Thursday 31 May 2012

What Encourages Us to Get Things Done?

If you’ve read the last couple of posts on What Stops Us Getting Things Done, you might be despairing that anything will ever get done again.  But for every reason we have to put something off, a stronger urge keeps us moving forward.  Here is a starter on what encourages us to get things done:

1.    Values.  Values are when we can’t imagine behaving any other way.  Some people can’t leave the house without making the bed, or relax in the evening unless they have done the washing up.  Values ensure we reply to email before close or play.  Values are our own in-built standards that get the things done even when we are in a hurry or disaster strikes elsewhere.

2.    Urgency.  When other people are waiting for some work, or something bad will happen if we don’t do it.  Think end of tax year, end of month reporting, delivering work to an important customer.

3.    Enjoyment.  Loving what we do. 

4.    Quick and easy work.  Stuff that doesn’t need much thought and can get done quickly.  This may be things you should rightly clear off your plate so they don’t become a problem later or “busy work” that could be done in off-peak time, or not done at all.

5.    Habits.  Those “eat and sleep routines” that you do without thinking.  Examine your work habits to see which are useful, and which less so.

6.    Discipline.  Not a massively popular word, but sometime knuckling down and getting difficult or unpleasant things done takes discipline and grit.  ‘Nuff said.

As with what stops us getting things done (parts 1 and 2) I’m sure this list could be added to.  As we identify what encourages us to be productive, we can make little modifications to our work so tasks become easier and more fun.  It's worth a thought.

Monday 28 May 2012

6 More Reasons for Not Getting Things Done

Friday’s post "6 Reasons We Don’t Get Things Done" provoked a bit of discussion.  Being specific about a problem can be a breakthrough in finding the solution, so it’s worth a bit of thought.  Here are six more reasons why things that should get done, don’t:

1.    Not understanding the problem.  Not defining it well enough.  Trying to solve a different problem.  Woolly thinking.  Complex problems frequently need to be defined, refined and revisited several times before the right problem gets worked on.   

2.    Interruptions/disturbances.  External and internal.   Whilst there is no shortage of external interruptions, and steps can be taken to minimise these, we are also quite capable of interrupting ourselves.  Checking email, making tea, stopping for a chat are all valid to some degree, but on occasions can be serious disturbances to our work.

3.    Perfectionism.  Believing you can’t do it well enough, which stops us even trying.

4.    Vicarious conduct.  Doing other things during work time.  You know what they are.

5.    Lack of energy.  Many people work better at one time of the day or another.  I’m definitely a morning person, but I know night owls who seem to work best in the wee small hours.  Knowing what works best for you can, and setting up your day to take advantage, can help.

6.    Taking on impossible jobs.  Tasks may be impossible for a number of reasons.  You may not have the ability to do them, other people may be determined to stop you, or you may not have planned the work carefully enough. 

I bet this list still isn’t exhaustive, but the longer it gets, the more useful it gets.  So a huge thank you to those who have contributed to the debate.  And just in case you are feeling that nothing will ever get done ever again, later in the week I’m writing about what encourages us to get things done.  If I get round to it, of course!

Friday 25 May 2012

6 Reasons for Not Getting Things Done

You probably procrastinate less than I do.  Not that I do it on purpose, far from it, I like to attack the day with vigour and get on with what needs doing.  It’s just that some things don’t get done.  Or they stay on my “guilt list” for too long.  And whilst there might be many reasons for why these things aren’t getting done, the bottom line is that either they should be on my “to do” list, or they shouldn’t.  If they should be there, but haven’t been done after a month or so, then I’m procrastinating. 

Identifying the problem often leads to a solution; or gets us some of the way.  So here’s my list of what stops us getting on with what needs doing:

1.     Fear.  We are complex creatures so fear includes fear of failure, fear of success, fear of trying but not succeeding, fear of doing it wrong, fear of making a mistake, fear or looking foolish, or fear of not doing it as well as someone else.  Plus lots more things we are frightened of, but hide away.    

2.     Too difficult.  We don’t have the knowledge, we haven’t thought about what needs doing, we haven’t broken the job into small enough tasks, or we haven’t consulted with people we need to consult with. 

3.     Conflicting priorities.  Real or imagined.  We have other more important, more interesting, or easier things to do.

4.     Need additional resources.  We may need advice, money, or something from someone to get the job done.

5.     Lack of urgency.  Important things are rarely urgent, and vice versa, which means the big, important things need extra attention to get done.

6.     Lack of perceived importance.  Tidiness, planning, communication, taking time off.  Many low-level activities don’t appear to be important and only show their value when something gets lost, or missed, or someone wasn’t consulted.
Of course this list isn’t exhaustive, nor is it necessarily real.  Or at least each and every item is real until you put it under the microscope and examine it for the paper dragon it is.