This article was publishsed in the February 2018 issue of Performance Improvement Journal.
Have you made any progress toward those New Year’s goals you made back in January? Think back to the excitement you felt talking about, and maybe even writing them down. You were convinced this would be the year you would make things happen. Hopefully, you are progressing solidly toward achieving them. However, you may be trapped in some state of procrastination, like many other well-intentioned professionals.
Let’s say you started your own interior design business last year. Business has been ok, but not great. Most of your clients have been people you know and some referrals. One of your biggest challenges is marketing yourself to others. You realize there are so many designers out there and you want to stand out more. You decide that having a weekly blog on your website is a great way to demonstrate this. You were hoping to start this ambitious goal in January, but it is now May and you have yet to write one!
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself why you are procrastinating? People procrastinate for many reasons. Many think that it’s because they are lazy or lack the experience/skills to pursue bigger things. However, those are more likely to be symptoms rather than the causes. Here are more probable reasons why you are procrastinating and methods for overcoming them.
Overcoming Four Common Challenges to Productivity:
1) Lack of Clarity – If you are not clear on the purpose of your goal, you won’t know what achievement of the goal looks like. You know that having a blog can benefit your business, but how? Define what it is you hope to accomplish by completing your goal. This will make it easier to decide what to focus on, in this case what you write about.
I am really good at color consultations, finding unique pieces of furniture, decorating for holidays and designing on a budget. I want people to know this about me and hire me because I am the best person for those jobs.
Great, there is a lot more to work with now! You goal is to focus on writing about the things you are good at and what makes you stand out from the competition. Your enthusiasm and talent for these topics are also motivators for getting them done.
2) Not Motivated – Sometimes just having a great reason to get something done is not enough to sustain your motivation. Why is this? A good assumption is that the task is difficult for you. You may not be good at or even enjoy doing it. By using the VARK model, developed initially for learning styles, you can become aware of what your communication preferences are as well. You can utilize the more preferred ones, rather than the ones you find more difficult. VARK is an acronym, which suggests every person has a higher preference for one or two types of learning/communication over the others. They are:
V- Visual – Looking at/creating maps, graphs and visual examples
A- Aural – Listening or telling stories, giving examples, participating in discussions
R- Reading/Writing – Making lists, taking notes, reading text
K –Kinesthetic – Doing practical exercises, reviewing examples and cases
So if you have a preference for aural communication, you may want to share examplse of projects you’ve completed or open up a discussion forum where clients/potential clients can ask design questions and get answers. Do whichever method comes most natural to you and it will be easier to accomplish it.
You can apply this model to any goal you are struggling with because it allows you to choose a method more suited to your preferences. However, be aware that others have different preferences than your own. So while the methods you prefer may account for most of your strategy, be prepared to also provide material that appeals to other preferences. Here are some examples:
V- before and after shots of work you have completed, diagrams of furniture layouts
A- audio or video examples (think YouTube), discussion forums
R- links to trending articles, samples of popular color choices, reference list of stores where you can find accent pieces
K – How-to guide on decorating a room, client account of their challenge and how you helped them (also serves as a great reference tool!)
3) Goal is too Big – A lot of people don’t start their goals because it will take up too much of their time. They are already overwhelmed by all they have to do. You can work on being more efficient, which will make starting and finishing the goal more realistic and attainable. You can do this by:
a) Eliminating Options – there are so many things you can write about. You are interested in all facets of design and don’t want to turn down opportunities because you don’t have the experience or time to focus on them all. However, you need to focus on less. Work on focusing on things that you are passionate about and consider your strengths. Also, focus on items that are relevant to larger audiences.
Use examples of projects you have already completed successfully, or that are relevant to the season (for instance Easter decorating in Spring). Both ideas make the decision about what to write easier.
b) Narrow the Scope - Writing a weekly article or blog will take away from other work I need to get done. How will I fit in my current clients, much less new ones? Cut down the frequency or volume of your goal.
Who says you have to put out a weekly blog or communication? We are all inundated with too much information already. People are more likely to read or pay attention to things when they are less frequent and more relevant (key word again.) Put something out monthly or even less, but make sure it’s timely and succinct. It is more likely to have a bigger impact that way. Then identify a daily or weekly time to spend on getting it done.
c) Break it down into Smaller Tasks – Goals take a lot of time to complete. There are too many steps. When writing, you must decide on material and methods, create and edit the work and receive feedback before finalizing your product. Just thinking about it is daunting and intimidating. By breaking the larger goal into several smaller tasks, you make the overall process easier and more attainable.
You decide to produce a monthly blog instead of weekly. Spend the first week researching and deciding what you will produce. The second week can be spent producing a rough draft and the third making edits and finalizing it. The last week of the month can be your time to get feedback and apply it before putting it on your website.
4. You’re not in the Mood – This one might be the most difficult of all! The weather is beautiful and you don’t want to spend it cooped up in a meeting or in your office. By the time you get your other work done, you are so drained you can’t even think about additional work. It’s Friday and you much rather meet your friends for happy hour. Tackle these tasks at a time and in a way that you feel like doing so, not just because you feel you have to.
You need to give yourself a break because you do work hard. Some alternative suggestions to conventional work could be: Take your laptop outside and write, focus your article on something with the outdoors, such as gardening or decorating a sunroom/porch. Spend ½ hour in the morning while drinking coffee as your time to jot ideas and write before you are too drained. Work at a time and place when you feel most motivated!
Try to remove these common barriers before tackling your next big goal. You might be surprised when you realize the tasks become easier, more manageable and maybe even motivating. Celebrate each small accomplishment. Procrastination can be a good thing if it allows you to take a step back and analyze critical aspects of your goal. You will not only finish what you set out to accomplish, you will also yield a better product.
VARK a guide to learning styles descriptions retrieved from home page: http://vark-learn.com