This is Part 2 of our mini serious aimed at improving organisation skills. Click here for Part 1. In Part 2 we now discuss a trait I call ‘Thoroughness’.
I struggled to finish anything I startedOne of my biggest problems in life has been that I have not finished things I have started. I have always been such a perfectionist that I have made tasks too complicated and ended up making them impossible to finish. Time and again I have started huge projects and spent years working on them, only to give them up because I couldn’t finish them. I struggled so much at university and school that I am surprised I managed to get through. I nearly gave up my degree so many times. In the end, I only finished it because I was so afraid of my Dad being ashamed of me if I did not finish. But on many occasions I became near mad trying to get essays finished. I also felt like I wanted to die when trying to sit through 4-hour exams. In fact, I struggled so much sitting through exams that I walked out of them one year and had to re-do them the following year. I spent some time researching people who are perfectionists and extremely thorough when doing tasks. This is what I found.
People who score high on Thoroughness:
- Typically take a long time to do things because they like to do them thoroughly
- Get really engrossed in things and find it hard to stop doing them
- Take longer than the average person to get ready in the mornings
- Clean their teeth very thoroughly
- Are captivated by things that other people aren’t so interested in
- Tend to do tasks the same way every time they do them
People who score low on Thoroughness:
- Like to ‘cut corners’
- Find the quickest way to do a task
- Prioritise carefully when deciding what task to do first
Are you a perfectionist?People who score high on ‘thoroughness’ are perfectionists. The trouble is that thorough people tend to be very slow at completing tasks. This has a huge impact on their ability to be organised. It’s a simple equation really:
- Firstly, I'd like you to imagine that it takes Jane 1 hour to complete 4 tasks
- Next, I'd like you to imagine that it takes Sophia 1 hour to complete 1 task.
- Now imagine that both Jane and Sopohia spend an hour organising their affairs.
Some people take 3 hours to get ready to leave the house!At the extreme end of the spectrum, there is in fact a rare disorder called ‘Primary Obsessional Slowness' (POS). Individuals with Primary Obsessional Slowness are so hampered by their slowness that some take around 3 hours to get washed and dressed and ready to leave the house in the mornings!! Intriguingly, therapists did find a way to improve POS. In the Cognitive treatment for POS, staff working with patients:
- Firstly break tasks into small chunks,
- Then they ask patients to set a timer. The timer sets off an alarm each time the patient is supposed to finish each section (or 'chunk') of the task. eg. Whilst cleaning her teeth, a patient might be allowed 30 seconds to brush each tooth. The alarm successfully helps to push patients to move on to the next stage of the task.
We can apply POS treatment to help us do tasks more quicklyI think those of us who are extremely thorough and slow when it comes to completing tasks can learn something from this treatment. If you are slow at completing tasks then try the following. Break a task into a number of 'chunks' e.g. if you are trying to write an email, you might break this into 3 chunks:
- write a brief outline of what you are planning to say in the email
- Write the email
- Re-read the email to check for errors
- 1 minute
- 4 minutes
- 1 minute