Underperforming! This Could Be Why

By Hanan Awaad

Hanan Awaad President Corporita Consulting Inc.
Hanan Awaad
Corporita Consulting Inc.

She came to me seeking help, a brilliant young engineer with so many interesting dreams to change the world. She started talking about her problem: “I am struggling with getting things done, no matter how I try, no matter how much time I spend at work, I still have so much to do. I feel that I am consistently underperforming.”

In many cases, we underperform due to time management issues, not the lack of knowledge or skills. Another common reason for underperforming is ‘Attention Deficit.’ Edward Hallowell in is an article in Harvard Business Review; Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform[1], explains how attention deficit may result in disorganization, mistakes, and inconsistent results.

Here are some mistakes that might cause underperformance:


It is critical to define your priorities, to understand the essence of short, mid and long-term planning. You cannot tackle a long list of 20 to-dos every day, I tried and failed miserably. When you try to make everything at the same time, you will underperform and finish so little.

Manage your goals from behind, meaning that you need to start with the end in mind. Think of your ultimate long-term objective, then start to divide it into smaller chunks until you reach the smallest pieces of your daily tasks. This will allow you to only tend to those important people and things in your life; you have to free your time and mind of less important things.


Are you choking with too much information? Every piece of paper that comes to your hand carry a big load of information, even if it is a recipe, product, or the credits at the end of a movie. Being overloaded with too much irrelevant information consumes your brain capacity to process more valuable information.

Yes, you need to be engaged and learn new stuff, but be so picky of the new concepts that you need to focus on. For example, I found myself spending a long time reading analytic reviews of fiction novels. Although I enjoy reading novels from time to time, reading literary reviews, drained and exhausted my brain and energy.

Some of the strategies to overcome information overload are:

  • Shut off notifications. Not every single notification about a new email you received, a new YouTube video posted, or a new comment on your Facebook status is critical.
  • Focus on 4 or 5 key pieces of information that will have the significant effect in your success.
  • Read or listen to book summaries before deciding to the read the whole book.
  • Use bullet points and tables to organize data and information.
  • Learn through all your senses: listen to audiobooks and podcasts or join meetup groups relevant to your field.

Social Media are important communication channels, and we will not be able to eliminate those channels off our lives. However, the flood of information (significant and non-significant) deplete or time and energy. Some people tend to develop some addictive behaviours like checking how many likes their posts get or spending a long time checking their newsfeeds.

The best strategies to limit the time you spend on social media is to set a particular timeslot during the day to check your Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. For me, I like to do twice a day during my breaks or while having lunch.


I like to schedule my interruptions, and I try to teach my team to do so. For example, my phone is always on silent mode, so, all phone calls go to my voicemail, and I can deal with them at the right time during the day based on my schedule.

I also advise my clients and teammates to use a modified Pomodoro technique; blocking individual time blocks to work on important tasks. During those time blocks, they have to shut off interruptions and distractions and focus on the task at hand.

At home, my kids know that as long as I am sitting on my desk, I will be working. Once I am in the kitchen or the living room, we can get together and talk about anything.


Let’s be honest, committing to do something for others makes us feel valued and needed. However, overcommitting is not beneficial for you and others. People like to keep themselves busy as a way to keep their minds from thinking of problems or to feel their value or to find ways to procrastinate other important but not so glamorous tasks, or simply because of their generous nature and a good heart.

Whatever your motive to overcommit, slow down and think realistically of the time and effort required. I   always overcommitted myself by volunteering with many organizations in my community and cramming my schedule with meetings and events. It took me a while to prioritize my interests and commit only to the most important ones.


I have seen many professionals lose their focus and underperform because they worry too much. Approaching big tasks with no plan makes it daunting and worrisome; having wrong information or insufficient data; lacking self-confidence; not dedicating enough time to master a skill; these are all possible reasons why we worry and underperform.

If you feel that you worry too much, have an inner dialogue with yourself and learn why you feel this way. Dig deep to reach the root cause of your problem and design some strategies and tactics to deal with it.


[1] https://hbr.org/2005/01/overloaded-circuits-why-smart-people-underperform

Originally posted 2017-02-01 16:41:09.

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