Procrastination: Friend or Foe? A Survival Guide for Remote Workers

The transition from a traditional to the remote office will likely remain as a norm for many companies well after the end of the global pandemic, given positive productivity trends. Recent survey findings released by Hibob (UK), a global HRIS company with headquarters in New York, reveal that a majority of employees are experiencing the same (37%) or higher levels (13%) of productivity since the transition to a remote office environment.* However, results also show that all employees do not share this positive experience  (18%). Given the sudden change of a new remote work environment where now there may be less frequent communication and direction, procrastination can quickly become a barrier to successful performance for some employees. Is procrastination a friend or a foe? The answer may well depend on the steps you take to manage this challenge.

Success Strategies for Remote Workers

Distractions are a normal part of any environment but can intensify when working from home. A quick trip to the kitchen for coffee, tea, water, or a snack can easily lead to side trips on social media to catch up on the latest events, discussions with other family members at home, and watching the latest news update. These ‘quick side trips’ can easily take a toll on your day, and before you know it, the workday is over, and you have missed that critical work assignment or project deadline.

The lure of distraction is a common procrastination trap, robbing you of precious time and creating unnecessary anxiety. To help support your success, here are a few tips to avoid this trap and remain productive when working in a remote office environment.

Design your office environment for comfort, focus and to promote productivity.

Ensure that you have coffee, tea, water, and other ‘preferred goodies’ on hand. Typically, you will have these essentials in a traditional office environment, so make sure you stock your remote office. If there is no room in your home or apartment for a private office or separate workspace, then designate and organize a work area in a room as your office space to maintain focus throughout the day. If family members or roommates also work from home or are at home during the day who share your work area, consider using headphones to minimize distractions.

Plan your work week and schedule completion time for work assignments or projects.

Develop a weekly action plan listing the priority tasks and actions for the week along with completion dates. If you need more communication, direction, or guidance, proactively speak with your manager for clarification or assistance. Also, consider in advance any possible procrastination lures that may become barriers and plan for them. Since unforeseen issues or emergencies may occur during the workday, prepare to be flexible and review your goals at the end of each day and adjust schedules to ensure you remain on course to achieve your goals successfully.

Include brief breaks in your plan and discipline yourself to take breaks throughout the day. Avoid unplanned interruptions, when possible, as they may be procrastination lures to “escape” a tedious task or unwanted assignment.

While occasional, brief breaks during the workday are essential and necessary to promote well-being and productivity, it is important to guard for what I call “procrastination breaks.” You know the ones I mean, they are distractions we invent to get away from an unwanted or boring task or assignment that we would rather not perform. Resist the urge to fall for this time-wasting trap by practicing a little self-talk. Challenge the urge by asking: “Do I really need this break, or am I trying to avoid this task, assignment, or project? Can this wait until my next planned break?”

Manage unscheduled meetings, unplanned visits and phone distractions to control the demands on your time during the workday, when possible.

The frequency of visits and unscheduled meetings is likely to increase as more people discover that you are working from home. To ensure you maintain focus on important projects and deadlines, enlist family and friends as supporters and accountability partners. Explain the challenges of your workday and ask for their support and understanding as you transition to your new work environment to maintain focus and achieve your goals. Turn off any unnecessary notification alerts (social media, news, and other non-essential notification settings that break focus and create unnecessary distractions).  It can be surprising how much wasted time accumulates in the course of a day by taking that 5-10 minutes to check your phone after an alert, especially when you are “seeking” a distraction from unwanted activity.

Reward and celebrate each successful step forward.

Always celebrate and reward yourself for every step you take away from unproductive procrastination. The reward does not have to be costly…a fun activity or inexpensive treat you enjoy will suffice. Share your successes with friends and supporters so that they can celebrate with you.

Procrastination is a challenging obstacle, but with focused effort, determination, and supportive family, friends, trusted colleagues, and your manager, it can be overcome. Is procrastination a friend or foe?  You be the judge and take swift action when necessary.

If procrastination has you or a member of your team up against the rocks and an external resource is needed, contact our talented team of coaches for help. We help keep your business, team, and life on course for success!

*Based on an April 2020 Hibob, Inc. survey conducted in US of 1000 FT employees, age 18 and above.

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