Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Leonardo da Vinci also on the dawdlers’ team. You might even recognise yourself as a procrastinator.
There are, of course, degrees of procrastination, from those who sail close to the wind with project timings, to extreme examples where no quantifiable work is achieved at all.
As a leader, it pays to understand how to manage the individual, rather than taking a blanket confrontational or heavy-handed approach.
SEVEN WAYS TO MANAGE PROCRASTINATORS
Here are Kinno’s top seven tips for handling procrastinators:
1) Identify the procrastinators. When a team is always late delivering projects, take a look at the individuals involved to single out who is holding everyone back.
2) Give tight deadlines. Presented with an extended or hazy period to complete a task, procrastinators will procrastinate. Keep their timescales short and strict and they will get moving. For longer term projects, break them down into smaller portions, each with its own short deadline.
3) Stagger the workload. Faced with a lengthy and challenging to-do list, the procrastinator will find all manner of distractions to avoid even starting. Give assignments one after another as they are completed.
4) Get rid of temptations. Wherever there is an alternative attraction, the procrastinator will find it. “Isolate procrastinators from distraction – shut off the office television, cancel the 2pm ice-cream break – and we’ll get our work done,” says Kinno.
5) Give clear responsibilities. If each member of the team is made publicly accountable for completing certain tasks then there will be no hiding place for the procrastinator.
6) Harness individual talents. Everyone has their strengths, including procrastinators. Try to make use of them. If that’s not possible, then make it clear you have faith in their ability to complete the job.
7) Request assistance. Procrastinators like to help their fellow man as much as the next person. Appeal to their better nature by asking for their support to get a job done. “Sometimes that’s all we’ll need to muster enough motivation to overcome our natural inertia,” says Kinno.
When handling the procrastinators in your organisation, it’s useful to recognise that the urge to dilly-dally is a trait that can’t be reversed by either bullying and punitive reactions, or by offering sweeteners. Comprehend their ways and you’ll find you can manoeuvre procrastinators into being more productive employees.