“I’ll just get this task out of the way OR AM I JUST PROCRASTINATING?"

Chimpanzee procrastination

How satisfying is that feeling when you cross off a task from your to-do list? One down, X amount to go. It doesn’t even matter the value of X, as you still have one less thing to do.

The real question should be…Was that task worth doing, ahead of the other items on your to-do list?

Often when we have a more pressing task to carry out that may be complex or challenging, we will find everything else to do except that task. We welcome snack or cigarette breaks, sort out folders on our computer or file emails. Any thing and every thing that could wait!

Many years ago, part of my job was to resize and upload product images from leading beauty brands onto the company’s intranet. It could be one image or an entire product line – perfumes, shower gels, gift sets, etc. I also had to type in the description and price for each item.

Now I am no speed typist and found the more I typed, the slower I became. Data entry for me, at that time was the most brain-numbing task I could be given (however, these days I find it quite therapeutic, just being able to switch off and not overload my brain for a short period of time).

As my days were always busy, I tended to leave the longer lists of 25 items until the end and race through the requests with a maximum of 2-3 uploads. I felt so good when I looked at my bulging ‘done’ tray - proving my accomplishments for the day. As the last hour towards the close of business approached, I was left with the pages of product lines to be updated, that were needed that day (somewhere in the world).

What should have taken under an hour often dragged out for longer. It was the end of the day, often the end of the week, my momentum was at the bare minimum and I constantly reminded myself ‘I don’t like these long lists’ or ‘these uploads will take me forever’. I was already losing the battle with that mindset. Fulfilling these tasks took longer than necessary, not because of my lack of skills, but because I kept telling myself to avoid them.

Once completed, I almost always wished I had done them earlier and it was not as bad as I thought. But still, I repeated this pattern several times over.

The reality

Eventually, the penny dropped and I realised, because of my lack of planning to prioritise tasks, I was spending more time at my desk, skipping lunch breaks to catch up or working later to complete the important tasks. Instead, I should have left the less pressing tasks until last. Particularly, as those tasks could often be done the day after, or even shared with someone else on the team, who was less busy and willing to help. How many times are we offered the help and say “it’s okay, I can manage”, when it’s not true, or certainly not necessary?

I began to value my breaks and leaving work on time.

I started completing the complex and mundane tasks first. Admittedly, my typing speed did not increase when uploading 20+ images and entering their product descriptions. But it did have increased momentum when working on the requests for up 3 images, as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and not a black cloud looming over my head.

Creating a list of your priorities each day, will increase your productivity. Simply indicating all the tasks on your to-do list that could be delegated to a colleague, will assist if someone offers you help throughout the day, you instantly know what tasks you could give them.

Be honest with yourself, does completing the quicker tasks first, make you productive or procrastinate?

If you are struggling with managing your workload, contact ROOTS POD for some practical tips to get you back on track.