Putting things off to another time in the workplace

If we’re honest then we’ll admit that we have a tendency to put things off to another time in the workplace. Hey I’m not fond at filling out forms so the monthly expense claim is painful for me.

Yet 7 out of 10 people in the workplace tell me they don’t put things off (aka procrastinate), but if I delve a little deeper I find it’s generally more like only 1 out of 10 who’s not procrastinating in some form or another.

Some examples I see of putting things off to another time include:

  • Having to communicate with someone we may not be all that comfortable liaising with
  • Doing the parts of our jobs we don’t particularly like
  • Not having the confidence to proceed ahead
  • Having to provide negative feedback or have a learning conversation with others
  • Being time poor and not having a good prioritisation system

The list goes on. Does any of this sound familiar?

Procrastinating isn’t just confined to our home life or the workplace. I remember in early 2014 President Obama scolding Congressional Republicans for putting off a budget deal when he referenced his daughters to Congress: "Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time. Malia's 13, Sasha's 10. It is impressive. They don't wait until the night before, they're not pulling all-nighters”

In no particular order, strategies to avoid procrastination include:

  • The 2 minute rule –If less than 2 minutes Do It. (Reference David Allen’s Getting Things Done)
  • Decide Now  - If greater than 2 minutes decide the next action (Reference David Allen’s Getting Things Done)
  • Have a plan – Make an appointment with your work by scheduling a time and location for your toughest tasks
  • Do the hardest 1st – Often things aren’t as bad as we thought and we waste too much mental energy by avoiding because in the back of our mind the difficulty is somewhat present
  • Chunk it down - Don’t overwhelm yourself with large tasks. Break the task down into smaller manageable chunks
  • Just get started - If you are a morning person then schedule to start it in the morning. Similar to do the hardest 1st – often things aren’t as bad as we thought
  • Eliminate distractions / interruptions - Turn off email alarms, schedule quiet time, if you’re distracted capture the thought and move on
  • Reward yourself – Set a milestone of completing a task by a timeframe and when you’ve achieved it reward yourself with say a coffee or a break
  • Unreasonable buddy – Make a declaration to someone of what you will achieve and ask them to hold you accountable. I’ve seen linking to an incentive of buying coffee or lunch work really well here
  • Focus on the result – We may not like the task and it might even be difficult to do but focus on the importance of the task to keep motivation levels
  • Get help – If unsure what to do then ask for assistance. We’re better off completing the task correctly than feeling a sense of being immobilised or wasting time and effort by having to rework what we have done  

Let’s make today a procrastination free day – see if I said tomorrow then I’d be procrastinating!!!