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01 Oct 2018

Procrastination… The Organiser’s Demon.

Procrastination… The Organiser’s Demon.

Procrastination… The Organiser’s Demon.

My inbox is clear, as is my ironing basket…  I’ve ordered bulbs for the spring and a birthday party, not yet due for another 2 months, is now planned down to the finest of details.

You might ask the question – “why am I telling you all of this?” – And apart from being slightly hurt that you’re not interested in my napkin choices, this is all relative.

You see ironically, I have been putting off writing this article for over a week!

Proving that even the most experienced, organised, list making Operations Manager can fall foul to the procrastinating demon, and find myself uttering the phrase “I’ll just do this first….”

How can we avoid this? And what triggers our delays, when we should all just bite the bullet and crack on?

  1. Putting Yourself Under Pressure

Some - myself included - work so much better under pressure!

It’s not a surprise or an accident that Ops’ professionals get a kick out of that fast paced, high intensity moment – when we have a thousand and one things to juggle and our team is coming at us from all angles.

Conversely, we would flinch at the suggestion that not only is dealing with this sort of pressure in our DNA but that we take some pleasure in it too!

Whether we want to admit it or not, we have chosen a career path that guarantees we will have plenty of stressful moments and sometimes we don’t know how to operate creatively without it.

However, it is important to take a step back, regroup and remember that we are in the business of building experiences – not saving lives – and although pressure can help us work effectively, it is important to know your limits and learn when to say no.

A trick that works for me when I am nearing breaking point is to find a friendly face - someone who is calm, not an agitator, and ask for help. This is a really powerful option. Firstly, they force you to separate out what is really important, and secondly, you are sharing your burden with a member of your team, encouraging you to work towards a solution and deal with it collectively.

  1. I find myself saying “I just don’t get it!”

Have you got a sticking point? Something that stops the cogs whirring and you have no clue where to begin?

Everyone usually has at least one thing that is a professional stumbling block and for me that’s signage.

It was my first ever show and I had sponsored registration graphics to be placed throughout the show floor. Everything seemed to be going well, and I was breathing a small sigh of relief until it transpired that I got the spec and dimensions completely wrong on the order!

It cost the show money, the sponsorship manager thought I was incompetent, the signage contractor was put under unnecessary pressure to get me out of the hole, and the sponsor didn’t get a good first impression….in short, it was hideous.

However, with time, the invaluable lessons I learned that day among others, have stood with me throughout the years and shaped the professional that I am today.

I can recognise my weaknesses and that has been the key to me overcoming them.

Think to yourself, am I a night owl or a morning person? Do I thrive off of a busy environment or do I need silence to channel my energy into getting a task done? Can you book a meeting room to squirrel away in, or do you need a 121 with the powers that be to bash it out in a brainstorm?

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these, it is simply being realistic with your expectations and understanding what will allow you to work effectively and get the job done.

So now whenever a task that I hate comes my way (yes, it is still usually signage…) I give myself the head space to deal with it, making sure I can give it my full attention and try to get it out of the way as quickly as possible – leaving myself time to focus on the more enjoyable day to day.

  1. Seeing the wood from the trees

There are days that we all get ourselves into a pickle.

Our over achieving brains are great when we’re on top form, but Lord help us when the wheels start coming off the bus!

The sheer volume of technical information that passes back and forth through our minds, our inbox, in meetings and on the phone means that sometimes - on the odd occasion – when we need a moment of clarity, it can all come unstuck.

At times like this, it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed, and square away the tasks that are the quickest to handle so that we can gain control of the situation.

The problem is the ‘not so quick’ stuff sticks to the bottom of our inboxes like treacle.

Break the habit!

Reduce your rapidly growing list into bite size chunks to make it more manageable. And I know that it may seem obvious but prioritise and segment your day to tackle it head on.

Technology works wonders (sometimes) and decent software can make this a reality! Tasks in Outlook or Basecamp are a good place to start and tend to be my preferred choice, but find one that works for you.

However big your list is, find a way to highlight the 3 things you absolutely need to get done that day and do them. If you’ve done those, do another 3.

Managing your day like this will give you gratification and make everything seem that much more doable.

  1. But I would rather do ANYTHING else….

In our world, there is always something else you can do and, if there isn’t, we are such a head strong bunch that we can convince ourselves otherwise. But believe it or not, the safety plan that needs sending off tomorrow has a deadline and the window frames that you think need re-painting are nowhere close to making your to do list!

To aid us even further, most of us are working across a portfolio of shows ensuring that we don’t even need a window frame to distract us. Surely ordering furniture on the show next Spring is definitely a task for today?

The answer is no!

So instead tackle at least ONE thing at the bottom of your list / inbox every day.

It sounds simple, but this is where the will power comes in, and it forces you to master the activities that you would otherwise avoid… like that safety plan.

If all else fails and you really can’t muster up the motivation to get the deed done – look to your inner child and

[insert bribe here].  Right now, I have a sticky toffee pudding with my name on it waiting patiently for me to finish this blog.

But I can’t touch it until I complete the task.

Procrastination. Everyone does it, but Operations Managers can’t afford to. As an expert in procrastinating I am very aware just how damaging it can be – to the show, to your colleagues & contractors. Most importantly, it is damaging to your activity.

You will never regret developing your tools and beating that Demon with a big old ugly stick!

Lou Kiwanuka will be delivering a series of Operations webinars in partnership with the AEO. The first of the series will be on Friday 12th October and will cover Time Management.