Blog Archives

Procrastination: Productivity killer or silent achiever?

Who hasn’t been guilty of being a bit tardy at work occasionally? Leaving a task to the last minute or putting the same job in the too hard basket for no good reason. In fact isn’t that how most of us got through school or university? I remember many late night cramming sessions, starting assignments at last minute… I’ll put my hand up now and say I am still a little guilty of procrastination. It’s a simple, human trait so pervasive that I bet you’re putting off something else while reading this.

Procrastination in the workplace is not only common, it’s part of our daily routine. It can be walking around the office with no specific purpose, having a casual chat with a colleague, getting a coffee you didn’t really need. Over the course of writing this article I will have checked my emails, called clients and spoken with candidates at the end of almost every sentence – that’s a lot of calls, not to mention a lot of cups of coffee!

So if this is a phenomenon that everyone engages in, is it really a problem? Well, a recent article published on an online business blog estimates that procrastination costs UK businesses over £76 billion (AUD $155 billion) per year. To put this into perspective, IBISWorld reports the entire banking industry in Australia has an annual revenue of AUD $168 billion. It seems like procrastination is a HUGE issue for business and the economy as a whole.

But before you leap to the conclusion that procrastination must be costing your company big bucks, spare a thought for those “lazy, useless, unproductive bunch of social parasites” the Brits at London Loves Business are referring to, wonderfully parodied by Ricky Gervais in The Office. How about those times you stay back late, or the hours you put in after work or on the weekend? I’d argue that the flexibility afforded by a few minutes here and there is much more valuable. Consider too the positive impact of reprioritising our ‘less important’ tasks (while stalling on this blog, I’ve been otherwise very productive).

Ever wondered where the time has gone when you’re hard-pressed to complete an urgent task? Deadlines stretched to the limit could be because you put off completing work when you knew you had the opportunity to do it, or simply because you stopped to listen to someone who needed your ear. Logically we tell ourselves that had we avoided those timewasting traps, we would have got through our ‘important’ work.

Naturally your decisions impact your team, the division, in fact the whole organisation. As a manager I can see the less tangible benefits of some internal PR with a colleague or getting some fresh air to refocus. If you’re looking for harder evidence, see our recent post on Three Scientific Reasons for Taking a Break.

Finally, before I get back to other work, here are five proven methods for beating procrastination courtesy of Business Insider:

  1. Start with easy tasks to build momentum
  2. Know your work style and preferences
  3. Break down complex tasks
  4. Find a reason to give your tasks purpose
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

You found time to read my article, you may like to watch their video. In the meantime I’ll just grab another coffee.

What are some of your tips to avoid the traps of procrastination? What else have you achieved while procrastinating?

Mark Fischer

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Rich or Lean? Five ways to determine the best form of communicating a message.

It’s easy to fall into lazy habits, mistaking the convenience of technology for impactful communication. How often do we stop to think about the control technology has on the way we communicate and how our messages are delivered?

We have a nifty piece of technology at Slade Group. It’s an instant messaging application that allows us to communicate with anyone in the business. Nowadays that’s not revolutionary, but it can be highly useful. Sitting in our Sydney office, I can shoot off a message to a colleague in Melbourne and receive a same-time response, while I continue with my work. My message is not lost in a clogged email inbox or dismissed amongst other text message clutter.

Interruptions can break your concentration however, especially when you’re focused on completing a task. A pop-up window appearing in the middle of your screen while you’re working is much like a person appearing at your desk… unfortunately the app cannot distinguish when it’s appropriate to queue jump. What about asking the person next to you a question via instant message or email instead of simply lifting your head and speaking? This is a crime we are all guilty of. So where do we draw the line?

Daft and Lengel developed a model they called the Hierarchy of Media Richness (1986) which states that communication can be delivered through rich or lean mediums. A rich medium (face-to-face conversations or video chat) is ideal for complex messages such as technical information and a lean medium (instant message) for snippets of information. For example, if you delivered financial modelling or a sales forecast via SMS, I’d argue the weight of your message would be diminished by the small screen. And if you wanted to invite a colleague to lunch and put together a PowerPoint to present your offer, I’d say you wouldn’t even get the projector warmed up before your colleague was leaving the room.

So here’s my advice for success with Rich and Lean (hoping that blogging is a rich enough method of communication to get this message across):

  1. Short message or text is for simple and immediate requests and comments
  2. For more than a few sentences, send an email or better yet, pick up the phone
  3. Save discussions involving three or more critical points for meetings
  4. Take a few minutes out of your busy day to walk around the office and speak to people face-to-face – it’s a healthy workplace habit and helps build internal relationships
  5. Always consider the aim and purpose of your message or question and ask yourself, “Is this the best way to deliver this?”

Daft and Lengel say finding the appropriate medium to deliver the message is not only essential to effective communication, but also leads to better results. What communication habits are you planning on changing?

And what are your tips for better communication?

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work