After working in the fields of commerce and industry for many years, it never ceases to surprise me how many people so often fail to follow through on their word and/or achieve their targets. It may well be the fear of getting it wrong; not being seen as the “expert” or just getting caught up with so many other things that they are just spending all of their time firefighting.

However, it is important to understand the psychology behind such failure to act in order to remedy it. But where to start?

Very often when a task looks overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin, it’s so easy to leave it and think that some magic will do it for you. Naturally, it doesn’t, and you are then just left procrastinating — yet again.

You may not fully understand what is being asked but because you do not wish to seem ignorant or inexperienced, you allow yourself to be distracted by something else so that you do not have to address the actual work required. However, if you ask the right question to obtain the correct information, that can make all the difference to your understanding of what is required.

You need to accept that you will not disappoint anyone by being open but you will let them down if you don’t deliver that which you said you would.

Expectations and value
If the importance of a specific job within the wider scheme of things in the organisation has not been explained to you, then you may find that you avoid discussion about the work and may become isolated within the team. If you are actually under the impression that there is no obvious reason for the work required, you may convince yourself to leave it to one side thinking that it might go away.

Of course, by taking on a specific task, there will be expected outcomes by the person who ordered it, and you will need to know precisely what these requirements are if you are to complete the task correctly. If you are unsure — then ask.

Every day, we should compile a priority list detailing those items that require our attention. However, what actually happens is that we can reach the end of the day with everything else being done but not that which was on our list.

Do you hear yourself saying “I didn’t finish that report because I didn’t have time” or “I didn’t get the car serviced because something else came up.” Where does the culpability lie? Is it with yourself? Is it with your boss? Your family?

Whatever or whoever you blame is immaterial. We all have the same 24 hours and it is our responsibility to utilise them efficiently.

So what can you do about it?
•Ensure clear goals and objectives for each task you take on. If your team is involved, make sure that they can all see the “bigger picture”.
•When delegating a task to someone else, make certain they repeat it back to you so that you can be assured they fully understand what is expected of them.
•Just make a start… now. Don’t think about why you don’t want to do something. It is similar to having to go to the gym – just do it!
•Be clear on the value of the task — both for yourself, for the team and for the organisation. Let everyone concerned see the benefit of them working on a particular task.
•Set expectations, not just on the task itself but what you expect will flow from it in both the short and long term.
•Deadline — make sure that you know what it is and why it has been agreed. That way you will feel an involvement in the whole project and be an integral part of it.

If after reading my column, you take away just one point and put it into action, then it will hopefully remove any tendency for further procrastination.

Key points
1 Never put off to tomorrow that which you can do today.
2 If you are unsure — then ask.
3 Make a list of priorities, and stick to it.

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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