On procrastination and productivity

Now later

So it’s now the end of January already! How is your business plan looking? Have you already started making some progress towards your goals or are you still at the planning stage? Are you feeling productive? Or is procrastination the name of the game?

I came across an interesting podcast this week on Beyond The To-Do List in which the host Erik Fischer interviews Chris Bailey about productivity. I would definitely recommend that you check it out because it contains some very useful insights. For instance, did you know that there are 7 key attributes that tasks have which make us more likely to procrastinate?

These are if the task

1) is boring

2) is frustrating

3) is difficult

4) lacks personal meaning

5) lacks intrinsic rewards

6) is ambiguous

7) is unstructured.

Think about some of the things which have been on your to-do list for a while. Do any of them have any of these attributes? If so, it’s not surprising that you haven’t got round to tackling them yet.

So what can we do about it?

My personal way of dealing with these issues would be to try to work out why the particular attribute applies to the task concerned and to work out a strategy to combat the attribute which, in turn, should combat the problem. For example, if the task

1) is boring – consider how you could make it more interesting. What about working on the task in tandem with a colleague and checking on each other’s progress?

2) is frustrating – try to work out why you find it frustrating – are you trying to do too much at once? Could you break the task down into smaller, more manageable components?

3) is difficult – why is it difficult? Are you trying to start off a step too high up the ladder? Do you need to go back a step and rethink your plan of action? Do you need to find a mentor?

4) lacks personal meaning – look at the larger picture. What is it you are trying to achieve and how does this one task fit into that picture?

5) lacks intrinsic rewards – I think this applies to a lot of the marketing we do as freelancers. Often there does not appear to be a direct, clear or immediate correlation between the time we spend on marketing activities and the new clients we acquire. Again look at the larger picture, these tasks do pay off long-term. And don’t forget to consider the consequences of not doing them. Perhaps that is enough motivation in itself?

6) is ambiguous – why is it ambiguous? Make sure you write down the individual steps which you need to take to reach your goal.

7) is unstructured – again it will be difficult to get started on something if you haven’t yet ascertained the first step. Write down the individual steps you need to take to reach your goal.

For further tactics for dealing with procrastination have a look at this article by Chris Bailey.



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