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Seven Ways to Procrastinate for Better Results

Seven Ways to Procrastinate for Better Results
Try procrastination!

Procrastination is a dirty word. It doesn’t need to be. Procrastination that stems from a lack of discipline, causes you to lose sight of your goals, and results in decreased productivity deserves a bad rap. But what about postponing or avoiding things that can otherwise cause us pain and frustration if we apply the go-forward, “get it done” approach? Is this type of procrastination such a bad thing? We don’t see it as a bad thing. In fact, we suggest that you include strategic procrastination among your most important tools for increased productivity.

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Let’s take today’s postponement as an example. We were scheduled to travel into a remote part of British Columbia to visit a pulp mill construction site tomorrow. Actually, it is a deconstruction site because the mill is being dismantled and shipped to China for reconstruction. It snowed in the area last night and is expected to snow again tomorrow. We could still visit the site because the weather hasn’t been bad enough to shut it down. We simply figured that the place is dangerous enough as it is with all sorts of concrete and steel debris sticking up from the frozen ground. Adding a blanket of snow makes it worse. The travel to and from the site is also harder. We decided to put it off until next week and to cancel it altogether if things got worse in the meantime. This is an obvious example but the idea applies to more subtle things just as well.

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There are a few good reasons to postpone things. Here is a list of seven places where you should consider applying a strategic postponement:

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  1. Where problems go away with time. The above weather example is a typical instance of where time makes a problem go away. Snow melts and evaporates. Many medical problems go away with time. Don’t be too quick to order a back surgery when natural healing processes can do a much better job if given enough time.
  2. Where problems are best ignored. Email spam and quasi-spam is a great example of this. Going out and trying to stop the spammers and beating up on friends and associates who send you stuff you don’t want is likely going to be a waste of time and effort leading to increased frustration for everyone involved. Just ignore the spam and delay the responses to email that comes in multiples. A delayed but polite and short response to a group of emails from a friend or associate received over days, weeks or longer can save you time, effort and frustration.
  3. Where you have good back-up and support systems in place. Don’t feel overly obligated to arrange or attend a meeting where you have others who can take part or all of the load if you simply postpone the meeting. Many urgent meetings, whether scheduled or not, deserve to be postponed. Sometimes they become effectively canceled after a postponement because a constructive solution appears in the meantime.
  4. Where something more important comes up. Be careful to properly assess the relative importance of things that come up. Skipping lunch to take an urgent call from your stockbroker is probably more important if you are being asked to sell than to buy. Postpone the call rather than skip lunch if you value your health.
  5. Where you are getting into a deal. Most Japanese business people are experts at procrastinating when being asked to get into a new deal or venture. This gives them time to carefully consider the relevant aspects and prepare for whatever consequences there are. Once in the deal, you should be fully prepared to follow through. Don’t be too quick to buy into stuff.
  6. Where you are tired, hungry or angry. This should be obvious but often isn’t. If you need to rest, sleep or cool down, postpone whatever it is that is preventing you from obtaining your basic needs. For instance, if you haven’t slept more than four hours in the past day or if you are feeling ill, it would probably be a good idea to postpone any major decisions.
  7. Where people are on your back because you are known to be a doer. Rather than going ahead and doing everything you are asked to do every time, depending on your position and priorities, procrastinate once in a while. Sometimes a good approach is to use someone else’s tendency to procrastinate in your defense. For example, if someone asks you to do something right away, respond by requesting a prerequisite to your going ahead. Maybe request an approval, budget, briefing paper or other useful piece that will help with the overall outcome. Be careful not to create useless work by asking for something irrelevant that does not add value to the process.

There is no need to sweat all the stuff that comes your way as soon as it comes. By applying these Strategic Postponement tools, you will be able to increase your overall productivity, enhance your well-being, and more effectively move toward your goals at a pace of your choosing. Feel free to occasionally say “Not now, maybe later.”

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

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