June 8, 2001,
Are you making the most
of your employees?
Never say Ďlaterí
AT one time or another, most people are guilty of procrastination. However, for many, procrastination runs through their lives like an epidemic with an appalling number of things never attempted and other half-done. Incredibly, some people die prematurely because they put off seeing the doctor about a heart pain or a growing lump. Other people never earn coveted promotions because they miss too many important work deadlines, quotas and meetings. Left unchallenged, procrastination can deteriorate life, damage relationships, destroy careers and dash dreams. Yet, the practice of putting off until tomorrow is just a bad habit, and as such, can easily be changed. Here are effective strategies for winning the battle against procrastination.
Understand whatís wrong with procrastinating: Begin conquering procrastination by understanding that it is not merely a harmless habit, but an attitude that stifles personal and professional growth. "Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday," declared American poet and playwright Don Marquis. The problem with procrastination is that it leaves a person locked in the past. There is no evolution or growth. "Procrastination slams the brakes on the wheels of progress. It chews up goals and aspirations and spits out frustration, anger and despair," writes James R. Sherman, in his book "Stop Procrastinating". "You can see its damaging effects in people who stay too long in the wrong job or wrong relationship. You can see it in people who refuse to deal with their abuse of diets, drugs (including alcohol), or tobacco. And you can see it in people who avoid arduous tasks and unpleasant confrontations until itís too late to take effective action."
Take the plunge: Stop procrastinating today. Immediately make the commitment to begin doing things youíve been postponing. Remind yourself that this minute is the best time to stop procrastinating. Tell yourself that today is the day you take off, step out, set sail, make tracks. If you have been wanting to send a letter, get out pen and paper. If you have been needing to prepare a report, block off time and do it before you go to bed. If you have been intending to read a book, get your copy and start now. If you have been promising yourself to start an exercise programme, then do a few sit-ups or walk around the block today. If you have been considering a diet, make a salad right now for your next meal. Do not allow yourself to accept any excuses for not acting today. Remember the wisdom of this proverb: "Do today what you want to postpone till tomorrow." By ending your procrastination habit today, you will not only feel better about yourself; you will also find it easier to complete your tasks tomorrow.
Set realistic goals: Many honest plans are immediately ruined because the goals are too vast and unrealistic. It is hard to become motivated when goals are set too high. Unrealistic goals lead to discouragement and easy defeat.
Most tasks are better accomplished when they are broken into smaller, more manageable steps. Success comes from using small daily goals to reach big, long-range ones. Today Susan Powter is a popular fitness author and TV celebrity. However, a few years ago she weighed 260 pounds and felt extremely unhappy with her life. After trying desperately to lose weight via various diet programs, Powter eventually lost 130 pounds and transformed herself. Powterís secret: she set smaller, more realistic goals she knew she could achieve. "The first time I tried an aerobics class, when I was 260 pounds, I left in tears. There were all those thin gorgeous women taking exercises that my body couldnít because of my weight," she recalls.
Rather than plunge into another heavy exercise programme, Powter set smaller goals for herself. "My big fitness breakthrough came the day I took my two little boys outside, sat them under a tree in the front yard and walked a half-block. That was how far I could walk until one of my kids crawled away from the tree. I turned around and picked up the baby, put him back under the tree and walked another half-block. I kept this up until Iíd walked for 30 minutes, a half-block at a time. I started feeling less exhausted that same day ó because Iíd given my body what it needed at a level it could handle."
Expect some difficulties: Changing deeply established patterns will take time and effort. Donít expect too much too soon. Anticipate some hard times. To avoid becoming discouraged and frustrated when rewards do not materialise quickly, remember you will have to apply the self-discipline necessary to keep moving forward. A persistent and disciplined approach produces the desired results.
Prioritise responsibilities and objectives: Anita, 56, completed her postgraduation after a 19-year effort. The mother of three, she was delayed from completing her classes at various stages ó when she divorced in 1976, and when she underwent a major surgery. On other occasions she lost time for financial reasons. Despite personal circumstances, she managed a first division.
Practise Ďcounter thinkingí: Argue yourself out of negative, self-defeating thoughts. Consider the example of this 38-year-old editor. "For the last two years Iíd been telling myself that I would work out at least five times per week. I kept putting it off, but I finally joined a gym and began the five times a week routine. To my amazement it went well for about three weeks, but then work pressures began to mount. I started telling myself, "Today you donít have time for the gym. Stay at work." However, I balanced those thoughts quickly by reminding myself that days with stressful deadlines at work were precisely when I needed exercise the most. So, by Ďcounter thinkingí I have been able to maintain my commitment to exercise for almost a full year now. Iím really quite pleased with myself."
Declare your commitment: Your ability to complete a task or overcome an issue will be greatly enhanced when you share your commitment with supportive people. A public declaration of a private commitment increases your energy and motivation. It will also bring support and encouragement from others. "Declaring a position to other key people in your life and committing publicly becomes a contract that elevates internal and external performance expectations," notes management psychologist Dr G. Eric Allenbaugh in his book "Wakeup Calls." "Marriage ceremonies, Alcoholics Anonymous and weight loss programmes often tap into the power of public pronouncements to assist individuals in accomplishing goals. Often, other people will introduce resources that augment our own and assist in making a difference."
Visualise your completed goals: Commitment is heightened and determination reinforced when you actively visualise yourself successfully completing a task. To visualise a completed goal, follow this three-point plan: Outline the steps needed to complete the task, see yourself carrying out these steps, and picture yourself with the end product in hand.
Reward yourself: Rewarding movement and progress rather than criticising yourself for setback will encourage continued advance. You truly do deserve encouragement in the form of a reward when you substitute carrots for chocolate or jogging for watching television. Congratulate yourself on progress and back it up by doing something purely for your own pleasure. "A meal at a special restaurant, a night at the movies, or sleeping in late are examples of things you can use as rewards as long as you really enjoy them," says Dr Sherman. "Just remember that a reward system only works when you strictly adhere to it. So, if you earn a reward, take it. And if you donít earn it, donít take it. Donít diminish your accomplishment by thinking they are not worth the rewards you set aside for them."
Finally, keep in mind that it is never
too late to break the procrastination habit. Even if you have been a
procrastinator all your life, that way of living can be changed. By
making efforts to end procrastination you are taking charge of your life
at a higher level. As you do that, you will experience more fulfilment.
Are you making the most of your employees?
MANY small business owners fail to realise the potential of the people who work for them. Answer these questions to find out if your business would benefit from a rethink.
1. Do you plan ahead for the staff that you require?
a. no, I donít
b. yes, it is important to do so.
c. yes, and I try to analyse carefully what staff I will need in future
2. How do you find new people?
a. by preparing an exact job description and asking contacts
b. by putting an advertisement in paper
c. by asking my employees, local job centres and trade associations
3. How do you choose new people?
a. through application forms, interviews and references
b. by having an informal chat
c. by asking an employment agency to send someone
4. How do you conduct interviews?
a. by letting the applicant do most of the talking
b. by posing questions about how they might deal with tricky situations
c. by telling applicants all about the company
5. Do you check references and credentials?
a. no, I donít bother if I like someone
b. yes, it is important to check this information
c. yes, and I keep application forms in case anyone claims discrimination
6. How do you help new employees settle in?
a. by showing them round, introducing them and outlining the company aims and guidelines
b. by getting someone to show them where to sit
c. by getting someone to act as a guide
7. What training do you offer?
a. none, it costs too much
b. in-house training on an informal basis
c. outside courses and workshops to enhance their skills
8. How do you retain good staff?
a. by listening to them
b. by ensuring that they will stay
c. by communicating with them and respecting their views
9. How do you reward effort?
a. by writing a thank you letter and taking them out for a meal
b. they should work without expecting to be rewarded
c. with bonuses
10. What other incentives do you offer?
a. we all share in charity events
b. health care schemes and pensions
c. an annual staff dinner
Calculate your score:
1. a0 b5 c10
2. a10 b0 c5
3. a10 b5 c0
4. a10 b5 c0
5. a0 b5 c10
6. a10 b0 c5
7. a0 b5 c10
8. a5 b0 c10
9. a10 b0 c5
10. a5 b10 c0
66-100:You seem to have a very positive attitude towards your staff, and have probably created a happy and successful company. You understand the importance of identifying future needs, selecting the right people and keeping them. You respect your employees and treat them as your most valuable asset.
35-65: You realise the importance of finding and keeping good employees, but sometimes the pressure of running the business makes you forget that they are human. You must realise that having a skilled and motivated work force can be one of the best competitive weapons available to a small business owner.
seem to be a complete disaster as an employer, and you probably suffer
from the problem of having a miserable and apathetic staff and constant
resignations. It is crucial to realise that without their help you can
never be successful, because you will constantly be dealing with crises.
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