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Defeating procrastination or: what's your 'movie?"

1 April 2018
Hadas Gil

How can we find the inner motivation to perform irritating activities related to Knowledge Management?

Every position, task, project or process we wish to promote in the organization bears at least one aspect that we would rather refrain from performing. Procedures are a good example for this phenomenon. We at ROM instruct our clients how to construct procedures so that they are written simply and concisely. We, for example, emphasize the planning of the procedure, using simple phrasing, elements that can be incorporated to improve first use as well as future uses. However, procedures (like any other subject) are simply not the hottest topic when considering popular work tasks for workers to handle/formulate.

Procedures fail for a variety of reasons: they are usually outdated, too long, difficult to navigate through, the flow between knowledge segments is unclear, they are not phrased practically, too general, etc. Yet the main reason that procedures, alike other issues that suffer from inattention and insufficient treatment, fail is a lack of motivation/time/planning (choose one or all options) to perform these critical yet mundane tasks.

The question then resurfaces: how can we overcome motivational obstacles and promote these issues?

In The Upside of Irrationality Professor Dan Ariely discusses our tendency to procrastinate by relaying his personal story, in which he describes his burn injuries from a magnesium explosion. A large magnesium flame combusted near him and more than 70% of his body suffered third-rate burns. He was also jaundiced due to an infected blood transfusion; though it subsided, it occasionally resurfaced and required treatment. This treatment included 3 weekly self-induced injections which made him nauseous. This led to a constant struggle against the deeply rooted will to avoid this pain and discomfort despite intellectually understanding the necessity of these injections.

He battled his motivation:

  1. He reminded himself that this is "immediate negative effect" induced to attain "long term effects", a psychological problem we all experience when we can't bring ourselves to perform short-term tasks that may be highly beneficial later. He thus repeated this "mantra": the injections are an insufferable task in the short run but will prove highly essential for the success of this treatment in the long run.

  2. He found the motivation to counter the pains that followed each injection: movies. When the doctors warned him of the side effects that might appear after treatment, he decided to boost his motivation by binge watching movies during these painful hours. The movies indeed helped him divert his attention and focus on something besides his pain and sorrow.

Returning to procedures, the example I chose to discuss, I can indeed assure you that while this task is exhausting and dull its effect will manifest through better, clearer and more synchronized work processes.

What is my "movie"? I love reading and telling stories. I transform each procedure into a story, complete with a navigation map (sometimes a graphic one!) that is easy on the eye and simplifies users' understanding.

What about you?

Remind yourself the importance of the task you must perform and explain to yourself how this will benefit you in the long run.

Find your "movies". For each problem you lack motivation to perform, predefine the elements that can assist you in accomplishing this task with a smile on your face.

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