Over the past few weeks, I've been aggregating many time management tips I share with clients to get more done in the limited amount of time they have.
Face it - we all procrastinate in one form or another. It might be at work. It might be at home. It might be at work and at home. During my 10 years of coaching executives, I've found that procrastination can be simplified into four 'obstacles':
For years many of my clients have struggled to sit down and get to work when they really, really don't want to (which is most of the time). Most are managers, entrepreneurs or in sales and they have the option of subtly putting things off and procrastinating, and often the urge not to work and surf online instead can be powerfully strong. I call that MASSIVE PROCRASTINATION. During one session, I brainstormed what I call "Activity Gambling" and it's actually been really helpful to many of my clients, so I thought I'd share in case anyone else finds it useful.
FIRST: You need two sheets. On sheet one, draw up a big running to-do list of everything you can think of that you need to do (breaking them down into small tasks). On sheet two, use Excel/Numbers/Word/Pages to develop a horizontal chart with six columns numbered 1 through 6 and 5-10 boxes under each column.
SECOND: Review your to-do list and pick six single, discrete tasks in a box under each number. Ideally, try to make these tasks take 5 minutes or less (this is the hardest part of this exercise).
THIRD: Roll a single die and do whatever task is in the column that the die lands on. Cross out that task and list another item in that column and roll again.
FOURTH: Warning: You might feel a little silly having to do this. But it works and many of my clients LOVE IT. Sometimes they really don't feel like doing anything on that list. But the minute the die is in the air spinning, they are waiting for a number to land.
CONCLUSION: The randomness and the act of throwing the die gets them moving. And once they do that first task, they can usually keep it going for quite a bit before they need a break.
Everyone is afraid of 2012.
We all like Shiny Objects. We're attracted to them. Like moths to a flame. Whenever a new product, idea, solution, or strategy comes along, we sometimes catch ourselves getting distracted and focusing a lot of our efforts towards our Shiny Object. We want to get our Shiny Object and place it into our Shiny Object Repository.
What one thing are you procrastinating on right now? What are you putting off? Procrastination is a dirty word in my office.
Are you paying ATTENTION? Are you PRESENT when you work? Do you solve PROBLEMS? If you say 'No' to any of these areas, you probably have Career ADD.
"We stopped checking for monsters under the bed when we realized they were inside of us."
Wonder why you don't get certain things accomplished? Why you hit the same obstacles every time?
Candidly, it hard to get things done. Of course, some things are easy, but many of them are quite difficult. We are always looking for ways to do things better, faster, and with less worry and work. Years ago, I came upon one of the most simple and powerful quotes I've ever read. It's from Mohandas Gandhi, who in his 78 years of life, gave us so many great quotes (and his actions too!).
"Action Expresses Priorities."
That's it. That's MY secret to getting things done.
Think about it — All of your actions, all the things you do, all the things you deliver — set your priorities. Once you take action, you instantly decide what you want to do first. Why? People tend to act upon those things that have meaning to them.
But I think it's deeper than that. I think when you don't know what to do, you need to just take action anywhere and suddenly certain things will start to fall into place.
But that's the problem today — we don't take action. We're afraid to — we procrastinate, over-analyze, and postpone because we are sometimes afraid of action.
Because action will ensure we have to make a decision — we have to do something that is sometimes hard, or we will have to deal with the results of that action.
But what we don't realize is that action moves us forward. It propels us . . . it forces us to rocket faster and faster. And sometimes we are afraid of that.
So ask yourself:
- How can I take action today?
- What should I do first? Second? Third?
- What should I stop doing?
So the next time you are putting off something — a decision, a task, a phone-call — just think "Action Expresses Priorities".
Work breeds frustration. It's a fact. You get frustrated when people or things knock you off balance, where you're out of control. It could be a late project, or a recalcitrant associate, or a vendor who never gets back to you.
A lot of us get stuck in inaction –procrastinating, doing a lot of unimportant tasks to avoid the important stuff, worrying about failing or about being perfect, having a hard time starting, getting distracted, and so on. It’s time to start forming the Action Habit instead. Get all Ninja on your actions.