The New Year brings new opportunities to improve. By now, you are probably already in the process of setting new goals for 2012. Trying to identifying a real challenge for the New Year, you may be striving for a different perspective or approach. My suggestion is honing a skill that is valuable to you whether you are a Managing Director in your own business or a Senior Manager in a major organisation, a universal concept of which you should have a fundamental understanding: procrastination.
We can all procrastinate to some extent, but could you call yourself a master of maybe later? If not, read on, as I have identified the top ten areas you should focus on this year if you are dedicated to this goal.
The 10 Steps to Procrastination Expertise
So how can you bring your average performance up to a new level this year? Don’t forget that it must be you who takes action if you want to make changes. Make notes as you go through this article: what are you going to commit to doing differently?
1. Set UNINSPIRING, DEMOTIVATING goals.
An expert procrastinator cannot be motivated, so don’t set any goals that may improve your life, financial security, or inspire you to achieve them.
Keep your goals simple and mundane. Better still, don’t set any at all. If you can follow this simple first tip, you will be well on your way to enhancing your procrastination skills.
2. Spend lots of TIME in MEETINGS.
An excellent way to waste time and make yourself feel really important is to fill your diary up with meetings and become increasingly unavailable.
The best type of meetings for dedicated procrastinators are committee meetings. You will often go around in circles in search of consensus. Volunteer for as many of these as possible.
Maximise the length of meetings by:
– making sure they are always in big rooms with comfortable chairs.
– ordering lots of tea, coffee and cakes.
– not creating an agenda or having any objectives/outcomes.
– not offering to chair the meeting.
– not setting a time scale for the meeting.
3. Do ENDLESS INTERNET RESEARCH.
The secret weapon of masters. With the proper focus, it’s possible to spend most of a working day looking online at products and services which you ultimately do not need or which you need, but do not buy.
Remember never to Power search. This could reduce your options from 400,000 hits to 15, slashing the amount of time you can reasonably spend exploring every potentially relevant link. How long is that going to take? Not nearly long enough, so avoid at all costs.
Keep search terms vague for aimless, endless fun. Specificity could lead to faster decisions, robbing you of the opportunity for mindless browsing.
4. Avoid DECISION MAKING.
As Dominic Ashley-Timms asserts, “Decisions are the stepping stones of progress”, therefore to be avoided if you want to achieve procrastination perfection. Even bad decisions are good for progress. By making mistakes you learn what doesn’t work, still moving you forwards, helping you to refine your strategy. Best to avoid decision-making altogether.
5. Take lots of unnecessary LONG BREAKS.
There are many ways to interpret this approach. Smokers have an automatic upper hand here, so perhaps you could pretend you are a smoker and go out for 10 minutes every hour or so. Measurably disrupt your concentration by starting at the beginning each time you return to your desk.
Tea and coffee-making is another option. Regular trips to the drinks machine or the kitchen will improve both your procrastination power and popularity. Offer to get everybody a drink. Walk from the office to the canteen and back again a few times, checking who has how many sugars. Alternatively, spend fifteen minutes compiling a list or a table detailing everyone’s preferred drink and precisely how they take it. After all, it’s important to do a job properly.
6. Find out all the GOSSIP.
By pursuing this step with vigour, you may find yourself more and more sought after as a knower of all that is scandalous. If people want to find out what is going on in any given colleague’s professional or personal life, you are their oracle. This works wonders for the Ego, whilst wasting hours of your day. It might be that your fingers barely touch the keyboard from 9 to 5. You can set this step in motion immediately with a little eavesdropping.
7. Review your EMAIL CONSTANTLY.
Ever-arriving, emails are a Godsend for the master procrastinator. Every time you hear the “ping”, drop your current task and attend to your new email. The truly dedicated will regularly check their inboxes, incessantly clicking the Send/Receive buttons: just in case.
Under no circumstances should you manage your inbox effectively by:
– setting specific times to attend to emails. Bad procrastinators sometimes only check emails twice daily. You will never achieve your goal this way.
– deleting your junk mail before you’ve read it all. Your filters might have missed something crucial, like that lottery win in a country you’ve never visited.
– delegating email tasks to colleagues. For a personal touch, spend time crafting the perfect message yourself. Feel free to delete and retype whole sentences repeatedly.
8. FOCUS on all the MINOR PROBLEMS.
Honing in on the unimportant problems is a fantastic way to fill your day without being remotely productive. These problems are those that will not impact the bottom line and you should devote disproportionate amounts of time to fretting over them.
Ask yourself: “Is what I am currently doing fundamental to the success of this business?”. If the answer is no: keep doing it.
Become known in the office as the person to come to over the unimportant things. If you can become the office agony aunt or uncle, even better, as this will also help you perfect tip 6.
By succeeding in this, you can focus not only on your own insignificant problems but on everyone else’s minor crises too. A true sign of mastery.
9. REORGANISE your DESK, OFFICE or FILING SYSTEMS.
We all know that an untidy desk means an untidy mind, so this tip has a double advantage. Get yourself into an unproductive cycle. Keep your desk messy enough to encourage constant reorganisation. Spend an hour looking for that document rather than working on it, checking piles of paper that you have already checked unsuccessfully: just in case.
Keep every piece of paper that finds its way onto your desk, so you can invest unnecessary time filing and recycling. Schedule regular face time with the shredder, which is slow, and often gets jammed because you stuff too much paper into it. Whoops.
Some of the most effective organisations have almost removed paper from their offices entirely, insisting that all memos/proposals are less than one side of A4. They want their team to communicate in snippets, not through thesis-style tomes. This approach will categorically not work for your purposes. Be longwinded. Keep your desk snowed under with paperwork.
10. Focus on your COMPUTER.
The modern PC is your friend. Customisable, slow, filled with gadgets and games; it provides some excellent opportunities for procrastination, including:
– personalisation. Why not change your desktop background? You should spend at least half an hour finding the perfect image on Google. You may wish to do this on a weekly basis.
– helping colleagues with IT problems. Be sure to make as many unnecessary alterations to program settings as possible, whilst insisting that you don’t need to Google the problem or call IT services.
– installing updates, perhaps for your antivirus software or drivers for the new mouse you procrastinated your way into yesterday.
– fixing the printer. Become an office hero as the only person who can un-jam the printer or who knows where the toner cartridges are kept. Then you will always be the first person called, presenting frequent opportunities to leave your desk.
– tweaking your settings for improved performance. Blaming a slow computer for your lack of productivity is fun, but trying to fix it yourself and failing can be even more effective for procrastination.
With new technologies and trends come new opportunities to up your game as a time-waster. Rise to each new challenge.
Amateur to Expert
These steps can get you on the road to true expertise. As ever, nothing will improve if you don’t make a conscious decision to focus and take action. Perhaps you can already identify to some extent with several these steps. This is a good start, but if you wish to achieve procrastination mastery, you must take a long, hard look at the habits you have formed.
1. Choose three areas to improve.
2. Score your current success out of 10 against these 3 areas.
3. Set an improved target score for a month’s time.
4. List ways to achieve this improved score. What actions can you take – or fail to take?
5. TAKE ACTION.