“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”
In my life, I have learned that procrastination is the mother of many disappointments. Ventures often fail not from a lack of talent, but from a lack of initiative and planning. This is a battle that all of us face at one time or another. The hardest step to take, the hardest dollar to save and the hardest pound to lose is always the FIRST one.
One of the most difficult processes in regard to putting things off, is coming to terms with the fact that tomorrow will have its own load to carry. Piling today onto tomorrow is not a formula for success. I’ve done it. We all have. The result is stifling. Again and again we find that tomorrow is fraught with more difficulty than today was. Because of the additional work, things simply get missed. Details go unattended. Costly mistakes are made.
There are a multitude of tools available to help you build a better strategy for getting things done. Tools however need to be applied by the user. They don’t use themselves. Listed below are the tools, mindsets, and practices I try to employ when I start to feel overwhelmed and I am tempted to make that fateful decision to “set it aside”.
The single most important tools are a pen and a pad. Now I know that there are some computer geeks out there that are already writhing about this. Yes, I know that there are digital ways to organize the day, but follow me for a minute. First and foremost, hand writing your list, gives you time to THINK. I am always more complete and feel more organized when I hand write my list. Most of you who use a computer, or tablet for organizing yourself do so because you can type faster than you can write (and I do too), but in this case I believe that efficiency should give way to deliberate contemplation. Make no mistake, good software has its place, but when we are overloaded and anxious, SLOWING IT DOWN, and THINKING IT THROUGH really pays off.
The second and more important thing, is the satisfaction you get when you CROSS SOMETHING OFF THE LIST. Drawing that line through the task serves as a tactile signal to your brain that you are MAKING PROGRESS. This cannot be duplicated with the delete key.
Rank everything by its importance and its urgency. Your first priority should be given to the things that are BOTH important AND urgent. Second are the things that are important but not urgent. Third are things that are urgent but less important. Everything else doesn’t matter, and you won’t get to it anyway. This was a tip I heard from sales trainer Brian Tracy, and it has been worth its weight in gold.
Pick the things that are GOING TO GET DONE TODAY even if you have to stay there until the following morning. This is a mental posturing exercise. It keeps you focused, and teaches you to set reasonable goals. But it’s not a game. You actually need to keep that commitment to yourself on those important items.
Control freaks……get over it. You CAN’T do it all (at least not with any measure of quality). There is no reason for you to do it all. Asking for help is not just an option, it’s a necessity. You can start by forcing yourself to hand off the things that if they were completely mishandled would be uncomfortable, but not debilitating. Be honest with yourself. There is a lot of data entry, and keyboarding that many of you do on your own, that can easily be handed off to someone else. Invest your time in instructing and reviewing, when it comes to tasks like this. It may take longer the first couple of times, and you will always feel that the urgency of the moment does not give you time to properly teach someone else. As anxious as you may feel about that, I encourage you to push past that emotion and invest that time anyway. In the end, the long term dividends will far exceed your initial investment. Once assigned, allow your staff to operate unencumbered with the projects you give them. This takes practice, patience and trust. Stay out of the way and LET THEM WORK.
Kick Start –
It helps me to always reserve a task in the morning that is simple and quick to do. It helps me to “grease the wheel” and move more easily to the larger issues, when I know I have at least one thing completely done, and crossed off of my list.
No. Not now. Can we schedule this for later today or perhaps tomorrow? These are all great responses to other people’s unscheduled demands on your time. Be polite, be firm, and remember to SMILE when you say no. It helps the other person to understand that it’s not “them”, it’s simply a matter of scheduling.
Early, late, taking it home with you, and working weekends are always options that sometimes must be used to get IMPORTANT things done. I myself have used these options (probably far too much), but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. That being said, its important remember that although you are busy, you do have other people counting on you at home. The key to balancing that scale is to completely FOCUS on the task at hand (whether at home or at work), and refuse to be distracted. Wherever you are, be IN the moment!
To remain focused:
- Do not allow yourself to get drawn into idle chat with co-workers who are simply sucking up your time.
- Politely excuse yourself from meetings that are going nowhere (if you can).
- Do personal business on personal time.
- Don’t poke your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
These are all components of remaining focused, and managing the time we all have. We only 1440 minutes in a day. If 480 of those are spent sleeping, and another 80 are devoted to personal care and transportation, that leaves only about 1000 minutes to split between work and your family. Thinking of life in terms of expiring minutes, is a great way to maintain focus and avoid procrastination. Time is always a diminishing resource. Manage it wisely.