Site-Manager – Stop Faffing About

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Reading the Newspaper

Stopping FAFFing About can be applied in work and home life. I even apply it to reading newspapers.

Everyone has their own view on the value of newspapers – the reporting, the political bias, the sensationalisation of anything thought to be of interest to the masses and of course, the celebrity status of anyone with 5 minutes of fame. I used to watch my parents and others from their generation religiously sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper from cover to cover. It’s really not my thing. Not surprisingly I do not have the time, and I don’t know anyone who can afford to give that amount of time everyday to a newspaper. When I do sit in a coffee shop and take a paper from the rack to read,  I have a sense of guilt at the time used up. Yet it is a guilty pleasure too.

The frightening thing I have always found is the misplaced belief in the newspaper telling us the whole truth – it said so in the Guardian or the Daily Express,  so it must be true etc. The scare mongering can be incredible. A classic example is identity theft. I realise that this  is a serious problem and should be taken seriously. However when your mother, an intelligent woman in her late 70s is so scared of identity theft because of what she has read in the newspapers and discussed with her friends who have also read the same papers, there is a problem.

Think of when those charities send, via the post, requests for donations and within the envelope are address labels for my mother at her address for her to use on future letters that she sends. They are there to promote the general awareness of that particular charity, nothing sinister. My mother (before we bought her a shredder) would, by hand, cut up every address label individually – 50 per sheet (!) paranoid that someone would find out her address from going through her bins and then steal all of her wealth. She lives in a flat and can be found at that address on Google and many other search engines, a 10mm by 15mm address label isn’t the target of a potential identity thief, but that is what she has been led to believe. Incredible.

I do not need or want to be polluted and conditioned by the particular angle that a particular paper is reporting. I prefer to find and understand my own truth. This has been achieved from grazing, rather than reading, various websites from the newspapers to the TV stations from around the world. It is quite incredible the difference you will find in reporting standards and style when reading an article on the BBC website followed by Aljazeera and then the same article in a newspaper. All are very different and give you neutral and barbed positions – its up to you to choose which angle to believe.

It takes a long time to read three versions of the same story to obtain a balanced view.  So sadly, as a result the number of stories I read is very low – one or two a day at the moment – 5 minutes rather than the 45 minutes that my parents took. FAFFing is something I do not have time for, so therefore I only read what I want to when I want to. I might not be as well read as the person who sits next to me, but my view will be balanced.

Just get it done – why procrastination will always hold you back

In a world where approximately 20% of people would identify themselves as procrastinators, we are forced to ask why this problem hasn’t been tackled yet. It has huge impact on productivity, on health and wellbeing, and on finances, yet seems to be something some individuals are prepared to live with, even when it affects their quality of life.

Society doesn’t seem to take procrastination seriously. We are happy to listen to people’s excuses without arguing, even if we feel they are untrue. This doesn’t mean we condone their lies: we are taught by society to not pick fights. To the procrastinator, though, they simply don’t recognise there is a problem. The issue is one of self-regulation, not of poor time management or bad planning. In many cases, it is likely that procrastination was learnt in childhood, either as a form of rebellion to controlling parents or as a result of never learning to control their own activities.

Perhaps more dangerously, there is some evidence that procrastination also indicates increased tendencies towards alcohol as another aspect of that missing self-regulation. There is also a trend towards internalised dishonesty: a procrastinator will believe themselves when they say they will ‘feel more like it tomorrow’ but as humans, we are unable to accurately predict our emotional or physical state over the coming days and the principle is inherently flawed. They also are inclined towards actively seeking out distractions and the trivial activities take up their valuable time, but a distracted brain does not have to engage with its fear of failure – one of the main root causes of procrastination.

According to Joseph Ferrari  and Timothy Pychyl * there are three types of procrastination: arousal based thrill seeking, avoidance, or decisional procrastination. Arousal types get a sense of satisfaction from the adrenalin rush and added pressure as the deadline approaches. Avoidance centres around fear of failure (or in fact fear of success) and is obsessed with what others may think, to the extent that they would rather people saw them not try than saw them not succeed. Decisional procrastination is the utter avoidance of any decision making processes, removing any responsibility from the overall result. But with increased evidence of a physical health toll caused by procrastination, is it not just better to get it done? Through assessing your procrastination style, the root can be identified and dealt with  leading to a happier and more productive work life.

* Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Distraction and drift

No I’m not talking about some form of scary car racing I am referring to our ability to distract ourselves from the goals that truly matter and then to drift from one idea or activity to another. Consider this – how often do you watch the TV, and how often do you flick between channels when something gets a little boring, less gripping or heaven forbid the adverts come on. This is what distraction is all about – where we switch between one stimulant to another, constantly searching for something else to hypnotise our senses.

It’s frightening how much I find myself doing this, I used to have postcard above my desk that said in bold letters “Stop looking for ways to distract yourself!” It was positioned directly where my line of sight would take me to if I was to drift away from what I was currently doing. There are always going to be days when we are on fire and nothing can stop us, by contrast we all know there are others when a powerful cattle prod is required.

People who flit from one thing to another are said to resemble butterflies when they just float around from one idea or activity to the next, or worse still they have magpie tendencies where they constantly chase after the next shiny thing in the window. These are the traits of individuals that suffer from Distraction and Drift – and we all do – there is no getting away from it, we just need to understand it, forgive ourselves for being human and then manage it.

When you look up the word distraction in the dictionary it is described as an obstacle to concentration, by contrast Drift (when not looking at snow) refers to wandering from a set course or point of attention; stray. So the combination of the two can be a serious condition – not only do you have little idea how and where you are trying to get to, every step forward is blighted by distraction – 1 step forward 3 to the side a couple more back and then another one on the angle. Does this describe how you work, how you prepare to achieve your goals and success? Believe me it really does need fixing, and just using a simple plaster (band aid) will not be any good for you in the long-term, nor the short term in most instances.

So I would like you to consider now what causes your Distraction and Drift? For me I seriously have to entertain the other half of my brain so I can focus on the stuff that really works and not become distracted. This may sound a little psychotic but I am assured it is normal, so for me putting on an album or even a musical in the background can work really well. I am always amazed at how quickly 45-55 minutes will suddenly go and how much quality work is achieved without distraction. Only you know what you need to do to entertain that part of your brain that gets distracted easily when you are trying to work, even if it is a little weird implement it now and measure the difference.

5 quick tips to save time at work

Increasing your productivity when you are working can mean you ultimately spend less time doing so.

  1. Have a clear vision in mind and set yourself goals. If there is an urgent project, prioritise it over those smaller and easier tasks. At the end of the day, schedule the first thing that needs to be done tomorrow so that when arriving refreshed in the morning, you hit the ground running. Simply writing a ‘to do’ list can boost efficiency and productivity, particularly if it means that when you come in to work you already know what is to be done and are able to get involved as soon as you sit at your desk, negating the need to start planning activities after you could have already been working.
  2. Consider using two monitors if you are in a desk based role. It can be incredibly useful to have research and references on one monitor whilst your project is on the other, saving time spent clicking between programmes or tabs of the internet browser and ultimately making you more efficient. It also means spreadsheets of statistics or other relevant data can be left visible whilst it is in use, saving on printing copies to have to hand.
  3. Plan specific times for meetings, give them an agenda – and stick to it. The amount of time spent in meetings that are unnecessarily long, discussing irrelevant issues, would be much better used on other things. Make it known that you are happy to discuss situations but that it is not convenient for people to ‘drop in for a chat’ and instead should arrange a time for the conversation. One to one meetings should not generally take more than an hour. Other people might not be as committed to their own productivity, but this shouldn’t be allowed to impact on yours.
  4. Stand up for phone calls. It sounds peculiar, but standing whilst on the phone naturally brings the calls to a quicker end, getting participants straight onto the topic in hand without the additional chatting. It also gets you out of your chair for a few minutes at a time, which can provide welcome relief during the long day.
  5. Teach yourself how to say no. In a busy workplace, everyone wants to be part of the team. However, sometimes to say no is the best option and the right thing to do. If you know you are too busy with deadlines for a project, suggest a viable alternative approach and don’t be pressured into agreeing simply to help a colleague.

The Electronic Income Reducer

Nearly every one has one! What is it, and how much more could we achieve in our lives if we didn’t have one? This article clearly demostrates why you should remove it or at least limit its use.

A friend of mine Gareth Davies who is a speaker, consultant and an ex-professional footballer introduced me to the idea of the Electronic Income Reducer in the corner of the front lounge – yes, you know what I mean – the TV!  It absorbs hour upon hour of your personal time when you could be learning or reflecting or developing something truly amazing.  I know many people now who simply do not have a television in their house, and guess what they don’t miss it!

My Great Grandfather was a gifted wood carver – we have several pieces in our house today that he carved 100 years ago.  This is something we just don’t make time to do nowadays. If I didn’t have a TV I would definitely have a hobby that absorbed time and allowed me to be truly creative. Maybe I should get rid of it? The trouble is it’s too useful as a hypnotic tool that quietens the ever-active mind! I do feel guilt when I watch utter rubbish and have nothing to show for it! The TV is definitely a habit and it’s amazing what conversations you and your family can have when you don’t rely upon it for entertainment.

Some of the words that I least like to hear from my children are ‘I’m bored’!  Coincidentally these words are usually uttered when watching TV is out of the question. A few months ago my middle daughter came up with a great idea to save electricity and to engender more creativity -the concept of the ‘non-electric day’was born.  Every week on Mondays and Wednesdays in the Pagan household, there is no watching TV and no use of computers or the Wii.  She even wrote an article recommending this which was printed in one of the UK’s national children’s newspapers, First News.

Whilst the children may moan a little when reminded of the fact that electrical toys are banned for the day, within a short while they find some other activity to amuse them.  Those traditional board games are finding their way out of the toy cupboard, wonderful drawings and paintings are being created.  I once returned from work to find my wife and three children all in the lounge, reading their books in companiable silence. Amazing.

So the question has to be what would you do if you didn’t rely on the TV for entertainment- what could you create if all those hours lost to The Electronic Income Reducer were returned to you? The choice is yours.