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8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement 7 Critical Statements Every Manager Should Avoid To Be More Respectable 12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee 8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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Last Updated on November 18, 2019

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

How do we manage that?

I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

    One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

    At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

    After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

    • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
    • She could publish all her articles on time
    • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

    Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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    1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

    When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

    My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

    Use this time to:

    • Look at the big picture.
    • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
    • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

    2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

    This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

    It works like this:

    Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

    By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

      To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

      Low Cost + High Benefit

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      Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

      Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

      High Cost + High Benefit

      Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

      Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

      Low Cost + Low Benefit

      This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

      These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

      High Cost + Low Benefit

      Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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      For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

      Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

        After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

          And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

          Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

          Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

          What to do in these cases?

          Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

          For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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          Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

            Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

            The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

            By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

            And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

            Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

            Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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            Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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