top of page
  • Tamar Balkin

How Can I Motivate Someone Who Seems To Keep Procrastinating?

Photo by Pedro da Silva on Unsplash

Oh, today I don't feel like doing anything I just wanna lay in my bed Don't feel like picking up my phone So leave a message at the tone 'Cause today I swear I'm not doing anything

Bruno Mars- The Lazy song.  Click here for a link to the youtube 

A few weeks ago a client came to me with a the following question  “How can I motivate someone who seems to keep procrastinating ?" Of course he was justified in being concerned as there is much evidence to indicate that procrastination leads to elevated levels of anxiety, stress, feelings of hopelessness, depression, and poor physical health; the opposite patterns have been observed among non procrastinators. Chronic procrastinators tend to receive a lower salary, experience shorter spells of employment, having a tendency to be underemployed, have lower self-efficacy, and report higher levels of boredom.  Not to mention the potential impact on performance and productivity. In addition recent research has demonstrated  as expected, that that spending excessive time on personal activities while actually at work (such as reading trivial blogs, engaging in gossiping, and instant messaging, etc.) decreases the quality or the amount of the work done.  What is it ? Procrastination is  “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay” (Steel).  "Procrastination always goes in the same direction, away from the tedious and towards the pleasant and the effortless." (Ginestet). Dr. Piers Steel, goes a step further and conceptualises procrastination  as a form of self-harm.

Why does it happen?

Psychologists have found that procrastination is way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond. So, to avoid the possible negative emotion we put off doing the task.  But as Dr. Fuschia Sirois explains, procrastination “is essentially irrational as it doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences.” Some procrastinators delay a task because they’re not in the mood to do it and deceive themselves into thinking they will be later on. But we all know that when tomorrow comes you are in the  same emotional place as yesterday but with less time. To be honest, after reading this research one may think that all psychologists ever do is get their clients talk or write or think about feelings. In all seriousness, readers would be well aware of the multiple causes of negative emotions, pertaining to our lives and work at the moment. So what did my client do?

He arranged a time to chat with the employee and began by empathising with her about the challenges of getting good work done under the current conditions. Then he asked an open question to ascertain  what  was going on for her. He told me he had to gently probe to see  what was keeping her  from staying on track and what he could put in place to make it easier for her. To my client's surprise his employee directly told him that she found the work extremely boring, really wanted a transfer, knew there were no openings and felt guilty that she was not grateful to have a job. My client reflected that there were changes he could make that could benefit both the employee and all of his team.  Here are some of the ideas he came up with to share with his team: 

  • Reallocate some of the aspects of the work, to tip the balance slightly to give all his employees more of the type of work they enjoy and less of what they dislike 

  • Collaboration on how to better craft jobs and responsibilities around individual and team  interests, abilities, goals, values and needs.  

  • Challenge every team member to share with others their personal visual reminder of the purpose of their work.

  • Identify the times of day that they felt the most and least motivated.

  • Encourage them to experiment with work scheduling  and daily work timetables, to identify  effective habits and personal limits of concentration.

  • Schedule  zoom sessions that were not meetings to enable employees to see others who are  also working.

  • Implement a new information sharing protocol that required quick ‘face to face’ interaction when work was shared.

  • As a group recognise the moments of achievement to increase the positive emotions connected to the tasks,  

  • Explore avenues  to increase personal self-efficacy, accomplishment  and confidence.

  • Pair the procrastinators with those on the verge of burnout via technology for a few periods during the day.

"Your job as a leader is not to motivate directly but to find out what motivates  your staff and empower them to put factors in place" Adam Grant 

Is it all bad?  Researchers identify two types of procrastinators: passive procrastinators versus active procrastinators. Passive procrastinators are procrastinators in the traditional sense. They are paralysed by their indecision to act and fail to complete tasks on time. In contrast, active procrastinators are a "positive" type of procrastinator. They prefer to work under pressure, and they make deliberate decisions to procrastinate. Although active procrastinators procrastinate to the same degree as passive procrastinators, they are more similar to non procrastinators than to passive procrastinators in terms of purposeful use of time, control of time, self-efficacy belief, coping styles, and outcomes including academic performance.  Finally, please be mindful of mental health of those around you and don't forget the R U OK check ins. It’s hard to know if Bruno Mars was singing about depression, or a  slight slump. 



Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin. The unbearable lightness of procrastination Ginestet, Cedric.Psychologist; Leicester Vol. 18, Iss. 8 (Aug 2005): 480-482.

U. Baran Metin, Maria C. W. Peeters & Toon W. Taris (2018) Correlates of procrastination and performance at work: The role of having “good fit”, Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 46:3, 228-244,  Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of "Active" Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance Angela Hsin Chun Chu; Jin Nam Choi.The Journal of Social Psychology; Philadelphia Vol. 145, Iss. 3,  (Jun 2005): 245-64.

Sirois, F. and Pychyl, T. (2013) Procrastination and the Priority of Short-Term Mood Regulation: Consequences for Future Self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7 (2). 115 - 127. ISSN 1751-9004

23 views0 comments


bottom of page