Channelling Procrastination Into Productivity
Highlight the importance of little details of the brief, and pinpoint the fact that without questions ordinarily, such finer details would not be clear
Monday Blues – a buzzword, a phenomenon, an integral part of the workweek. Considering that the dull start of a week and the overwhelming procrastination it leads to are becoming such widespread concerns for professionals, the solution is long overdue. Everyone has their own little ways of coping with a period where all you really want to do is postpone work and worry about it in the process, thereby effectively getting no respite whatsoever. As a leader, it can often become a challenge to help employees fight such a phase efficaciously and empathetically.
Once we actually acknowledge how often this can happen to us, we can find ways to help others combat procrastination and channel their energies in the direction of productivity. Every working individual faces days, weeks and sometimes even months of such phases, but they do not have to last so long or happen so frequently if we only narrow down the problem to the root cause and attempt to eliminate it.
Firstly, it is imperative to start planning Monday from Sunday evening onwards. This way, Sunday evening passes smoothly and without a sense of dread for the next day because you and your team already have it mapped out. Additionally, planning ahead will ensure that Monday starts off on a note that is organized and well sorted out, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the week.
The next step is to identify what is causing the procrastination in a certain case, and then to solve that very problem. While Mondays come along every week, procrastination can occur repeatedly for several different reasons. To understand why procrastination is affecting your team, observation is the first step. If you do see signs of postponement and lethargy in the team, you can then approach individual team members and talk to them about their role, their every-day work, and even the task for that particular day or week. Dive deep and discuss the problems they are facing, and then proceed to understand the underlying cause.
There are a few common factors that cause all of us to experience this phenomenon. Procrastination could happen because of an individual from your team:
Doesn't like the task at hand
Doesn't understand the task
Doesn't possess the requisite skill set to fulfil the task
Finds the task dauntingly complex, and cannot figure out where to start
Doesn't Like The Task at Hand
While delegating work, along with assessing someone's experience, qualifications and skill set, it is also essential to determine whether they actually enjoy the work or not. Apart from the required abilities, nothing gets a task done more effectively and efficiently than genuine enjoyment. Someone who feels enough interest in the task will invest all their efforts and carry it out with conviction, rather than only running mechanical actions and doing an average job of it. Assigning tasks according to interest and liking, at least most of the time, also keep employee motivation and enthusiasm consistently high, sidesteps boredom and stagnation, and of course, keeps procrastination habits at bay.
Doesn't Understand the Task
When assigning a task, the brief should be detailed, yet precise. Encourage your team to ask questions at every point, and do not express annoyance or trivialise their doubts. This will only lead them to stop asking questions which in turn will result in half-baked understanding and clueless execution. Instilling the habit of questioning is a long-term practice and will not result in a fully receptive team overnight. So, at the outset, it is a good idea to provide clarifications and explanations even if there isn't too much questioning. Highlight the importance of little details of the brief, and pinpoint the fact that without questions ordinarily, such finer details would not be clear. After explaining the task, ask the person to paraphrase the brief to get a better idea of their understanding, and only then proceed to get the task accomplished.
Doesn't Possess the Requisite Skillset
As mentioned before, leaders should ideally delegate tasks according to individual interest and ability. However, sometimes there is no choice because tasks just have to be finished. In such cases, go into details not just about the brief itself but about the processes required to complete the task. One can provide pointers, user tutorials and even a demonstration of the processes require the use of certain technologies and software. For the long run, however, it is crucial to ensure that the entire team is up to speed with work tools, technological procedures and equipment usage. A learning and development program with regular workshops and training sessions should be put in place at the outset so that the eventuality of last-minute teaching becomes rare. The more the team understands and knows, the more ownership they have over their roles and the higher their accountability to the organization. All of this together reduces the chances of frequent procrastination and a mechanical approach to work.
Finds The Task Too Complex
This is one of the most common root causes of procrastination. There is a degree of slowness that takes over when one has to begin a task that one cannot understand or isn't equipped to handle. Often, even if employees are well-versed in the skills themselves, the task is many-layered and a mixture of various processes or involves coordination with several other teams. Here the important step to take is to break the task down into smaller instalments for the team. These segregated, sequential problems become easier to handle and overcome before moving onto the next one, and ultimately completing the larger assignment systematically.
Monday blues happen to everyone, and every one of us, from intern to CEO, has at some point been frustrated with our tendency to put off work and accomplish nothing. However, instead of accepting these phenomena as they are and assuming that this is just how it is if we wake up to combative methods, then Mondays would feel as enjoyable as Fridays and productivity would peak. When leaders themselves start implementing these practices, they can truly lead from the front and gradually eliminate the culture of frequent procrastination.