Procrastination; It runs rampant in our instant gratification, I-need-it-yesterday society. In fact, I have to admit I am writing this article in the eleventh hour. You may even be reading this as a way to distract yourself from preparing for the big client meeting that is set for Monday (Hint: Go ahead and close this now if that's the case. I will not mind your delay in reading this article as much as your client will mind!). In this month's article, I wanted to provide you with a few resources that I have found helpful in tackling procrastination over the years and increasing my personal productivity and efficiency of the organization. Share these resources with your new hires and/or existing team members to help them avoid dawdling and continue to deliver high-level results.
Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities by Stephen R. Covey
This is an audio book with recorded material from a FranklinCovey workshop. For those not familiar, it advocates using a quadrant model to prioritize your tasks. Quadrant 1 is for Important and Urgent tasks. Quadrant 2 is for Important, but Not Urgent tasks. Quadrant 3 is for Urgent, but Not Important work, while Quadrant 4 is for Not Urgent and Not Important work. The idea that this book promotes is that we want to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant 2 to reduce stress and feel more fulfilled.
Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
This book contains several ideas on how to increase productivity. The title is based on a quote by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The idea, of course, being that it is best to tackle your most important task first thing in the morning. This is a concept that I would say most of us know, but just do not implement for one reason or another.
The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD
I am currently reading this book, which is likely why I started this article the way I did. This book proposes that one of the primary causes of procrastination is impulsiveness. We tend to get distracted easily by the things we like and want right now, like checking the scores for the NCAA basketball tournament, eating that last Oreo (or row of them), etc., instead of focusing on actions that are more likely to have longer-term benefits for us like reading, taking a walk, or developing new services. This is ironic, given that our profession is built on helping our clients plan for the future. This book provides an interesting look into why we procrastinate and offers ideas on how to overcome it.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
While this classic does not solely focus on procrastination, I think it's a good read for anyone looking to increase their success in various areas of life. It begins with concepts on improving yourself (Habits 1-3) and moves to improving interpersonal relationships (Habits 4-6), with the final habit being to repeat the whole process. Habits 1 through 3 remind us that we are in control of our situations and that we determine where we are going and how we are going to get there, which are important concepts to remember as we work to stay on top of procrastinating (Habit 3 even touches on the same quadrant model technique discussed in the Focus workshop above).
Once you have made sure that all other parts of practice management are in line (i.e. you are providing all necessary tools for your team to succeed, there is a healthy atmosphere, employee satisfaction is high, employee responsibilities match their capabilities, etc.), and work still isn't getting done within the proper timeframe, it's possible the real issue is simply a need for improvement in time management skills. Hopefully, these resources can provide you and your team some insight to help you continue to increase productivity and provide outstanding service to your clients, while feeling less stressed.