Procrastination and motivation in the world of work: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Procrastination and motivation

Although, at this moment, the time is actually right, you still put off unpleasant tasks instead of getting them done now. Who is not familiar with this scenario? But when we do this, we sometimes accept unpleasant, even negative consequences. We encounter procrastination not just in our daily lives, but also in the world of work. But what lies behind procrastination, and why is it so common?
In this article we shine a spotlight onto the phenomenon of procrastination and show you what it has to do with motivation.

What is procrastination?

You have certainly come across this term. The word “procrastinate” comes from the Latin “procrastinare” and means “defer” or “postpone”. The word was originally neutral, or even understood positively, but today it has significantly more negative associations. Over time this “postponement” became “procrastination”, which means you’d prefer not to do it now, but later. The phenomenon is widespread in the population: an estimated 20% are chronic procrastinators, and the number is significantly higher among students. It has been shown that 80-95% of all students procrastinate on occasion.

So you often switch to a more pleasant activity, reach for your smartphone or even tidy your desk, instead of devoting yourself to what you actually need to do. You then think of the best excuses to justify your behaviour: “I still have loads of time”, “I work so much better under pressure” or even “I only have an hour now, it’s not even worth starting”. Does this sound familiar?

Why do we procrastinate?

The reasons for procrastinating behaviour frequently vary. We have listed a few of them below:

  • Setting priorities requires effort
  • Unrealistic planning, or none
  • Difficulties in differentiating between alternative activities
  • Time management or concentration deficits
  • Lack of motivation and dislike of the task itself
  • Fear of failure or criticism

But we can definitively conclude that it is in no way anything to do with laziness. Because, after all, you’re still doing something, even when it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.

What’s happened to your motivation?

Procrastination is a thing in the world of work as well as in daily life. The solution seems so simple: motivation! When we are motivated, we go to work and mostly see no reason to put anything off. Employee motivation has increased in significance in the world of work, as the working environment has also changed; for example, more people are now working from home. Moreover, there is a positive correlation between employee health and effective employee motivation, which may ultimately result in fewer absences and accidents in the workplace.

However, to remain realistic here, we must understand that there are things in every job that do not 100% spark joy. These are usually minor matters that still demand your time. Even here you often find many reasons for not tackling them – but somehow, you do them eventually anyway. Here is our list to help you to improve your time management and declare war on procrastination.

Our tips for you

  • When you undertake a large project, it’s best to set yourself smaller, manageable interim goals so you can work in small steps to reach your target.
  • Planning well and using an appointments diary can help. Write down what you want to achieve by when. This will give you a better overview.
  • Set the right priorities: it’s hard to start anywhere when faced with a mountain of pending tasks.
  • To-do lists: it can really help to cross off what you have already done and see how much it is and how much you still have to do.
  • Do unpleasant things first (called ‘eat the frog’!), otherwise they will hang over you and spoil your day.
  • Avoid distractions: for tasks that really won’t permit any more delay, isolate yourself, set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and get going.
  • Rewards: reward yourself after an unpleasant task, such as a meeting with a difficult customer. It could be a coffee break or a short walk in the fresh air.
  • Breaks and relaxation times: don’t overload yourself. Moments of relaxation and calm are very important for your health.

As you can see, there are a number of tips that could help you to avoid procrastinating in your working day. This much can still be said, however: occasional motivation slumps are human and normal. You don’t have to be bubbling with motivation all the time. The important thing is that you have strategies for tackling these motivation slumps when they arise.


Züsli, N. (2022). Welche Faktoren im Onlinestudium beeinflussen Prokrastination? Eine quantitative Onlinebefragung von Studierenden (Doctoral dissertation, Hochschule Düsseldorf).
Hurt, J. (no date). Prokrastination.
Söldi, A. (2020, 8 September). Selbstkompetenz: die innere Motivation finden.
Zehnder, R. (2022, 21 December). Prokrastination ist keine Diagnose.

This might also interest you:

19. September 2022

Mental load

22. Juli 2022


24. November 2020

Breathing – coming up for air