Stop procrastinating about survey action planning
We would probably all agree that action following an employee survey is of vital importance, yet when it comes to the execution of them we often seem to lack the ability to build the right momentum and get things done.
Why do we delay certain tasks until the very last minute? Or worse yet, why do we entirely avoid doing a task that should take precedence over other tasks? Why do we lack discipline, motivation, organisation, and become easily distracted? It is estimated a high number of us are procrastinators. It’s quite a troubling phenomenon and I wouldn’t be surprised if in some ways it contributes to UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’. Here are some of the reasons as to why we delay action:
- Lack of meaningful goals: if the goal is not perceived as meaningful or important, or the task is not seen to contribute to a bigger picture then it is likely distractions and boredom will kick in and actions will be dropped from the list.
- Fear of failure: we can be afraid of failing so we don’t get on to it in the first place. Some of us go a step further with ‘self-handicapping’, placing obstacles to hinder one’s own performance to provide an external reason for any failure, protecting both self and social-esteem.
- Personality trait: conscientiousness, one of the big five personality traits, is known to be one of the best predictors of success, primarily the ‘industriousness’ component. The lower you are on this scale the more likely you are to procrastinate.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” (Aristole)
If you know yourself to be quite the procrastinator, and do indeed have a survey action plan to write and act on, there are things you can do to certainly go from serious procrastinating to proactivity. Before acting however, there is a responsibility for senior leaders to be on board and treat this with a sense of urgency. This involves senior leaders communicating clearly why it is important and demonstrating the commitment the organisation will be making. Without the right influence and leadership buy in, no amount of action planning will work.
Half the work is done if senior leaders are on board and following some of the thoughts below will help you executive that plan perfectly.
- Formulate high valued goals: actions that don’t happen are often not meaningful. Its imperative goals have a high value and carry meaning that align to strategic business priorities (this is one of the reasons why our PEARL model of engagement measures ‘purpose’). Our online dashboards provide managers with data relevant to their part of the business, making it of more value to them and harder to ignore.
- Write lists and build ‘micro-goals’: it’s old school but it works. When a goal feels far away, write a list of the steps or goals that will take you steps closer to your high valued goal, no matter how small. Achievement of each (the satisfactory ‘crossing off’) equates to a small rewarding win, convincing you that your ultimate goal is within reach. Before you know it ticking off your list will become an addiction. By doing this consecutively, a positive charge will take place sending you on an upward spiral.
- Share your plan: by sharing with others you are more likely to commit to them and stick to them. Like announcing you’re going to do a marathon – it’s harder to back out when you’ve made it public knowledge. There is also the added benefit that by sharing them you will gather further support.
- Don’t drain all your cognitive capacity at once: ‘Self regulation’ theory research suggests that willpower is a finite resource. If you are a procrastinator then don’t force yourself to spend too long on a task. Quality will drop and so will your motivation. Know yourself and follow your micro goals sensibly to begin with until you are ready to spend longer on the task at a given time.
Overcoming procrastination requires practice and repetition until the habit sits in your subconscious. The more you do it the easier it becomes. In Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers of Success’ he provides a compelling case that clocking up the hours makes someone an expert in something. Keep repeating the behaviour to make it a habit. Break your old habits by replacing them with these new ones and over time you will no doubt see the ideas and action plans becoming the reality.
Thanks to Costa Antoniou, Business Psychologist for this post.
- Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit: why do we do what we do and how to change
- Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers of Success
- Jordan Perterson: How to stop procrastinating (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoA4017M7WU&t=202s)
- Piers Steel *, Thomas Brothen, Catherine Wambach – Procrastination and personality, performance, and mood
- Piers Steel – The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self Regulatory Failure https://prism.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/handle/1880/47914/Steel_PsychBulletin_2007_Postprint.pdf?sequence=1
- Brian Tracy – Eat that frog
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