This is the first of three posts dealing with “productivity”. In this post, I talk about emotions and productivity directly. In the next post, I address overcoming “fear” to complete a task. In the third and final post, I address the issue of motivation.
If you work with, or relate to, other people, you probably have experienced a situation in which you did all the right things but got the wrong result. Most likely, the “wrong result” was elicited by an emotion.
Please note that I did not say the emotion caused the “wrong result” because emotions do not make you do anything. But, the emotion can elicit or lead to a reaction that does not match the situation and, therefore, by definition, can be viewed as “wrong”.
Let’s dive deeper.
Productivity, when it comes to a job or a task, involves getting the right job done. If you are getting the right job done, you are being productive.
This is called being effective.
Now, you can increase your productivity by doing the job in the right way.
This is called being efficient.
Effectiveness and efficiency are two sides of the same coin and there are numerous articles written on this subject and different ways to measure both effectiveness and efficiency.
In a very general sense, if you have a job or a task to complete and it is not getting done, there are at least 5 areas for you to consider:
- is the job clearly defined?
- do you have the necessary skills to complete the job?
- do you have all the resources you need?
- do you have the necessary authority to do what needs to be done?
- are there emotions (yours or someone elce’s) which are impeding the completion of the job?
For most jobs, if the answer to the first four questions is “yes”, the job gets done and that is all there is to it.
However, if the job is not getting done, then the fifth area dealing with emotions is where you need to look for an explanation.
Let me give you two examples.
My letter to “Sophie”.
When I promoted to the position of Supervising Senior Psychologist, I had an employee who tended to do as little work as possible, had little respect for policy, and who was clever enough to avoid being held responsible for his actions.
As I was not sure how to handle this individual, I asked “headquarters” for some suggestions. I was advised to write a general memo to all of my staff saying that rules and policies needed to be followed. I was also advised to add a standard (boiler plate) statement at the bottom of the memo stating that failure to comply with what was stated in the memo could result in “disciplinary proceedings”.
The memo was generic and was addressed to all staff as I did not have enough “evidence” to direct my comments to the specific staff member who was the “target” of the memo.
When I went into work following release of the memo, I was accosted by “Sophie” who was visibly upset and who noted that she needed to talk to me immediately.
In my office, Sophie informed me, in dramatic terms, that she had worked in the Institution for many years, had always followed the rules, was a reliable employee, and was offended by my “threat” to expose her to “disciplinary proceedings”.
Having been taken by surprise and knowing that there were no issues with Sophie, I asked her what was the issue about which she was concerned. She pulled out my memo and pointed to the “boiler plate” comment on the bottom of the paper.
When I explained to her that this comment was generic, that I was advised to put it there because it is supposed to be on all memos which “address” policy issues, that it had nothing to do with her and that there were no concerns about her as an employee, she took a deep breath and went back to her own office.
In retrospect, what happened is that Sophie incorrectly personalized the memo, felt threatened by the implication that she was going to be disciplined, got angry at the implied threat and wanted to take me to task and defend herself.
Emotions had entered into and impacted the interaction.
Items 1-4 were clearly in place. She knew the policies and, to the best of her ability, followed all the rules.
Her misinterpretation of the “boiler plate” in the memo elicited her anger and her anger initiated her attempt to deal with the perceived threat.
The second example involves procrastination.
When you procrastinate, you put off doing a task and you justify and rationalize your avoidance in any number of ways.
By the way, the English spelling of rationalize is, of course…
The psychological spelling of the word is…
The implication is that the excuses you may offer to justify your avoidance of doing the task at hand including, but not limited to,
- I really need to check my (email, Facebook feed)
- I really need to clean or organize my (desk, file cabinet)
- I really need to (you fill in the other task)
while probably true (and therefore “rational”) do not need to be done now and clearly are not more important than the task you are avoiding (hence, they are “lies”).
In August 2018, I wrote a post which suggested that you view procrastination as an emotion. I suggest you click on over and take a look.
For the purposes of this post, however, it is possible that you can know what the job is, and have the skills, resources, and authority to do the job (items 1-4) and still find a “reason” to avoid doing it or putting it off.
This is item #5 and usually involves an emotion. The emotion typically involved in procrastination is anxiety.
As an emotion, anxiety is a future based feeling the message of which is that there may be a threat and that threat may hurt me.
I was a procrastinator in college.
It was only when I got into graduate school and began to self-reflect that I understood my procrastination.
The reasoning that led me to procrastinate went like this..
- If I take the time necessary to do the task right and fall short, I have only myself to blame and I might see myself as inadequate or inferior.
- If I procrastinate and do the task at the last minute, I can do my best in the time I have available.
- If I fall short, I can still justify my actions because I did my best and I can avoid any self-criticism.
Yes, there are flaws in the logic and these flaws comprise the “rational lies”. But, for me at the time, the justifications worked.
I give this example to illustrate how emotions can get in the way of one being productive.
The antidote is to master the emotions by assessing them and choosing an effective response.
This is what I had to do to overcome my procrastination.
I hope this post has been informative and helpful.