Failing to accomplish work is a huge problem in the workplace today, just ask any project manager. The incomplete work often has consequences piling one task on top of another until what was once achievable now feels either impossible or difficult to do. To avoid this problem one must make a schedule and diligently complete what you have to do, before what you want to do. Here are some suggestions for those who want to get rid of the habit of procrastinating, and be productive. Setting priorities can be effective way to avoid procrastination. Here are 8 deadly traps that keep us from being productive.

1. Unclear Expectations

Creating clear expectations is the foundation of being successful. We have all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time Bound). As you define, communicate and carry out the clear expectations you will want to add one practice that will distinguish you from the rest. Include the three elements of quantity, quality, and pace. Rather than saying, “finish the work as soon as possible” say, “finish these “x” items, as measured or approved by “y”, at a pace of “z” elements each hour/day/week” This approach coupled with SMART goals sets up you and your organization for success. Let’s face it, we feel a bit lazy at one time or another, it is part of whom we are as humans. This lazy characteristic can show up either when we want to get something trivial, or when we want something important done. Don’t let the lazy characteristic take control in the expectation phase of the activity, this will surely come back to bite you later!

2. Failing to Schedule

Make yourself two lists, first of what to do and second of what not to do. This is the first step in planning and doing. This helps to get your priorities straight as well as to get the tasks done on time. Making a schedule also constantly reminds you of all the things you need to do and lists them for you to finish one-by-one. This approach lets you see the tasks in perspective and it even makes what you might have thought was hard to do seem trivial at times. This method works especially well if you get the harder tasks completed first, quickly cross them off your schedule after finishing them and continue to complete the easier tasks with some relaxation.

3. Allowing Distractions

This involves first identifying what is keeping you from doing your job productively and what it is that is making you slip into feeling lazy. Is it the television? Your phone? Your video games? Or perhaps even your comfy couch which is making the idea of slouching on it more tempting than getting your job done? Identify what is distracting you and give it a break. Perhaps even stay faraway from it. Accountability is important. If you can’t trust yourself to get it done, find someone to hold you accountable.

4. Delayed Starts

Getting started is usually the hardest part. Sometimes the work is not hard, it is just thinking about it that makes it seem that way. Start with a few easy tasks, you will be surprised at where your laziness went by the time you get to the harder ones. This is because once you decide to get started, the decision is over and it goes only forward from there. To increase productivity, starting with identifying where and what to start is a must.

5. Not Prioritizing

Effective planning is the best way to avoid failing to complete your work. You must prepare a list of “to do” items when you are assigned a job. We have to complete the everyday tasks to avoid the pressure of completing the requirements at the end of the project or work. We must start by creating longer-term plans, say for the month, then for the week and finally for each day. This practice will keep our focus on the bigger picture and we will know that we are accomplishing something bigger than 30 days of individual tasks. You must know the value of your job. Your goal should always to be on time or before, make sure you have been sensible about your goals. Ensure that you plan to your capacity with the resources your have access to (time, money, people, knowledge, etc.). You must know the amount of work you can do each day. Most of us overcommit and under deliver, if you can master overcoming the 8 deadly traps in this article you will reverse this trend. As mentioned before, accountability is an important principle to demonstrate what you can do.

6. Procrastinating

Procrastination is the natural assassin of success. Keep the consequences of failing to get your work done in mind when you start the task or project, not as you approach the deadline. Maintaining this mind-set, and the image of success, is a good combination to fuel your motivation. The main reason we procrastinate is that we are swimming in a sea of distractions. With access to the world using a computer keystroke or a swipe of a phone screen we can be instantaneously transported into almost any alternative world, and expect that this trend will continue to add to our distractions.

7. Missing Deadlines

The first thing to recognize is that almost all deadlines are arbitrary. This does not me you can ignore deadlines but it does mean you can question them. However, the questioning needs to happen at the beginning of the project or activity, not as the deadline approaches, this just makes you look incompetent. Failing to complete our work often ties to the practice of delaying the most important tasks and performing the least important ones. This practice can cause serious problems for your success and for the organization. Each time we delay the projects of our internal or external clients, we provide another sliver of doubt in their mind for the next project. Getting clients and building trust takes a long time to develop but can be lost in just a moment. Delivering just a bit faster than needed or faster than your competition, is what will distinguish you and continue the contribution to trust building. Plan for delays, don’t react to them, this contingency planning is critical. Our human desires push us to postpone activities which do not entertain us, once again this is where accountability distinguishes the poor from the great performers. Fight the urge and stay accountable.

8. Overlooking Effectiveness

You must be effective in addition to being efficient. Efficiency is all about faster, better, and cheaper. Effectiveness is all about putting the right plans in place so your don’t have to force yourself to work faster, better and cheaper. We can always put in extra-long hours, but it comes at a cost somewhere to you, your family or to your organization, Time is a finite commodity, the longer hours you are working, are hours in which you are not doing something else. Make sure the trade-offs you are making are conscious ones and not because of your ineffectiveness. Procrastinators always try to postpone their work as they think they have enough time on their calendar. This avoidance behavior places your potential success at risk. We all have to work smarter and not harder Effectiveness is the key to smarter work. Planning up-front allows us a more reasonable pace when we are in the throes of doing the work.

So when you start your day tomorrow, do everything you can to avoid the 8 deadly traps that will cause you to fail in completing your everyday work. Your organization will thank you for the accountability and for your work accomplishments.

Featured photo credit: Penguins/ Marc Lombardi via marclombardi.zenfolio.com

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