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Top-Shelf Tip No. 147:

"Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before."

Franz Kafka

Escape a Workplace Productivity Rut, Part 2

Think back to your school days and the kind of grade a low level of effort might earn you there. Pretty much a "C," right? The minimum expected. Average. Well, average won't get you great marks on your workplace report card either—i.e., your yearly performance review. And you can't expect much in the way of raises, bonuses or promotions as a result.

Promotional Consultant Today continues our two-part series on getting out of the work productivity rut, with productivity expert Laura Stack, a featured speaker at this week’s PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference in Denver, Colorado.

Mind Your P's . Two of the prime causes of productivity ruts are perfectionism and procrastination. These damaging "p-traps" occupy opposing ends of a kind of compulsion spectrum. In the first, you worry too much about getting everything just right; in the second, you don't worry enough.

I've known people who occupied both ends of the scale simultaneously, depending on the project. You may have done this yourself. You spent too much time on the “good” task while another task went undone because you were “busy,” it seemed too hard or the deadline seemed too distant. While you may need to jump on something small for a while to jolt yourself back into action, you also need to apportion your time very carefully in an effort to achieve productivity nirvana.

If you find yourself obsessing over the details of a particular project, stop and think about your behavior. At some point, just let it go. Some of my colleagues spend so much time working on the new speech but never give it, or “writing my book” but never publishing it. It's not fatalistic to realize you have to let go at some point, for the good of yourself and the project. After all, if you keep polishing something too long, you'll eventually rub it away. If on the other hand, you find yourself dragging your heels on a task, for whatever reason (its size, fear of failure, fear of success, time constraints, etc.), find a way to start working on it. If the project just seems too big, then examine it carefully until you find its logical fracture lines, hit it just right and break it down into manageable pieces. Set internal milestones and deadlines, put your head down and get going.

If you've been procrastinating on a task because it doesn't address your goals, or because it properly belongs to someone else, then why is it on your plate? Now, I realize you can't easily control what your boss might assign you, but most bosses will hear you out if you tell them you can't see any use for a particular task. You may find out why you really do need to do it (or why your boss thinks so), or they might see your point and get rid of it. If the boss didn't put the task on your list in the first place, then triage it to your master list and think about it again in a month.

Overall, when it comes to minding the twin p's of perfectionism and procrastination, you must strive to find that ideal equilibrium between doing too much work and doing too little. What’s the fun part? The equilibrium point varies from task to task, which keeps you on your toes.

Don't let the inevitable snags stop you and don’t hesitate to move forward because something could go wrong. If you feel down, shift your attitude to something more positive. Take action now and get to work.

Source: Laura Stack is America's premier expert in personal productivity. Since 1992, she has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress and saving time in today’s workplaces. She is the bestselling author of five books, including SuperCompetent.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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