Procrastination – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I’ll do it later, promise!

You’ll no doubt be familiar with this phenomenon from your day-to-day work at the clinic: you know that a task is urgently waiting to be completed, and yet you keep finding good reasons to put it off until ‘later’. It might be an appraisal interview, preparing a presentation or just getting the expense reports done. Or maybe you find yourself having to keep on reminding the team about unfinished tasks? But what’s really going on here, and how can we bring procrastination under control?

In most cases, avoiding the things we don’t want to do is based on typical human behaviour – namely the desire to conserve energy. Instead of summoning up the strength and motivation to master the supposedly difficult task right away, we prefer to choose the path that seems easier in the moment: procrastination. 

Oh how we kid ourselves. Even if we might save some energy at first by putting off a (probably unpleasant) task, this actually ends up costing us a lot more energy in the long run. We have to work all the harder afterwards to make up for what we put to one side earlier. And that’s not to mention the impending guilty conscience and frayed nerves. 

The technical term for the tendency to postpone things is procrastination. To some extent, the phenomenon is completely normal. Be truthful now, is there anyone who hasn’t put off an unpleasant task every now and then? But if you make a habit of it this can cause huge problems: putting off tasks all the time can lead to a great deal of stress. It has the potential to make you feel like a failure, causing you to slip into a vicious cycle of shame and stress, which in the worst case can lead to depression. 

It is estimated that around 20% of the population is affected by chronic procrastination. This means there’s a good chance some of the members of your team are affected too. Typical signs of this are:

  • Difficulty setting priorities
  • Having an unstructured approach and unrealistic goals
  • Poor time management and unclear deadlines
  • Tendency to become distracted and interrupted

But the good news is we’ve found a cure! By following this five-step plan, you can help affected employees (and of course yourself) put an end to procrastination.

Step one: face it

Chronic procrastinators often don’t even realise they’re constantly putting off their tasks. That’s why insight is the first step towards changing their learned behaviour. Clearly tell your team member what the specific consequences are if important tasks are not completed. For example, calling too late can mean that an important procedure does not take place on time or that patients get frightened or upset unnecessarily. The same applies to late or missing documentation: it can compromise treatment success and cause major difficulties during potential examinations.  


enter into a conversation like this with an understanding attitude. Look at procrastination as a work disorder and don’t confuse it with laziness. 

Step two: put plans in place

The more manageable tasks seem, the less people may feel the need to postpone them. That’s why you can help yourself and your team by giving your working day a clear strucure. Use a to-do list to visualize which tasks are pending and by when they must be completed. Have a joint team meeting, for example, to create and update this list at the start of the day. Breaking down large tasks into small chunks has proven particularly effective. This way, you get the reward of ticking off what’s done, which provides the motivation to stay on top of things.


set a good example by meeting the deadlines for your own tasks. The more consistently you model this behaviour, the easier it will be for your team to join in.

Step three: prioritise

More precise planning means a greater likelihood of success. Prioritise the various tasks, particularly if you have a large amount of work to get through. You can use the ABCD principle from the Eisenhower method, for example. 


  • A is allocated to tasks that need to be completed immediately, such as ordering implants for upcoming operations. 
  • B tasks are also important, but less urgent. This includes, for example, making up a cover rota for holiday periods or for when lots of people are off sick. 
  • C is used to categorise tasks that need to be done, but are less important. This could be organising an upcoming team building day, for example. 
  • D is given to tasks that are not important and not urgent. It’s also worth checking whether these points can be removed from the list altogether.


plan enough time to get tasks done. Leave enough of a buffer so you can still finish on time, taking into account that unexpected surprises might crop up.

Step four: take precautions

Disruptions can hardly be avoided in everyday clinic life. If you or the team have an important job to do, you should take precautions. For example, plan a period of time before the official start of work or set up defined rest periods. It’s important to eliminate as many disruptive factors as possible. This means closing your door, putting your phone away and turning off phone and email notifications. Rest periods like this have been proven to increase concentration and allow difficult tasks to be completed much more quickly.


it’s usually the unpleasant tasks that people prefer to put off. That’s why it’s best to get them out of the way first when you’re still feeling fresh and motivated. 

Step five: rewards

Procrastination is a devious form of self-reward. Instead of waiting for the feeling of success that comes after completing a large and difficult task, procrastinators prefer to devote themselves to activities that are enjoyable and fun in the short term. This teaches the brain that procrastinating is as-sociated with a positive feeling. Take advantage of this for yourself and your team by consciously recognising completed to-dos and celebrating your team’s success together – for example with some ice cream or a game of table football. Because fun is your greatest aide in the fight against procrastination. 

There are different types of procrastinators. You can find out which ones you have to deal with and which approach helps best in each case in the download.


Dokument with the TOP FIVE types of procrastinators




Heute fange ich wirklich an! Prokrastination und Aufschieben überwinden - Ein Ratgeber.

Höcker, A., Engberding, M. & Rist, F.
Hogrefe, 2021


Ab sofort produktiver arbeiten: 50+ einfa-che Hacks, mit denen Sie Ihre Aufgaben besser organisie-ren, Prokrastination überwinden und Ihr Zeitmanagement perfektionieren

John R. Torrance
High Performance Media, 2021


Aufschieben war gestern!: Geniale Tools nutzen, endlich ins Tun kommen, Erfolge feiern

Monique Bigdahn
Gräfe und Unzer, 2023


I Don’t Want To, I Don’t Feel Like It: How resistance controls your life and what to do about it

Cheri Huber and Ashwini Narayanan
Keep It Simple Books, 2013.


The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Put-ting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done

Piers Steel
Harper Peren-nial, 2012


Increase Your Productivity: How to Overcome Procrastination and Achieve More in Less Time

Aram Amiryan
Indepen-dently published, 2023


Avalez le crapaud

Brian Tracy
Tresor Cache, 2018


J'arrête de tout remettre à demain !

Patrice Ras
Jouvence, 2023


En finir avec la procrastination

Petr Ludwig
Dunod, 2022


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