by Guest Blogger – Scott Newman

Isn’t this a ripper, ‘The Law of Diminishing Interest’. I only heard this quoted fairly recently which did surprise me because I do like using little aphorisms!  In simple terms, the essence behind this concept is the longer you don’t do something you should, the less interested you become in doing it.  But is it always so simple?

First, a short story.  I once worked for a large US-owned firm as a senior leader. One of the not so good yet symbolic things I remember about working there was my staring at 6 archive boxes that sat triumphantly in the corner of my office for many months.  With the best of intention I was going to go through them – sort out what I needed, what I didn’t, and give away things of value to others. Well, it didn’t happen. In fact, those 6 archive boxes became a millstone around my neck. Every day I would look at them, they would look at me……the battle was on. So, why couldn’t I deal with them?  I had many opportunities to, I even had people who could help me do it!   Soon enough, the boxes won the war and I ended up leaving the organisation.

So what causes these things to just not get done and how prevalent is it in our workplaces and home-lives today?

Here’s a snapshot of some of my observations and insights both personally and professionally which may help to unlock this issue for you.

  • Analysis paralysis – some personality types continue to complicate the simplest matters. Idea – why not try a simple decision-making framework you can apply to most things that help push past this debilitating personal trait?  Google it, there are hundreds!
  • The ability to make decisions through a lack of understanding where an issue or tasks really fits. Is it urgent, important, what would happen if you did not do it or got somebody else to do it? A clear plan, whether personal or business related is what is needed here to help you stay focused and on track. Simple tools like DO, DROP, DELEGATE, DEFER can help.  Be comfortable if something continually gets deferred – it is telling you something.
  • The ability to focus on tasks for any length of time. This is becoming increasingly prevalent in every aspect of personal and working life, particularly with some of the younger generation.  Perhaps putting in place “reward for efforts upon completion” and delaying self-gratification is what is in order here or looking more closely at your environment – working in a clutter free area where you are in control of distractions.
  • Trying to do too much and not doing many things well – lighten the load, say ‘no’ once in a while or let yourself off the hook if something doesn’t get done.
  • Perfectionism – fear of starting something because you are uncertain about a small part of the overall task or challenge and you are not prepared to act until this very small segment of the puzzle is resolved
  • Work methods – is your work environment working for you?  It might be the office, it might be the culture, are you a morning or afternoon person? Do you have the right tools for the job?  Choosing the right environment for you is critical.  Where do you do your best thinking? If it’s not in the office and you are paid to think, get out of the office! If you’re paid to write (a BD role for example) use a method that works for you – I prefer to dictate while I go for a walk than sitting down on my bum behind an innate device! See a barrier in these suggestions? Test it, you might be surprised at the answer.
  • Be productive and not busy – getting the right things done brings enormous satisfaction and gives you more energy to get up and keep going.  Be busy drains you, your ability to think and your confidence diminishes.
  • No think time or lazy thinking….. If you make the time in clearly thinking things through and spending the necessary time in planning your approach to the issue or challenge at hand you will be able to push through most barriers as they present, foresight is important.
  • Matters get resolved quickly when energy levels are higher and individuals and organisations that do this well are far more engaging to be around.

So, if you’re struggling to get something done, ask yourself why.  Perhaps it’s the chance to ask yourself, “what is really going on?” and maybe the answer lay in one of the simple dot-points above; or like me and my boxes, you will uncover something much bigger that surprises you.