Does indecision keep you from getting your projects started … or finished? Did you know that besides derailing you from achieving your goals and advancing in your work, procrastinating reflects on your professional image as well?
Everyone procrastinates on occasion but some people do it regularly. Even when they are aware they are procrastinating, they still put off important projects. If procrastination keeps you from completing projects, it is chronic and should not be ignored. Otherwise, it could easily affect your career, your home life and your self-esteem.
If you are committed to overcoming your procrastination habit once and for all, we assure you that it can be done. Why not give the tips below a try? They will help you stop the games you play with yourself to avoid a project you do not want to do.
BEFORE STARTING THE PROJECT:
Evaluate the importance of the project. Is it still a priority? If not, take it off your to-do list or consider moving it to your Someday/Maybe list.
Figure out the reasons you are procrastinating. Knowing “why” will help you come up with the tools to fight it. For example, if you do not understand a particular area of the project and how to go about completing it, consult colleagues who are experts in this area or research the area in question on your own.
Find uninterrupted time. Enter a date in your calendar to work on a specific step of the project. Be sure and keep the appointment. Your dates are just as important as meetings with others. Your time is valuable.
Decide on the location where you will do the project. Sometimes working in a coffee shop with headphones on is better than the office where there are many external interruptions and distractions.
Prepare ahead of time. Decide what is needed that will make the task as easy as possible. A larger work surface? Clear space on your desk. Last year’s documents? Find those important papers ahead of time and have them ready. These are the types of obstacles that could prevent you from moving ahead.
Create a positive mindset. It makes all the difference in the world how you approach the project. If you think of it as impossible and too hard to do, then it will be. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you can do this and are ready for the challenge, it will not be as difficult. Think of the feeling of accomplishment when the project is completed.
BEGIN THE PROJECT:
Divide the project into individual tasks or steps. Make each step doable. A project may have five steps or fifteen. Write each step down on paper or electronically.
Estimate the time it will take to complete each step of the project. Then double it. That may seem to be far too much time but most steps take longer than estimated. If you finish the step sooner than expected, continue. Or, leave the next step for another time.(Don’t forget to enter the next step on your planner so you will know exactly when you will be getting to it.)
Make the first step easy. Ease into the project slowly. You may want to make this step short and simple although, once you have completed it, you will have gained momentum and the commitment to continue.
Set the mood. What external stimuli will entice you to get started? For example, lighting, music, and snacks can make the task more enjoyable.
Ask a trusted friend or colleague to help you get started. Even if the person is just there while you work, sometimes that is all it takes.
Seek help from colleagues or friends if you run into obstacles. If you do not know how to tackle a specific step, consult with someone who does. All you need to do is ask. People are happy to help.
Eliminate interruptions and distractions so you can focus on the project. Turn off the sound and pop-ups signaling new email. Let your phone go to voicemail. Close your door or put up a sign saying you are working on an important project. Keep a pencil and pad where you are working to jot down thoughts not related to the project. That way you will not forget them and can go back to them later when you are finished working.
Be mindful of the progress you are making. Track your accomplishments and be aware of the progress you are making. Think in the present.
WHAT IF THE PROJECT IS DUE IMMEDIATELY?
If you have delayed the project until the 11th hour, you may have to condense the suggested steps above and move right into action. Here’s one approach:
Move directly to the “Begin the Project” section. Imagine you are leaving town tomorrow. We have all experienced that hyper-active mode before leaving for a business trip or vacation. You had no idea you could accomplish so much that quickly. And why is that? Because you concentrated on the tasks that needed to get done. That probably meant limiting conversations with colleagues and not allowing distractions and interruptions to throw you off target.
CELEBRATE WHEN THE PROJECT IS COMPLETED
Once a project is off your to-do list, it is not always easy to move immediately into another high-level task. Switch from your high-functioning thinking to low-level tasks such as returning phone calls or doing email. Consider taking a walk and giving your brain a well-needed rest.
Enjoy the feeling of relief and satisfaction knowing that the weight hanging over you is gone and that you did it! Feel good about your accomplishment. Remind yourself that you overcame procrastination and that you can do it again. Maybe, just maybe, the next project won’t be nearly as hard as you anticipate and will go faster than you expected. The secret: just start.
We hope these tips inspire you to begin a project you have avoided yet must be done. Once you actually begin, you’ll be amazed at your energy and motivation. The effort will be well worth it, and we are here to help.
choose? In today’s world, the possibilities are endless. Interestingly, that’s not always a plus and can often interfere
with decision-making. What to do?
Often, the best way to get things done is by process of elimination so that you are left with limited, desirable
choices. Here are two real-life examples we all face at one time or another …
… you decide to join an association to network, be part of the community and potentially meet prospective clients.
Which group should it be? Perhaps it would make sense to become part of the local Chamber of Commerce. Many of
your colleagues attend their meetings and have found it helpful to be part of the Chamber. Or, maybe
consider a business association a good friend is urging you to join. There are several excellent choices and it is hard to
decide which one would be best.
We recommend using the process of elimination to decide which association to choose. Once you have
narrowed it down to one or two associations, the decision will be easier. Plus, that overwhelmed feeling will go away.
Here is another example of too many choices. You have decided to scan all documents as soon as they arrive in the
office but have no idea which product best meet your needs and gets the job done most efficiently. The market is flooded
with scanner manufacturers with each one vying for your attention. To eliminate a number of scanners, we suggest that
beginning by listing your criteria — how you want the scanner to function and what you want to accomplish. Then you
are ready to review the scanners sold and to compare each one with the criteria you established. This process will
narrow the selection process and move it along by reducing the number of scanners in the running. Isn’t that an easy
way to limit the options? We hope you will give it a try.
Want to read more about how this concept works? Check out the 6/21/13 article: Choose What To
Leave Out at www.delanceyplace.com.
Everyone procrastinates from time to time — Olympic athletes, billionaires, Charlie Brown and even Professional Organizers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of failure and destruction brought about by procrastination, but how can something that is so natural to the human condition be all bad?
Dr. Piers Steele defines procrastination as a tendency …
“to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse-off for the delay.”
Dr. Steele’s definition is a good one, and we agree that procrastination can put a person in a bad spot. However, if everyone procrastinates from time to time, how realistic is it for us to deny it? Are we just setting ourselves up for failure and guilt by promising ourself never to procrastinate?
In the spirit of “we all do it anyway”, let’s make the best of procrastination. Here are tips to make your procrastination as useful as possible.
Tactic #1 — Do something enjoyable
Taking a break to do something you like (Spider Solitaire anyone?) is a great way to switch gears from one complex task to another. To make this brain break successful:
Tactic #2 — Procrastinate productively
When you have a large, multi-step task to accomplish, it can be very difficult to get started. How many times have you stared at a blank screen and just sighed? Minimize the screen and spend 15-20 minutes doing some productive procrastination. Try these techniques:
Tactic #3 — Plan an Unprocrastination Day**
Step One: Go ahead and procrastinate, just keep a list of all the items you are actively and willfully procrastinating.
Step Two: Set aside an entire day to perform all the distasteful, dreaded, or just plain boring tasks on your list. Race against the clock to accomplish the tasks. Strive for completion, not perfection.
Step Three: Celebrate at day’s end with the reward of your choice.
Are you ready to procrastinate productively now? No? Maybe later then.
**Thanks to Real Simple Magazine (April, 2011) for this genius idea.
If you have put off taxes, and many people have, there is still time to buckle down and finish them before April 15th. Asking for an extension just prolongs the misery and weighs you down. You know they need to be done so why not just get on with it? Now. There is no more time left to procrastinate.
How to start? Here are 10 easy-to-follow steps:
1) Set up a date to meet with your accountant, if you use one.
2) Schedule time on your calendar to work on your taxes (and only your taxes in this allotted time). Be sure to keep the appointments.
3) If your accountant has given you a worksheet, read it through carefully it so you know exactly what is needed.
4) Pull out all of your papers and divide them into categories. Print the documents that are on the computer or copy them onto a USB or CD for the accountant.
5) Sort the papers again, this time into subcategories. For example, you might begin with a stack labeled clients and gradually whittle it down to a number of individual clients.
6) Write down your questions so you do not forget to ask themyour accountant or a knowledgeable source.
7) Call for the documents that are missing.
8) Label each stack of documents, using binder clips to separate them. While all of these stacks may not be needed for the accountant or the IRS, it helps to stack them in an organized pile.
9) Put in as much energy and time as needed to finish the job on time. Forego weekends and week nights, if that is what it takes.
10) Make sure the government office signs a receipt and returns it to you. Keep the receipt in your tax file. If the IRS later on says that they never received your taxes, you have the proof that they were sent. This happens more than you may realize.
Now sit back and relax while your friends and colleagues scurry around in panic mode trying to meet their extension dates because they put their taxes off. And you didn’t!
This morning I had a lot of calls to make and did not particularly feel like making them. Then I remembered the book I had just finished reading — Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. In the book procrastination is not allowed. I would need to make the calls first thing and begin with the most difficult one. Ug. Well, I did it and it felt wonderful.
Tracy’s premise is that starting and completing the most important — and often the most difficult — task of the day will soon become a habit. Email and less important to-dos must wait until the most important one is done.
He suggests that we ask ourselves 3 key questions:
1) What are my highest value activities?
2) What are the biggest frogs I have to eat to make the greatest contribution to my organization? What can I and only I do that, if done well, will make a real difference?
3) Ask yourself every hour: What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
What important eat that frog task will you tackle tomorrow morning?
We all have too much email. It feels endless. But there is an easy way to reduce email volume: Unsubscribe. As email efficiency experts, we highly recommend unsubscribing to as many emails as possible as long as it is a legitimate site. You can always sign up again at a later date.
Then why don’t we make the extra effort and unsubscribe? Why do we leave the emails in our inbox? They waste energy and time because we need to flip through them to get to the email we really want and need.
Some of the reasons we hear for not unsubscribing:
1) I don’t have enough time to scroll to the bottom of the email and click the unsubcribe link.
2) I don’t feel like it.
3) It’s not worth bothering.
4) It’s too complicated. I am redirected to the website where I have to hunt for the unsubscribe page and often can’t find it. (That happens to us and it’s frustrating!)
The next time you receive an email you do not need, take the 1-2 minutes to unsubscribe. Do it immediately. Think of it as eliminating not just that current email but future unwanted emails that will automatically show up in your inbox every day or week or month.
If you feel overwhelmed by the huge number of emails in your inbox, try one of these tips:
1) Create a folder called “Unsubscribe” and drag the emails from which you need to unsubscribe to that folder; Set up a 1/2 hour every week to unsubscribe. What a great feeling to reduce the email in your inbox!
2) Unsubscribe to one email each day.
3) Make it a game. Set aside 10 minutes daily and challenge yourself to see how many emails you can eliminate by unsubscribing. A timer is an excellent tool for this activity.
Are you inundated with email? Call Leslie or Barbara at 404.303.8431 or email: Info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com. We can help reduce your email volume and your stress.
If you have recently organized your office, you know the type of work it takes to accomplish this feat. Are congratulations in order? Most definitely yes! And what a wonderful feeling! At long last you can put your hands on a document quickly without wasting time searching. The clutter is gone, old files have gone to storage, current files are in a nearby drawer, binders on the credenza are labeled and the sole project on your desk is the one you are working on currently.
And here’s another plus: You can invite clients and co-workers without feeling embarrassed by the appearance of your space. The message is loud and clear that your office is totally functional and you are in control.
Now can you cross that project off of your list? Well, yes, but not the part about maintaining the organization. Just because your office is in ship shade at the moment and you are able to be highly efficient, does not mean that the organization will stay that way on its own. Some people forget about the effort needed to keep your space clear. If you let it go, your office will be back to square one in no time at all. It will be messy and cluttered and will require all of your energy to navigate — energy you would prefer to put toward your job.
What can you do to ensure that your office stays tidy and neat? Try these tips:
These tips will go a long way toward maintaining your hard-earned organization. True, they will require effort but the benefits in productivity are well worth it. You’ll feel less stress because you are free to focus on your tasks.
There is good news, however: It’s a lot easier to maintain systems and processes once they are established. It will take a lot less time to keep on top of papers, files and anything else that lands on your desk from here on in.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and many of us have made plans for relaxation away from the office. Can you switch off your your smart phone, Ipad, and laptop? Or are they going too? Study after study shows that we return to work energized after a clean break from technology and the day-to-day routine. Not being encumbered with work-related problems leaves our mind free to enjoy new experiences and the people around us.
What can you do to ease the transition so you can enjoy a care-free vacation? Here are some tips:
1) Tackle projects that need attending to weeks in advance. This is definitely not the time to procrastinate.
2) Allow plenty of time just before you leave to finish tasks that are on your mind.
3) Cancel or reschedule meetings and appointments. That alone will help put your mind at ease.
4) Leave time for “re-entry” into the business world when you return from your getaway. Put off appointments and meetings for a day or so until you have had a chance to get your bearings.
Need help getting organized before you leave for vacation? Email Leslie and Barbara at: nfo@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com or call 404-250-9600 to speak to us directly.
Putting Off An Important Task
How many times have you intended to do something very important but you just cannot get to it? Other, less important tasks get in your way. Before you know it, the time is gone and you haven’t completed a critical task.
Most of us contend with these task battles within ourselves daily. Which task wins — the less important one that feels urgent or the more important one that will take you one step closer to your goal? It is a dilemma but there are solutions. Here are a few tips:
The next time you have to choose between two tasks – one urgent and one important – try one of these tips.
Need time management help? Call Leslie or Barbara at It’s Time To Get Organized (404-250-9600) or email: info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com. We can help you get those important tasks done on a timely basis so you accomplish your goals.
My friend Necia has been telling me for months that she intends to get organized.
The other day we were sitting next to one another in a meeting. She had a notebook in front of her and I was curious — what was she writing in it? She showed me. It is how she is finally getting her office organized. Her secret: she spends thirty minutes a day at this task and tracks her progress daily in the lined notebook.
Her notes look like this:
Day Commitment Actual Y/N Level Ripples
Mon. 4/3 Getting Organized Review old files Y 4 Got it done!
Tues. 4/4 Getting Organized File 30 minutes Y 3 Making Progress
Necia shared with me how she learned about evaluating her daily progress to reach a goal. The idea came from a newly released book called The Ripple Effect. Author Doug Grady has created an easy-to-implement system (just the kind we like!) to change a habit or to take action to get things done. We agree with Grady — small action steps help eliminate procrastination and keep you focused on your goal.
As efficiency experts, we are all about achieving goals and accomplishing the projects you rate highest on your list. Writing things down (or entering them into an electronic device) is an indication of your commitment. In fact, just the act of writing down your day-to-day progress has a positive effect on the outcome.So, Grady’s recommendation to keep track of progress in a notebook works. The cost to implement this solution? the price of a notebook and the desire to achieve your goal. That’s it.
Want to accomplish a project that you have thought about but not yet acted on? Try Grady’s method. This will be a positive use of your time and will help you achieve the results you desire.