In last week's message, I discussed how your economic and emotional drivers affect your business success. Today I want to continue talking about our drivers and how they influence the biggest killer of our time - procrastination.
So, why is it that people run out of energy to do things that are very important? Why is it that so many people need a looming finish line to make things happen? Why is it that people suffer from this thing called procrastination?
Procrastination causes you to act only when you get close to the finish line, only then can you be productive. We generally procrastinate when there is no energy, which means our emotional drivers are in a trough. If it’s a task you don’t want to do or a decision you don’t want to make, that leads to procrastination.
Procrastination gets in the way of achieving outcomes and earning a reputation for being exceptionally productive.
There is an aspect of procrastination that simply says, ‘I don’t like doing this task’, but the deadline is getting closer and the consequences of not delivering on that deadline mean you are going to be held to account.
It’s all about deadlines.
Some of us choose to live our lives with this being our strategy and pattern for productiveness. Only once the consequences come closer, get bigger and greater do we act because fear sets in.
Procrastination can sometimes actually be a great strategy for short-term productivity. The mind says ‘I don’t like this task’, so you put it off. Then the fear that sets in as the deadline looms means adrenaline is released in your body. This is a painkiller that creates energy to bust through the procrastination. When you fear a potential negative consequence, adrenaline is released which acts as a painkiller and therefore you move forward and execute.
If this is your pattern, the following points and the diagram below illustrate what it looks like:
• Fear releases adrenalin
• Adrenalin contains a painkiller
• The painkiller is released and this creates energy to get moving.
The reality sets in that something needs to be done and fear comes with that. But when this is your pattern, you are not focusing on getting the work done to the highest standard, you are simply focusing on avoiding the negative consequences of not getting the work done. If this is the way you are training yourself and your body and your mind to react and behave, this is not a path to long-term productivity or success.
The things you procrastinate about are often the things you don’t enjoy or don’t know about. So, the less alignment you have with your drivers, your outcomes and your purpose, the more instances you will have of procrastination, because there will be more unexpected things happening in your business.
If you are not aware of or don’t fully understand your economic and emotional drivers, the more instances you will have of procrastination. So, the more time you invest and the more you understand your strategic plan – at a deep level – and not just your vision, the fewer instances of procrastination you will have and the more productive you will be.
Having so many things to do that you don’t know where to start can also lead to procrastination. This gets in the way of productivity and outcomes and building a reputation for being a Productivity Diamond.
You can avoid this problem by making sure you only have the right things to do each day – the critical few things rather than the trivial many.
Procrastination and the quality of work
Procrastination can sometimes be a great strategy for short-term productivity – but it is never a great strategy for high-quality work or maximum results, as you can see in the figure below.
If you have convinced yourself that your best results are achieved when your back is against the wall, that’s a problem because quality and pressure are inversely related.
It’s also a myth – nobody does their best when their back is to the wall. That’s just an excuse people use so that they don’t have to change their patterns. When you complete something just to get it done because of the consequences of not getting it done, the quality is not going to be as good as if you had had the time to do the work in a calm and considered manner. This cannot be your pattern.
The concept of choking under pressure comes from not giving yourself enough time – you’ve reached a choke point, and the only way through is a mad flurry of activity that might get the work done but not to the highest standard.
When quality is required and you need to do your best thinking, procrastination is your worst enemy. Pressure doesn’t create quality. It never has and it never will. You need to be present when working on your tasks. When pressure goes up quality goes down, especially with first-time tasks. And if there is increased pressure, even the tasks you are good at will suffer.
Anybody can get to a finish line. But to get to the finish line with quality, that’s what the Productivity Diamond does, and that’s a very different outcome.
Imagine if you could develop a pattern of working where procrastination was at the first hour and not at the eleventh hour. Imagine if you could take the energy most people only summon when they have to and apply it to everything you do. You don’t actually need a looming deadline as motivation. If you can change your mindset so that you have this focus at the beginning of a task rather than at the end (as most people do), what would that look like?
Procrastination is the brain’s way of saying ‘hey, you’d better make a decision and push through here’. That has a downside, but if you understand the consequences you can make it your best friend – but not at the eleventh hour. When you understand when procrastination has its benefits and its downsides, then you will be making better decisions.
Procrastination and thrive tasks
What tasks would you never do in life if procrastination was your pattern? You would never do anything that required taking tests or getting into the unknown, such as learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument, or striving for a new senior role. You would never buy another business, or write a book.
These are highly valuable thrive tasks, but if you were excellent at procrastination these are things you would never do. As they don’t have deadlines, and therefore there are no negative consequences looming, if you’re stuck in a pattern of procrastination then you never get around to these tasks.
As a result, you will always be stuck being mediocre and comfortable. Your personal cycle won’t have a chance to go up. You’re always going to be questioning yourself. So, again, it all comes back to purpose.
Without a clear purpose you’ll have nothing to push you through the procrastination to make sure your thrive tasks get done.
Procrastination, your drivers and how you value time
How do we judge the value of time? Some people think that we have plenty of it – and we do, especially if we are past that time of life when we have more personal rather than professional interaction with time. And, because we think we have plenty of it, it doesn’t matter so much how we use it, right?
Didn’t get some thing finished today? No worries – get to it tomorrow. Sure, that works – today. But how does that help you tomorrow? If you didn’t get all your tasks done today, what makes you think tomorrow will be any different?
Let’s say you have seven tasks to do both today and tomorrow, but you only get through five today because you spent a little too much time on Facebook, took a one-hour lunch instead of 45 minutes, and had to re-write a report because you weren’t paying attention in a meeting.
It wasn’t a very productive day. But, you can do those last two extra tasks tomorrow, right?
But, have a think about this: you couldn’t get through seven tasks today, so what makes you think you’ll get through seven tomorrow? But, that’s not the end of it – because now you have nine things to do tomorrow because you only completed five things today. So, if you only ticked five things off your to-do list today, what hope do you have of ticking off nine things tomorrow?
I’d say none.
As with so many things to do with becoming a Productivity Diamond, how you manage and value time comes down to your drivers and your habits. We’ve trained ourselves to view time and how we judge it over the course of many, many years. Do you just do what’s in front of you because you don’t have a clear plan? Do you give very little thought to how you can most productively spend your hours?
To achieve the highest levels of productivity, you must be able to delegate, and to delegate effectively you must understand the value of a minute and an hour.
When you understand that, allocation of resources will be better, because you will delegate the lower value work, leaving you to work at your highest hourly rate. This will help you to overcome procrastination, because you will have fewer things to do, and the things you are doing will be at your highest hourly rate, and you’ll be able to spend time doing them properly.
Remember, less is more. Some people in business avoid delegation because it does take time to train people to do new tasks. To overcome this, you must understand that the training and coaching cut down time when you delegate.
It is an investment, and dealing with the temporary lower quality while your team masters new tasks is an aspect of pushing through and becoming a Productivity Diamond. Your ability to bring other resources in, and surround yourself with others who will eventually be better than you, is all about giving yourself the freedom to work at your highest hourly rate.
As much as there is short-term cost, there is also a long-term gain.
When it comes to delegation, procrastination is caused by not wanting to go through the dip of the downtime to train somebody else to do a new task. If you don’t do this you will always be under pressure to do your lower and higher hourly rate tasks, which means your quality – and productivity – will always be lower.
Sometimes it is a case of taking two steps back to go four steps forward, and that’s fine if it’s part of your plan. You can spend your time doing $50/hour tasks or $500/hour tasks. Your aim should be to train somebody else to do the $50 tasks and spend your time on the $500 tasks. That $50 person will eventually become a $500 person – and then the process starts again.
Delegation, people and systems
Business growth is about systems. It’s about predictability, efficiencies and effectiveness. If you’re not continually improving in the most important aspect of business systems – your people systems – you will not get the return on your assets that you are envisioning, and you will not get the return on the scoreboard that ultimately confirms whether you are on track.
Systems always need a human aspect to push through, to continually improve and innovate. It’s humans who ultimately ensure productivity and measure efficiency and effectiveness. A machine still needs somebody to set it up and somebody to press ‘go’. Computers need to be programmed. Machines need operators. Automation and high tech are very important, but they won’t help you without the right people. It’s all about being a Productivity Diamond. The better the execution at personal best with high emotional drivers and with high energy, the better you are going to be in less time and with less drama.
Delegation is a resource. Delegation is about building a team and investing in your team. It’s about being productive and true to the ultimate outcomes set out in your plan.
If you’re a leader you are responsible for growing your resources. Most people are on autopilot most of the time. They develop bad patterns over the years, and while this can keep the wheels turning it’s not a recipe for a growing and thriving business. You must break out of your bad habits if you are going to become a Productivity Diamond.
Productivity and the value of time are also heavily influenced by interruptions. Your ability to manage interruptions and be diplomatic in doing so is crucial for building a harmonious and productive team. The first thing you must be is true to managing interruptions. This is similar to the distraction side of things. This is about people and relationships.
Interruptions are killers to productivity. This is easy to understand. But how is there a better way to manage this without just being bluntly rude? The interruption is coming to you, so it’s your responsibility to manage it smoothly.
You can deal with most interruptions in one of three ways, and it’s up to you to decide how to deal with each:
1. Do something now – when somebody interrupts you is it because they need something to be done now? Can you address this need quickly?
2. They want to see you – that goes in the calendar. (As we looked at earlier, you should have time in your default calendar allocated to addressing unexpected issues that land on your desk.)
3. They need information – can you efficiently handle the information exchange now? Can you have a quick discussion and ultimately it’s over – there’s no need for further follow up? If so, then that’s what you do. If not, then a meeting needs to be scheduled.
The key is to manage the relationships. You don’t want others saying, ‘He was so rude to me right now.’ The key is guiding them to the quick exchange. You are the one being interrupted, so it’s up to you to manage how it goes and your ability to guide people to quick exchange.
To help with this, state what you are doing right at that moment when you are interrupted. For example, if you get a phone call and you are a little caught up, say: ‘I’m just about to finish this proposal; what do you need?’ Or, if you get a knock on your door, say: ‘I’m just preparing for a meeting in half an hour. I can give you five minutes now or let’s make a time for you to come back’.
This tops and tails the interruption. You’ve managed it before it goes anywhere else. You’ve told the person why you must deal with the interruption quickly. When you do this, the person who has interrupted you will know they have to get straight to the point and address the issue quickly, or make a time and come back later.
Steer them towards knowing that it’s you who has been interrupted so this will be resolved on your terms and it needs to be brief. If you can manage this, you will be building a business that will be known for quality and productivity.
Power to you this week!
Founder, CEO - Business Benchmark Group
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Stefan Kazakis on 5 May 2018
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