Organizing, Procrastinaton

Conquering Procrastination…now!

I covered procrastination in my newsletter last year but since it’s Tax preparation time and Spring is here, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the subject.

The word procrastinate comes from the Latin procrastinatus, which means, literally, “forward tomorrow.” If you’ve been putting off till tomorrow what you could — and should — do today, then recognize that procrastination is a habit that can be broken. But it won’t happen overnight. It takes 21 days to form a new habit. So set a date, (Mondays work well, because they feel like a fresh start) and track 21 days to stay the course. (Comment to this post with your START DATE – accountability helps us get started.)

First of all, give yourself a reason to stop procrastinating. Will you improve your financial situation because you’ll pay your bills on time? Or will you impress your family, friends, and coworkers because you’ll appear productive and efficient? And — gasp — will you be less stressed because you are on top of your to-do list and arrive on time? (collective gasp is heard when you arrive on time)

Whatever the goal, keep it in mind throughout the first 21 habit-forming days.

How can you get started? Start writing. Yes, most of us have smartphones and if you’re like me, you are using up EVERY SINGLE bit of memory, but a good ‘ol fashioned notebook is a great tool…seriously. Whatever you do, scraps of paper and sticky notes won’t do – they have their place but not for getting started on stopping procrastinating. Remember, you’ll want everything in one place because you are forming a new habit.

In this notebook, keep a running list of tasks that need to be done. (It might be really long.) But then, each evening, make a smaller “to do today” list for the upcoming day, on a separate page in your notebook. List only the most important things you need to accomplish that day, and keep the number of tasks realistic and attainable. (About five things usually works well.) The next morning, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done, and you can concentrate on those tasks above all else. That evening, re-evaluate your list. Anything not completed moves forward to the following day’s task list, and a few more items are added. And take a moment to permanently remove tasks from your list that no longer contribute to your goals or happiness.

I use a paper calendar for my business. It has sections for personal, family and business items for each day. I review it in the evening, and in the morning. I keep a notebook beside me and on me at all times and this goes with me when I’m out and about.

REALISTIC-SIZED CHUNKS OF WORK: This is so key because procrastination is usually tied to poor time management…yeah, sorry but it’s true.  So as you’re writing your to-do list, make sure to break tasks down into realistic-sized chunks. If your goal is to organize your messy kitchen, the enormity of it will seem daunting. Instead, break it down into one-hour tasks: toss out all expired foods in pantry; clean out refrigerator; organize junk drawer; set up mini-filing system for kitchen. Completion dates are important, so assign specific tasks to specific days. You won’t organize a kitchen in a day, but over the course of a week, you can do it! And each day’s successes will give you the drive to keep going.

For truly unpleasant tasks (for me that’s cleaning the bathtub…ewww), set a timer for 15 minutes, and just do it. Nearly anything is palatable for a quarter of an hour. It’s also helpful to see that most unpleasant things don’t take nearly as long as we think they will. You may hate going through your in-basket at work. But just 15 minutes each morning and evening is enough to review, sort, do the quickie tasks, and assign the longer ones to your planner. If you’re feeling sluggish, complete an easy job first, to get your momentum going. Also, do the toughest tasks when your body is most alert — some people function better first thing in the morning, while others perk up later in the day. I am not a morning person, more of an afternoon person, so I schedule tough tasks for the afternoon.

Treat time like a precious gift. Are you a people-pleaser? If you’re truly behind in your own tasks, don’t add any more optional to-do items until you’re caught up. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to delegate. It’s okay to take some time for yourself. And stop saying, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.” This is what has kept you stuck already…and that’s not working too well for you, is it? Just limit your choices, let well enough be okay and move forward. Perfection is not realistic or required in life…just “let it go”.

Reward yourself. After 21 days of “just do it” action, treat yourself to something nice… lunch with a friend, a luxurious nap or bubble bath, a hot-fudge sundae, a concert, or an afternoon with a favorite book or movie. You’ve earned it!

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how to overcome procrastination
Procrastination

How to Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination – ah, the word that we all love and do. Good thing is that it’s a habit we can break. Most of us dislike change – eww – and we do not welcome when change occurs. However, we will benefit greatly when we become willing to CHANGE and develop new habits to help us overcome procrastination. Here are a few ideas to help you learn how to overcome procrastination:

  1. Remember that is it motivation that gets you started but it’s HABITS that keep you going. Don’t get ready to get ready – just get started!
  2. Write down your goals – you decide whether you are focusing on personal goals or professional goals. Writing them down will help you focus on them. Be specific. The more detail you write down, the better.
  3. Prioritize the goals. Why? Because as the saying goes, you can’t eat an elephant in one bite. Prioritizing the goals will assist you in moving forward in achieving them.
  4. Here’s some fun: write out an action plan and make it REALISTIC! What? How do I do that? If you aren’t   that good at estimating how long something will take, use a factor of “x 2” or “x 3” to determine length of time (this reminds me of someone I knew years ago who would answer the question “how long will it take to get there?” with 40 minutes. I learned to multiply by a factor of 3 – yes 3! – And that we would actually take 2 hours to get there! This person did it for EVERYTHING, so clearly he had no sense of time and I had to learn to recalculate the time to manage my own expectations.) I digress.
  5. Do you know the 80/20 rule? Okay, you don’t. An example of the 80/20 rule that is easy to understand uses the clothes in your closet. You probably wear 20% of the clothes 80% of the time. Now let’s apply the 80/20 rule to the goals, plan and schedule you have written down: to keep yourself from getting started, learn to make decisions with just 80% of the facts. We aren’t shooting for perfection – we are shooting for DONE.
  6. Do you tend to have all or nothing thinking? Meaning that if   you can’t do it   perfectly you won’t do it at all? Yeah, that is a sign of procrastination. Breaking up your goals, plan and schedule into smaller increments will help you keep moving forward. Use something like a timer and set it for 15 minutes to focus on a task. Then when the 15 minutes is up, you can choose to set it for another 15 minutes or stop. It’s amazing what we can get done in 15 minutes versus thinking we have to work on something for hours on end.

Okay, do you think you can do this? If not, consider finding a friend, family member, peer or even hiring a life coach to help you get started and keep moving forward. If it’s regarding an area of your home or office, I’m here to assist! Don’t live in the Metro DC area? Not a problem! We can do Google hangouts or Skype calls and I can coach you remotely and help you get started on organizing.

“Perfection is the worst enemy of good enough.” ~ Anonymous

Don’t let perfection or procrastination keep you from achieving your goals.

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Organizing, Time Management, Uncategorized

Time Keeps Ticking Tocking Away

Do you struggle with a poor sense of time? Are you often late for appointments, work? Are your kids late for school? This often occurs because of an inability to find what you need in the morning, distractions and sometimes not understanding just how long tasks REALLY take to complete.

Here are some tips to help you plan and schedule your time:

  1. Just like we do with our kids, we (adults) need to plan our morning out the NIGHT BEFORE. This will sound familiar if you have done this with your kids, but figure out what you’re going to wear the next day (I know this sounds really hard because you dress in the morning based on how you FEEL that day – bite the lip and try this technique before giving up). Gather your work items (briefcase, purse, bag, etc.) – put these by the door you will exit! Now do the same thing for your kids (clothes for next day, backpacks, shoes, items to take to school) and place those by the same door. We’re trying to help stop the morning madness!
  2. Hang your keys by the door you exit/use most often. If it’s the garage, then put up a key holder inside your house, next to the door to the garage. Multiple people using multiple sets of keys equals…yes you are right! Multiple hooks on the key holder! As for me, I prefer a small table also in this area to put stuff down on. Yes this can become the dumping ground, but in our prior home when we didn’t have one, everything was dropped right on the floor or onto the dining room table. Um, no. We currently don’t have a table near the door so items come into the kitchen. Our space in the entryway won’t accommodate the depth of a small table plus we have a large row of coat hooks / key hooks / purse hooks by the door. The counter is okay for this instance because the mail gets sorted through and purged into the recycling bin and lunch boxes live in the kitchen anyway. Phew! Moving on…
  3. Who likes to procrastinate doing the tough stuff? Yes, every human being raises their hand. Thank you. Here’s a simple but effective tip – schedule the tough stuff for early in the week – and when you are at your peak energy level – and see what happens! Believe it or not, once you get the tough tasks out-of-the-way, time is easier to manage. Otherwise that pink elephant is staring you in the face…everyday…all week long…ugh.
  4. Since errand running affects all of us (except those with personal assistants who run their errands for them and are named Kardashian, ahem), do you know realistically how long it takes you to run the errands? Try my tip – multiply by a factor of 3. If you live in the MetroDC area, anything can happen with traffic and what might be only 10 miles to run an errand may take you 30 minutes or more. (Note: if it’s rush hour in the MetroDC area, I increase my factor to 4). Yes this is my little secret…if I have to drive 10 miles, I calculate 30 minutes. If it’s rush hour, that becomes 40 minutes. Why is this errand running time understanding step important? Because we tend to not estimate enough time and external factors and then we over schedule and are constantly under pressure – maybe even yelling or honking horns at lights because we’re angry because we are late. Perhaps we made ourselves late by not fully grasping how long it takes to get from point A to point B? Hmm…that’s a thought.
  5. Hubs and I use a smart phone app for our shopping lists. I have a bazillion stores listed and we share just a few. We share lists for two grocery stores and three multipurpose stores (Target, Walmart and Walgreens). The app we use is called AnyList for iOS. I’m sure these apps exist for other types of phone operating systems as well. The cool thing is that NO LONGER are either of us out and about and decide to go by the store and realize we DON’T HAVE THE GROCERY LIST! Hate when that happens. Now we can add to the list on the fly (it updates immediately) and when either of us are in a store, we can purchase what’s on the list. The only thing remaining? Look at the lists. LOL.
  6. Do you have kids to keep track of schedules and messages? I’d recommend a family message center. White board or a chalkboard are fantastic for these areas. A family calendar is also a must since there are only so many adults who can drive the kids to all their after school activities. No, we are not cloned just because we are parents. Another idea is to set up Google calendar and husbands and wives can add their activities as well as their kids’ activities. That way everyone is on the same page when not at home looking at the calendar on the wall. (I’m all for technology if it provides a better solution!)
  7. Feeling overwhelmed at tasks to be done? Set a timer. I have used this technique a long time. If one of your family members struggles with ADD, then use 15 minute increments to focus on tasks. You don’t have to complete a large task in one sitting – done is better than perfect. Perhaps you need to just break up the task into chunks of time and put it on your calendar? I use this technique often – especially when performing home repair/remodeling tasks or yard work tasks. Why? Because I want to work on the task at my peak energy time and I know myself, if I’ve gone past a few hours, I’m going to not be as focused and will start making mistakes. To thine own self be true (and gentle!).
  8. Remember that if you are working on trivial tasks (oh, I need to print off those forms instead of writing a blog!), you are procrastinating my friend. We all do it. Usually it’s the tasks as mentioned in #3 above. Prioritize your tasks and work on the priorities first. Then reward yourself with a fun task!
  9. Lastly, and I learned this in pre-marriage counseling decades ago, usually in a relationship one person is the “tasker” and the other person is the “teamer”. What does this mean? That one person wants to do fun stuff and the other one wants to get things done! How do you overcome this “opposites attract” challenge? Ask the teamer to help you with a task (and yes, us “taskers” need to be specific in how long the task will take or be worked on), and that once the task is done, you will be glad to go “teaming”. Otherwise the tasker gets resentful and will not enjoy their time teaming, while the teamer doesn’t understand why the tasker is in a huff. Simple solution and works well if agreed upon by both people in the relationship. (Hey, this can also apply to kids).

Tick tock tick tock…let’s learn to make time our friend and not our enemy.

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