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Overcoming Procrastination in the Workplace

May 20 • Business Essentials, Jamie Dixon Blog, Trainers Blogs • 2529 Views • No Comments on Overcoming Procrastination in the Workplace

Source: Rennett Stowe @ Flickr

IT’S 11AM, AND YOU SIT THERE STARING AT A BLANK WORD DOCUMENT. “What are you waiting for?” screams the blinking cursor. The silence in the room is deafening.

Time to get a glass of water.

And tidy that clutter on your desk.

And then reply to that earlier text message.

Oh, and how are your stocks doing?

Before you know it, it’s 12 noon and your boss is shouting at you because you haven’t finished that report. Procrastination can be a serious handicap, both to the employee and the organisation as a whole. But why does this happen?

Ensure there’s a benefit

In Africa, there is a bird called the Honey Guide Bird, and it’s called the Honey Guide because, you guessed it, it leads other animals, including humans, to honey. In fact, it has a special call that it uses just for humans. Once the humans and the bird have seen each other, the bird will then gradually fly from one tree to another until it leads the humans to a beehive.

The humans must do this, because if they don’t then the next time they encounter the Honey Guide Bird, it may lead them to a lions den.

The brave humans will then go into the tree and get the honey from the bees nest, getting stung in the process, all whilst the Honey Guide Bird sits and watches. Once the humans have got their honey, they will break off a piece and leave it on the ground for the bird. The humans must do this, because if they don’t then the next time they encounter the Honey Guide Bird, it may lead them to a lions den.

This is a brilliant example of synergy in nature. Humans want honey, so too does the bird, so they work together for a win-win relationship. The bird is willing to help the humans because it knows that the humans will give it honey, and the humans trust the bird because they know it will give them honey. Both are motivated by selfish benefit – man and beast.

Procrastination is also about benefits, because benefits are what motivates us. Motivation is a three step process. It starts with direction. When you see a benefit, then you will feel motivated to direct your efforts in the direction of the task that will give you that benefit. When I first came to China, I was very keen on learning Chinese, it meant a lot to me. I wanted to prove to all my international friends back home that could speak multiple languages; that I too was capable of learning another language. I wanted to be able to interact and communicate in depth with Chinese people, and I wanted to use it in my career. I had many great reasons to learn Chinese, so I decided to direct my efforts into learning it.

Turn up the volume on that desire

Next comes the amplitude of your motivation. How much effort are you willing to put into the task? This depends on how much you value the outcome of your efforts. A friend of mine has started her own business. She told me that throughout her whole life she has grown up around rich people, whilst she herself has not enjoyed the same level of wealth.

she wanted to be free; free from any boss that would control her life and tell her what to do

At the same time, she wanted to be free; free from any boss that would control her life and tell her what to do. These two things were of extreme importance to her; so important that she was willing to put in 12 hours a day, 7 days a week into her job. She was willing to push herself to her limits because she knew that successfully starting her own business and making lots of money was exactly what she wanted. And I have never seen someone work so hard to obtain what she wanted.

Persist by setting goals

Finally comes persistence, and this is where most people fail. Benefit motivates us to direct our effort into something, and the value of this benefit motivates us to put in as much effort as we feel the benefit is worth. But persistence is about seeing a link between efforts and outcomes. ClarkMorgan co-founder, Morry Morgan, is a great example of this, when writing his book ‘Selling Big to China’, he set himself a goal of writing 70,000 words and gave himself a deadline. The more he typed, the closer he got to his goal, and he could see this because the word count would keep on increasing. If he kept on typing, and the word count never increased, he probably would have given up very soon. My friend above is also a great example, she once came to me really upset saying that she felt her business was going nowhere. It was only when we sat down and started making a record of all the developments in her business that she started to feel motivated again. Seeing the amount of new customers she had gained over the last few months, and the amount of orders she had gained, she suddenly stopped feeling like it was going nowhere and got straight back to work.

Procrastination happens when we can’t see the link between our efforts and the benefit. This is normally because a task is too big.

Procrastination happens when we can’t see the link between our efforts and the benefit.

With the big report that you had to finish before 12 noon, what was the benefit? Well the benefit would be that your boss doesn’t shout at you! How much do you value your boss not shouting at you? Well, if he shouts at you all the time then you wouldn’t feel very motivated. What is the link between your efforts and the end result? Typing one or two words for the title makes you realise that you are far, far away from that end result. Especially when it’s a 5000 word report. The task is so big, you simply can’t see how your efforts now would possibly contribute to an end result.

The trick with procrastination is to break big tasks down into little, manageable chunks. You break it down into tasks that have a clear end result and that will always show a link between your efforts and your end results. With that horrible 5,000 word report you have to do, you could break it down first into a plan where you list the goal of your report, what information it needs to include and what structure it needs to take. Then you set yourself the goal of writing the first paragraph, then the second paragraph and so on. Set yourself mini goals, because this way you will frequently see the end result.

So in short, being able to see a link between your efforts and the final outcome will keep your spirits high and stop you from procrastinating.


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