We have all known procrastinators or have been one at some point ourselves. Managing a procrastinator can be a frustrating and difficult situation. Let’s face it, procrastination not only affects our business but it affects our sanity. One of the obligations of a good manager is to mentor those we manage and help them achieve their project and career goals.
There are ways to help a procrastinator from falling into those same destructive patterns. One way to help them is to find a way to help your procrastinator take that baby step to simply start the project they are putting off. The hardest part of a project is often taking that first step. A procrastinator might be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture and simply not start. To facilitate that first step, talk your procrastinator through the process of getting started. Break the project up into steps so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Set up weekly or biweekly meetings to facilitate the flow of the project. Teaching them the time management and organization skills that helped you become successful can be helpful to them.
This kind of management is not something that will or should last for longer than a couple projects. It is important to set firm goals with consequences. You may find that the employee needs too much handholding which can be a time drain and counterproductive. Learn when to cut your losses. Stick to your goals and consequences knowing that this is for your benefit (and sanity) as well as that of the procrastinator.
We all know that procrastination can get you into trouble. You can lose data if you don’t backup your computer/database, you can lose a customer if you don’t follow-up when you said you would, and you sure don’t want to be at a meeting at the wrong place on the wrong day or time. So what can you do? Act! to the rescue!
Use the Act! Calendar and Task List
Have you ever gotten to the office and thought, “I know there was someone I was supposed to call” but you cannot remember who it was or what the call was supposed to be about? Take the guesswork out of your follow-ups – always schedule a task for the next thing you should do with a customer or prospect. I call it the Circle of Act! – you know, like the Circle of Life in The Lion King. When you have a conversation with a customer, there will almost certainly be a next step. Schedule that next step right then and there.
We, as humans, have a difficult time remembering who and when we should call them back or follow-up; especially when we talk with numerous people in one day. So a good practice is never put off what you can do now…use Act! to schedule an activity to call back or do that next thing. Oh yes, and don’t forget to make sure that you enter a short explanation reminding you what the call is about. There is nothing worse than getting on the phone and not remembering the reason you were calling.
Use the Act! Scheduler
Your Act! Database is critical to your business so you do not want to lose the data nor do you want it to get corrupted. If you rely on your memory to do backups and regular maintenance, you will most likely forget…at least sometimes. And that one time you forget might be the one time that the worst happens and you could lose your data. Since we often forget to perform those important tasks ourselves, use the built-in scheduler. Here are some helpful hints to put your database on automatic.
Where is the scheduler? If you go to your Windows programs menu, one of the items under Act! is the Act! Scheduler. Run that and schedule a time for each of the above tasks as appropriate. One reminder…if you change your database password, you will need to change it in the scheduler as well.
Close your programs when you are done for the day
Finally, make sure you close out of Act! when you leave the office for the night. Your act! database (and, for that matter, any database or file) can be susceptible to loss or corruption if you have a power glitch while that file is open. This is especially true if your computer is set to automatically update Windows…which often results in a reboot and a potential loss of an unsaved document.
Protect yourself by setting up reminders, scheduling backups and closing out of your programs. If you spend a little time on the front end, you will not have to worry down the line.
We all know that procrastination is generally a bad practice, but there are times when it can work in your favor.
First case in point…sometimes we feel that “keeping our nose to the grindstone” on a particularly challenging or creative task is the best way to accomplish it. However, psychologists have shown that taking some time away and doing a completely different type of task can allow your subconscious to find links between disparate concepts, thus when you return to your challenge you may have fresh ideas or perspective. Don’t keep doggedly working on a problem or assignment if you know your effectiveness has waned. Get up, walk away, or do something mindless or completely different from the task at hand. You may find you return with a great new idea or solution now that your brain has had time to rest and reset.
We’re all victims of the onslaught of technology and the “always available” mindset in today’s world. This makes it more important than ever to set aside unstructured time to explore creative processes and do long term planning that is integral to success in business and in life. Incorporating meditative practices (yoga, deep breathing, exercise, etc.) and/or scheduling daily focus blocks (time set aside for creative tasks) are great ways to accomplish this. Regularly unplugging from the constant barrage of emails, phone calls, meetings, tweets, posts and getting away from our mundane daily tasks allows us to tune into ourselves and harness the power of our minds. This type of procrastination can be very beneficial indeed.
Tomorrow morning, instead of picking up your phone or rushing to your computer first thing to get a jump on your email, try taking a walk (without any devices), and enjoy the beauty around you. Your email will still be waiting for you when you get back, I promise.
Last week was National Procrastination Week so it inspired a theme for some of the articles in our monthly newsletter (which ironically is one week late.) That is just dripping in irony.
For years, I have been a proponent of time management and organization. But I can and do procrastinate when there is something I simply don’t want to handle. Whether it’s that grumpy customer or an employee issue, the situation isn’t going away. It’s best to deal with it head on.
The hard things you need to deal with right away. What about the everyday items we keep putting off. I work with a lot of clients who struggle with trying to manage and juggle a variety of tasks in a busy day. They will either put off reading emails, not reply to a phone call because, like the paragraph above, it’s a grumpy customer, or they will avoid updating items in their CRM. It’s not that they don’t know how to manage these situations – it’s either that they don’t have the time or they simply don’t want to do them.
I can totally relate.
What I have gleaned from several of the books I have read on time management is that procrastination is something everyone deals with. And for a variety of reasons. However, there was a theme throughout all the books that talked about ways to handle procrastination.
Here’s a few of the ideas and how you can handle them in your CRM (as you probably already know, in my case it is Act!).
1.Break down the task into smaller bits. Sometimes it’s a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) that is our procrastination victim. Use the Pomodoro technique to break it down into 25 minute segments. Work one, take a break, work another, take a break. You can stretch out the breaks into days if this is a very large effort. Use activity series in Act! to schedule the first task, wait a day, schedule the next task, etc. You could even name the series BHAG. Set the time for when it has to be done and work backwards with your series.
2. Find out when is your power time – are you a morning or afternoon person. Then put an item on your calendar, during your power time, to work on things that you tend to put on the back burner. If it’s calls, schedule them all in a row. Get them done and out of the way. Same goes for email. Schedule it at regular times so it becomes a habit. I set up a custom activity type with a different icon so they show up easily on my calendar.
3. If paper is your nemesis for procrastination, follow one of the classic organization tips – only touch the paper once. Touch it – handle it. Sounds easy. Trust me it is not. But if you can do this with half of a pile of paper, that’s one half of the problem solved. Make this a timeslot on your calendar – call it what it is – “manage the paper dragon.” If your staff sees this on the calendar I’ll bet they steer clear to let you finish the task.
4. Make a list of things you were going to do tomorrow. Now pick one thing on the list that you can do right now – and finish it. You haven’t tackled the whole list, but now, it’s one item less. All tasks should be on your calendar – because if you have open spots on the calendar it means you can be working on something else. Keeping your calendar full makes you focus on the things you need to accomplish. One of my favorite books said Plan your day, work your day, end your day, repeat. So take one of the items from your “tomorrow” and move it to today if you get an open timeslot. It is a magical feeling of accomplishment when you can check off a task from your list.
5. Stop trying to be perfect. This is the one I suffer from the most. In everything I do I want it to be the best and when I cannot accomplish that, for whatever reason, I will push things to the back rather than confront the fact I couldn’t do the best I wanted to. Which of course then makes it worse. Tackling the issue head on is the best solution. I tend to put those calls I really don’t want to make on my Act! calendar first thing in the morning so I can get them done and out of the way.
These are just a few of the ways to avoid or at least soften the procrastination demon. Do you have ideas that have worked for you? We’d love to hear about them. We’d also love to share with you other techniques you can use, inside Act!, to make your world run a little bit smoother. Visit our website to learn more. www.egenconsulting.com
Last week I got an interesting email from a client regarding the legality of monitoring and reading employee emails. There were some internal issues that were causing concern and they wanted to know what tools to use and how to go about implementing the process. Before looking into tools, I wanted to ensure that it was legal at all. The answers I found turned out to be a bit more complicated than we all thought. Today’s post is going to share what we uncovered.
Basically, the ultimate answer was “yes, sort of.” Of course that was the answer. This involves privacy, and ethics, and law, and a plethora of other considerations. It boiled down to proof. If an employee is using a company email address and sending out mail via the company email server, there is a good chance it is already being screened and monitored. Most of the time it’s to ensure backup. In some cases it is to protect and safeguard intellectual property.
The ECPA – Electronic Communications Privacy Act was designed to protect citizens from monitoring like wire taps. For businesses though, the law includes exemptions regarding business use that allows companies to do monitoring. The courts know this and generally rule in favor of the company.
There does need to be a good reason to monitor emails. One article I read stated one company found employees collecting monies or fostering deals for themselves rather than passing them through the company. (this actually was what my client was trying to monitor). In some cases, this resulted in court cases claiming theft and fraud. In other situations, employees were making derogatory and slanderous comments about other employees, management and customers.
From what I read, there is a very fine line between what’s right and what’s a violation of privacy. When I talked it over with my client, I suggested we talk to their lawyer. The lawyer basically echoed what I had discovered. If the email belongs to the company, so does the content of the email.
One final suggestion I made to my client was to prepare an email to his employees letting them know that, for business purposes, emails would be monitored. That way it is out in the open. Clear. Concise. And if someone complains, well, to me that sort of raises a red flag. My client thought so as well.
Happy and safe emailing.