Are you a procrastinator? Do you sit on tasks when they first come to you, waiting for that magical moment when you’ll know that the time is right to do it? Do you find it hard to commit to completing things?
I know I do!
This blog is going to offer you some ideas for how you can get yourself out of your cycle of procrastination, by discussing an approach called instant process mapping. It will show you how to quickly remove task dependency from you, freeing up your time to focus on important things that matter to you…
Removing procrastination from your workflow is a key activity in my productivity philosophy, and fits in with Golden Rule #1: Don’t do it twice. Every piece of procrastination steals a small amount of your time – quickly adding up to minutes and hours in a month that you could have invested in much better activities.
So lets talk procrastination…
Why do we procrastinate?
Procrastination is the art of replacing high priority activities with lower priority activities. A great example can be found from school or university, just before the big exams. When you are supposed to be revising anything seems like a better idea. My room was never so clean as when I had exams coming up!
Procrastination can also be psychological – linked to feelings of low-self-worth and self-defeatism. Whatever the cause – if you can tackle this head-on and improve yourself then you’re on the road to a more productive tomorrow.
Process mapping – treat tasks like mini-projects
I came across SIPOC recently – a Lean methodology which helps to summarise and understand a process so it can be improved. As I was listening I realised that this could help in my day-to-day work. By fully questioning the what, when, how and why of tasks I would remove many of the procrastination causes. I call this questioning approach Instant Process Mapping.
When you get a new task or activity given to you – ask yourself the following questions:
- Who needs to give you stuff?
- What stuff do you need?
- What actions do you need to take?
- What stuff do you need to deliver?
- Who wants it?
These questions don’t even take a minute to cover off – and if you don’t know the answer to any of them then fire off an email or pick up the phone while it is still fresh in your mind!
Lets do an example. Paul has asked me to do a report for the board covering off the new markets we were thinking of entering – he’d like it by the end of next week.
- Who needs to give you stuff? George and Ringo
- What stuff do you need? Market stats from George, latest trading figures from Ringo.
- What actions do you need to take? Summarise the market stats and trading stats, come up with a recommendation
- What stuff do you need to deliver? PDF report by the end of next week
- Who wants it? Paul and the rest of the board.
One minute later – you’ve got everything you need to get started, and you’ve gained some momentum while you’re at it!
Dependency – the enemy of getting things done
In the example above, Paul is dependant on you to deliver the report in time for the board. But you are also dependant on George and Ringo. It is very common for people to sit on that dependency until the deadline approaches, and then desperately request the eleventh-hour information from George and Ringo. Apart from not being fair on the guys, you run the risk of George being on holiday, and therefore you cannot deliver the board report for the deadline. Career limiter!!
Don’t sit on it – after you’ve completed the instant process mapping questions – fire out a couple of emails to George and Ringo explaining what you need, and when you need it by. You never know – they may have some further dependencies of their own! At this stage, you might hear the your timelines are unachievable – NOW is the time to flag this to Paul when you have time on your side. Then you and/or Paul can come up with a viable alternative (or go over George and Ringo’s heads to get what you need…)
The big win here is that you’ve got time to do something. You appear relaxed and on-top-of-things and will win respect from Paul, George and Ringo for this approach.
Oli Note: The observent amongst you will notice that I reiterate this ‘remove dependancy’ approach in my Clean To-do List blog – I’m nothing if not predictable and repetitious…
Being a procrastinator is a human condition that we all suffer from to a greater or lesser degree. By performing instant process mapping you can remove many of the barriers to getting started, and remove the task dependency from you. This will free up your time and allow you to appear calm and in control – improving your perception to others in your organisation.
Oli Note: I really enjoy instant process mapping – these questions really help me to get started and I’ve noticed a big increase in my productivity. This is one of my steps within my productivity philosophy, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Alongside long term planning and short term prioritising, this approach should really help you reduce your procrastinating tendencies! Please feedback your thoughts – it’s really great when people ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ this stuff.