What should you be doing instead of reading this article?
Yeah, we know. You’re probably putting off some kind of work right now.
Procrastination is an age-old struggle — and not just for developers. But people who do knowledge work are especially prone to it, because of how mental blocks can severely impact their work.
So what causes those mental blocks? Why do we all procrastinate so much? And more importantly, how can we stop procrastinating and just get our work done?
Don’t worry — you still have a few minutes of reading ahead of you before you have to go back to whatever task you’re avoiding. Read on and learn all about what causes procrastination, how to finally beat it, and how developers can use time tracking to up their efficiency even more.
Developers aren’t more likely to procrastinate than other people. And when we look at the root causes of procrastination for developers, they’re the same reasons as anyone else.
Contrary to what many believe, procrastination isn’t necessarily the result of a lack of self-discipline. There are a ton of reasons developers (or anyone else) might procrastinate. Let’s look at a few common ones below.
In knowledge work in particular, many people strive to be perfect. That goes for developers, too — they often strive to write the “perfect” code.
In reality, code that does what it’s supposed to do without bugs is plenty good enough. Striving for perfection has a tendency to make developers put off their work, since they’re trying to achieve an impossible goal.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but fear of success has held back many a knowledge worker. With success comes higher expectations and greater responsibility, and not everyone responds well to that kind of pressure. In this case, procrastination can be a self-sabotaging tool.
Have you ever shown up to work, sat down at your desk, booted up your computer, and then sat there for a while trying to figure out what to work on? That lack of planning can be a major procrastination driver.
This is another counter-intuitive sounding reason for procrastination, but it’s real! Some developers procrastinate because they don’t have enough work to do.
When your workdays aren’t filled, it’s easy to get in the habit of coasting — hanging out at your desk surfing social media or reading online articles like this one. And once you’re in the habit, it’s hard to break it even when there is work to do. Hence, procrastination.
Software development is a field that requires its workers to stay pretty close to the cutting edge of new technologies. So trying to work with old ones that are outdated, obsolete, or deprecated can be a real challenge for devs, leading them to put off work.
As much as developers like to put their heads down and get their work done without red tape or administrative hurdles getting in their way, that’s not how it works at every organization. If the company you work for places organizational roadblocks in your path, that may very well be a contributor to your procrastination habit.
Feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment is important for any worker, which is why it’s common for developers to procrastinate on work that doesn’t seem like it’s contributing to the greater good, like implementation of unnecessary features. The same goes for tedious or administrative tasks — those are easy to put off as well.
And finally, there’s work you just don’t want to do. Maybe it’s outside of your wheelhouse. Maybe it feels unnecessary. Maybe it’s too hard, or you’re stuck at a particular blocker. But for all workers, including developers, just not wanting to do a certain task, project, or type of work can easily lead to procrastination.
Identifying the cause of your procrastination can help you determine what you need to do to move past it. But even if you’re not sure why you procrastinate, these tips can help break that habit and get you to get your work done.
When you’re putting off a task, the hardest part can be just getting started. So instead of looking at the big picture of all you need to do, just take a small step in the right direction — like telling yourself you only need to work on a task or project for 30 minutes before you take a break to reassess. It can turn an impossible-seeming project into something more doable, and once you get started, it’ll be easier to keep moving.
Remember how lack of planning is a common driver for procrastination? Combat that by going into every workday with a plan. Make it a habit before you leave each night to think about what you need to accomplish the following day, and make yourself a to-do list or a schedule — whatever works to keep you on track.
Have you considered you might procrastinate simply because you’re too distracted to work effectively? Do what you can to cut down on things that might pull you away from your work. For example, you could find a quiet room to work in, or wear noise-canceling headphones. Block social media and other distracting websites from your work computer.
If you work in an office with others, another cause for your procrastination might be that people need you for things. And while it’s great to be the go-to person in the office, it’s not ideal for productivity.
If you struggle with being pulled away from work by your coworkers, isolate yourself away from others so you appear less available. If you’re not able to go work somewhere without others around, stick a sign to the back of your chair to let people know you’re in deep work mode and don’t want to be interrupted.
The Pomodoro technique has become a common way for all kinds of people to beat their procrastination habits. It works by requiring you to deeply focus on work for a period of time (usually 25 minutes), and then take a short, mandated break (5 minutes or so). You repeat this cycle over and over throughout the workday, alternating focused work with short breaks.
On that note, another possible reason for your procrastination is that you feel tired or worn out — and that can be more easily remedied than you might think. Many of us don’t take enough breaks at work, even though science shows that breaks are necessary and can greatly improve productivity and quality of work. If you’re feeling stuck on a task or project, take a short break and come back to it later.
The same goes for working on the same task for too long. It’s easy to get stuck when you have tunnel vision. So if you feel like you can’t move forward on a particular task, switch to something else for a while. You can always come back to the first task with fresh eyes later, without having wasted any time in the meantime.
Once you’ve beaten procrastination, you might be looking for ways to become even more productive at work.
The most productive teams are autonomous ones. And a major part of autonomy is a time tracking solution that isn’t made to help managers watch over your shoulder — but to integrate seamlessly with your work and provide you with data and insights that help you work smarter.
7pace Timetracker is the only time tracking solution designed to measure and track progress completely in the background, so you don’t have to waste one second of effort. And it provides valuable data about your time at work that can help you plan, execute, and measure every aspect of every project.
7pace Timetracker is the only integrated, professional time management solution for teams using Azure DevOps and GitHub.