GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: "The hidden form of procrastination that plagues CEOs, and ruins companies" by Rory Vaden author of "Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success."
Procrastination is the most expensive invisible cost in business today. A recent study of 10,000 U.S. employees polled, revealed that the average worker self-admitted to wasting 2.09 hours each day on non-job-related activities. Considering the average salaried employee makes $39,795, that means procrastination costs employers $10,396 per year – per employee.
If you’re a high-level executive or business owner, that number probably horrifies you. And it should.
But, let me ask you this: How much is your own procrastination costing you?
At Southwestern Consulting we study success for a living, and what we’ve come to observe is just how pervasive procrastination is in today’s workforce.
From the front line to the C-Suite, procrastination continues to cost employers money, time, and efficiency. Having visited 5,000 offices in five years, our company coaches and trains people in all levels of a business to be more successful by doing the things they don’t want to do.
It’s during these sessions that we’ve come to identify the distinct forms of procrastination that affect everyone involved in your business.
The first one is “Classic Procrastination”- when you consciously avoid what you know you should be doing. This is what those 10,000 employees copped to doing on a daily basis.
Yet a stark realization was learning that Classic Procrastination isn’t the worst form because people know when they are doing it. There is another kind of procrastination that is totally unconscious – and it plagues those in the highest levels of business.
You might shake your head and insist that you don’t procrastinate. After all, you didn’t get to where you are today by being lazy and putting off your work. But the truth is that most people in your position do procrastinate – they just don’t know they’re doing it.
The second and subtler form of procrastination is called “Priority Dilution.” It’s when you delay on the day’s most important tasks by allowing your attention to shift to less important but perhaps more urgent activities. Priority dilution has nothing to do with being lazy, apathetic, or disengaged, but it’s the same net result – you put off your top-priority tasks. This environment is one characterized as a constant state of interruption and you might find that never ending “fires” prevent you from doing the high-value work that moves your company towards its goals. You sacrifice your sacred to-do list for ceaseless emergencies.
People have written this off as an unavoidable consequence of the speed of business. They tell themselves that everything is happening so fast, there’s so much to do, and that we must simply accept this as reality.
But, the truth remains that Priority Dilution is a product of breakdowns in your business; customer service fires, disruptions in the delivery of your product/service, underperforming employees, workplace culture that lacks composure, and poor workflow management (out-of-control email, over-scheduling yourself, last-minute emergency meetings due to lack of preparation, etc.) are all examples of Priority Dilution.
"Distraction is a dangerously deceptive saboteur of your goals so you must learn to ignore the small stuff in order to work on the big stuff."
The solution is two-pronged. First, you must develop the self-discipline to stop and say, “Hey, it doesn’t have to be this way.” Second, you must create and utilize a five-step system to manage your workflow in a preventive manner.
To build your mental resistance to these disturbances, you must take responsibility for determining what requires your unique thought and attention and what doesn’t - and then let go of control when appropriate. Distraction is a dangerously deceptive saboteur of your goals so you must learn to ignore the small stuff in order to work on the big stuff.
Managing your workflow can be done via this five-step system. If you don’t already have one, hire a rockstar assistant and train them to use this system with you.
1. Eliminate – The inability to say no will leave you living a life of constant overwhelm. A lot of self-discipline starts with simply knowing what things you’ll have to decline. What do you need to reject? What can you get rid of in your schedule? What do you need to stop doing?
2. Automate – There is a series of repetitive tasks in any business – streamline them. Learn to use tools like Hootesuite to consolidate your social media activity, and Neat Receipts to create expense reports, do your taxes, and deduct from your checkbook register. Create automatic responses and rules for categories of requests that your assistant can use on your behalf.
3. Delegate – It takes a village. Identify every task that you can delegate – booking travel, data entry, graphic design, website design, copywriting, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, etc… If you’re not paying someone else to do this at his or her hourly rate of pay then you’re charging yourself at your rate (if you make $100,000 a year, that’s $52/hour).
4. Consolidate – In any given week, there are groups of emails, tasks, and activities that can afford to have someone other than you making decisions on. As my friend Steve Savage says, “drive decision-making downward,” and then have your assistant consolidate everything that has been completed on your behalf – expenses, meetings arranged, travel bookings, responses and messages – into one master summary.
5. Let it Wait – If it can’t be eliminated, automated, delegated, or consolidated, then your assistant should let it wait. I carve out a niche in my week dedicated to dealing with everything else that piles up. I can comfortably “let it wait,” knowing that I have a catch-all for attending to it later.
I personally use this system and it has revolutionized the way I work. Taking back your focus is the single best thing you can do to overcome Priority Dilution and improve your business. Remember that until you accomplish the day’s most important objectives, everything else is a distraction.
Rory Vaden is co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, Self-Discipline Strategist, and author of the New York Times bestseller "Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success." For more information, visit www.TakeTheStairsBook.com