If you surveyed any 10, 100 or 1,000 people as to their favorite day of the week, the hands down winner would undoubtedly be—tomorrow. That’s when that big project will be started, the old one finished, the solution to a problem found, the important decision made. To one degree or another, we are all guilty of procrastination. We’re not “in the mood.” We don’t feel up to par. We lack the necessary information that will enable us to act. There is a desk full of detail work to be attended to. Jack, who is crucial to the job, is out ill, traveling, or unavailable for some reason or other, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Before you know it, presto! Tomorrow has turned into yesterday. The remedy? Two tablespoons of self-discipline and a gallon of perseverance. Some guidelines to counter procrastination.
Fight one enemy at a time. Pick one area where procrastination plagues you and conquer it. It may be a predisposition to put off beginning a job…or answering correspondence…or turning down requests for your help. Whatever it is, change it. If you find yourself searching for excuses for not making decisions, for example, force yourself to make them quickly. If you hate answering letters, drive yourself to replying to just one; each succeeding one will seem a bit less formidable, and with every letter answered, you will build the momentum necessary to answer them all.
Focus on one problem at a time. The sheer weight of all the things you have to do may be discouraging. Learn to compartmentalize your jobs. Pretend for the time being that all you have to do is job A. Get it done and confront job B with the same single mindedness. Don’t duck the most difficult problems. That just ensures the hardest part will be left when you’re most tired. Get the big one done and it’s downhill from then on.
Give yourself deadlines. Not only set deadlines for yourself; let them be known. Ask a friend to check up on you. The desire not to lose face will put iron in your resolve. Don’t be paralyzed by a quest for perfection. If you put everything off until you’ve checked out every detail with 20 people and subjected it to a microscopic inspection, you will get little, or nothing, done
There are worse things in the world than admitting you’ve erred, and there are actual advantages to owning up to it. A supervisor may even gain a few things in the process: employee respect. By admitting your errors, you lend credibility to those occasions when you know you are right. Your people will be less apt to challenge your judgment if they know you are as tough on yourself as on them. Improved morale. The supervisor who doesn’t stand apart from his people by pretending to be infallible is almost certain to have his people working as a team rather than as a collection of individuals.
Improved performance. One effective way to instruct others is by example. If you demonstrate that you value truth above excuses, that is what you will get from your people, for if they know you recognize that no one is perfect, they’ll do their level best…every time.
All employees enjoy a pat on the back. It proves that their contributions to the company are recognized and appreciated. It shows that they are more than mere faceless members of a large group. And it confirms their own belief in their worth as human beings.
In short, praise is a valuable motivational technique because a healthy egotism is an important part of the average person’s psychic makeup. Who isn’t buoyed by a compliment? A little flattery, even when its sincerity may be suspect, makes our day. And because we tend to live up to the image that others have of us, most of us will do everything in our power not to disappoint those who praise us.
Nor is it all that difficult to find something to compliment in another human being: “You handled that customer beautifully”… “That’s a very bright idea”… “We appreciate your punctuality”—these are just a few of the kinds of bouquets that are no great strain to pass out.
Yet, many supervisors find this difficult to do. Sometimes, it’s because they are so full of self-confidence themselves that they require no outside assurances of their ability. Assuming that others are like them, they see no reason to compliment subordinates. Or, they are so riddled with self-doubt that they can never believe that their opinion of others really matters.
In both cases it is the employees who suffer. Not getting the credit they deserve, they are apt to think, “Why try?” Result: morale—and productivity—nosedive. But if you want to spark their best efforts, prove that those efforts will not go unrecognized or unappreciated. Their response may amaze you.
Few things are more frustrating than working for someone whose standards continually change. When an employee knows he is being judged by a single, fair standard, he has a target to aim for. He can modify his performance accordingly and try to meet that standard. No one wants to, or can, work without an objective. To be consistent to the point of inflexibility, however, is poor management. If you are going to modify your standards, communicate this in advance so that your people can expect a measure of flexibility and remain flexible themselves.
If you are planning to attend a business or trade show, there is no need to walk around with your pockets stuffed with literature you receive there and want to read later. Instead, take along some stamped, self-addressed envelopes and mail the material to yourself as it accumulates. When you return home, it will be waiting for you.