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Civilizing Corporate Culture

Civilizing Corporate Culture

This week, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what counts as a “civilized” corporate and workplace culture. That’s because I’m deep into the editing process with my new book, Slow Leadership: How to Civilize Your Workplace, which will be published this Fall. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that much of corporate America — much of the Western corporate world, if it comes to that — has taken a large step backwards in recent years in providing truly civilized working conditions.

Here’s what a typical workplace culture looks like:

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  • Business demands have gotten steadily tougher. Organizations demand their staff work longer hours, often at a faster pace. The reason? To beat off competition from other businesses doing the same thing. It’s a vicious cycle — a no-holds-barred game where the stakes are constantly raised. No one seems to consider the alternative of stepping aside and allowing the lemmings to race each other off the cliff.
  • More and more roles are declared to be “professional” ones. Professionals don’t work set hours, they do whatever is needed to get the job done. Of course, the other side of this should be that they can ease up or take time off when there isn’t so much work. This doesn’t seem to happen; there’s always work piled up and waiting. It’s seen as being “uncommitted” to act like a professional used to act and let up on the effort, so the effect of “professionalization” on working hours is all one way: upwards.
  • Many workplaces present people with a continual, manic experience, full of rush, hurry, pressure, distractions and escalating anxiety. Professional and managerial-level staff skip meals and breaks, dash from one meeting to another and work hours even the unskilled laborers of the past would have felt were oppressive.
  • As a result, people have less time to spend relaxing or attending to family and friends. Fathers (and many mothers too) see less of their children, have less energy to devote to bringing them up as they would wish, and are too tired when they are at home to give their family quality time and attention.
  • The workplace has become more than central to many people’s lives. It’s become the place where they spend more time than anywhere else. The place that grabs at their attention, even when they’re supposedly having time off away from work. So they skip vacations, phone in to the office from those holiday beaches, carry cell phones everywhere in case someone — anyone — from work needs to call them at any time. Work has taken over their whole existence.

It seems to me this isn’t a civilized way to live. Sure, these people are prosperous (mostly) and many are genuinely committed to what they do. But can it be right, here at the start of the 21st century, for people to face working pressures far greater than any since the oppressed mill-workers of the Industrial Revolution?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. To me, a civilized workplace needs to meet these criteria, as a minimum. Anything less than this cannot, I believe, lay claim to being a civilized place to work:

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  • It must operate in ways that ensure everyone is treated with the dignity benefiting a fellow human being.
  • It must recognize work as part of life, but not the whole of it. People who choose to set family and non-work commitments on a par with their work must not be penalized or devalued for doing so.
  • It must be free from discrimination, bullying, unfair pressures and any exploitation of the weak.
  • It must be a place where ethics are adhered to in deeds as well as words, and honest dealings are the norm.
  • It must recognize and honor values that go beyond the obvious financial and economic ones.
  • It must be a place where people make choices on the basis of what is right — intellectually, ethically and spiritually — not simply what is currently expedient.

How can we achieve progress towards making our offices, laboratories and manufacturing plants into places we can be proud of? By encouraging every leader, no matter how few are in his or her team, to accept these standards and implement them as best they can. Grass-roots movements are usually unstoppable, once they attain enough momentum. This one can be too.

As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said:

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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