Procrastination is Contagious

Newsflash: Procrastination is contagious.

Well, maybe it is not a newsflash.  I think we all know that you become like those that you hang out with.

(Remember when your parents were concerned about you hanging out with a certain crowd in school?  Makes sense, doesn’t it?)

It has been shown time and again that people adapt their habits and behavior to fall in line with others around them.  It really doesn’t matter why: whether it is science, social, or just a need to fit in.  This can be applied to exercise, health, eating, beliefs,  habits, …and yes, productivity.

So, it is for this reason that you need to be aware that procrastination is contagious.

In fact, it is a sickness that can destroy individuals and companies.  Are you in danger of catching procrastination from those around you?  Or did you already?

Good Influences or Bad?

Are the people you hang out with a good influence on your productivity?  Do they build you up with good habits and efficiency?  Or do they drag you down with slackness and procrastination?

Here are some things to consider.  Do the people you associate with:

  • Consistently show up late to meetings?
  • Do they miss appointments?
  • Are they always rushing?
  • Do they finish things at the last minute?
  • Do they fail to meet deadlines?
  • Do they procrastinate?

If so, you could be following the same behaviors.  Have any of these become acceptable or the norm in your life?

Is Your Company Sick?

It is not just individuals that are susceptible to the catching the “procrastination.”  Companies can fall ill with it, too.  In fact, for a company it can be so destructive that some companies ultimately do not survive the procrastination sickness.

Does your company show any of the following symptoms:

  • Do projects finish late? – At some companies this is so regular, that projects are given “automatic” extensions.
  • Do people sit around for hours shooting the breeze? – Of course, these companies are quick to say that their culture is based on “relationships.”  But, sitting around every day for 3 hours discussing sports or gossip is not productive.  This is not an exaggeration.  Studies have shown that many workers get less than 3 hours of actual work completed in a typical day.
  • Are people habitually late with no consequence? – Many companies would rather look the other way than deal with workers who are habitually late.
  • Does the company fail to meet goals and objectives? – You may not think that your company failing to reach its goals is a direct result of procrastination.  However, in many environments it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Work and projects are not successfully completed on time and then executives wonder why the company is not succeeding.
  • Do people regularly skip out? If your office is a ghost town by 3PM every Friday, it is a pretty good sign that procrastination is running rampant.

What do you think?  Is your company sick?  Is procrastination the norm or does your company drive productivity and results?

How Do You Avoid Catching the Procrastination?

Procrastination is a habit that is not quickly or easily resolved.  It takes long term effort and the forming of new productivity habits.

Here are some short term tips to help prevent you and your company from catching the procrastination illness:

For Individuals:

  • Learn from those who are getting it done –  Get a mentor who is productive from which you can learn.
  • Don’t hang out with the procrastinators – This one seems obvious, but cannot be overstated.  You need to stop hanging out with those who are not meeting deadlines.  Those who are always late.  Those who are taking 2 hour lunches.
  • Hold yourself accountable – Even when others are not, hold yourself accountable to being on time and getting things done by prescribed deadlines.
  • Make sure your workspace is workable – Make sure that your area of work is suitable for productive work.  If it is a mess, clean it up.  If others make it loud or unworkable, find a quiet area to work.  Every Monday morning I used to go to a meeting room by myself while my co-workers debriefed the weekend for the first 3 hours of the day.

For Companies:

  • Start meetings on time – This simple item can work wonders for companies.  Starting meetings on time can be the foundation to a productive company culture.  Recently, I started a 9 person meeting with only 2 people present.  The others got the message when they walked in and things were already in progress.
  • Enforce Punctuality – It is a slippery slope for a company to ignore lateness.  Trust me, co-workers know who is on time and who is not.  Not being able to be punctual can be a symptom of bigger issues.
  • Hold people accountable to deadlines – Deadlines were called deadlines for a reason once upon a time.  Ensure you are holding your teams accountable to completing work in the allotted time-frame.
  • Do not retain those who are not producing – Again, this one seems obvious.  But, many companies are guilty of retaining employees for feel good reasons, even when they are a negative influence or impact.

What do you do to prevent procrastination in your life?  What about at your company?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great topic.

    I think that one thing that bears a lot of attention is projects that finish late or missed deadlines. I’ve found that if you don’t pounce on that it becomes a big problem for organizations.

    The best way to fight it is to not forgive it. At the first sign a project deadline has been missed, hold a quick, standup meeting and ask “Why was this deadline missed?”, get to the root of the problem, and make the responsible parties responsible again. It’s NOT OK to miss a deadline.

    I recommend “The Managerial Moment of Truth” – a great book on how to manage and do course corrections like this.

  • Great topic.

    I think that one thing that bears a lot of attention is projects that finish late or missed deadlines. I’ve found that if you don’t pounce on that it becomes a big problem for organizations.

    The best way to fight it is to not forgive it. At the first sign a project deadline has been missed, hold a quick, standup meeting and ask “Why was this deadline missed?”, get to the root of the problem, and make the responsible parties responsible again. It’s NOT OK to miss a deadline.

    I recommend “The Managerial Moment of Truth” – a great book on how to manage and do course corrections like this.

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  • Love this article.
    Procrastination is one of the main things that I’m fighting with now.
    I’m not really mixing with other procrastinators because I work alone most of the time.
    So I’m more into increase my own accountability toward my work.
    Some tips here really give me an insight about what to do. Thanks