by Deborah Hartung, founder of Pivot PeopleTech
No matter how good our intentions are, we all have those tasks at work or in life, that we just can’t seem to bring ourselves around to doing. We build them up in our minds and turn molehills into mountains and make excuses for procrastinating. Then we berate ourselves for our tardiness or cause our blood pressure and stress levels to skyrocket – it’s really a vicious cycle. Break free from the chains of procrastination and anxiety with these 3 handy tips!
I will admit that despite 3 years of psychology at university and a qualification as a life coach, I also fall victim to the monster that is procrastination. It’s ok, we all do it. It doesn’t really matter how organized and methodical we strive to be in our lives, we all have things on our to-do list that we just cannot seem to bring ourselves to complete. Sometimes it’s the month-end financial stuff or the reports and data analysis. Other times it’s decluttering a space or having a difficult conversation with a colleague, friend or family member. Whatever the ‘it’ is, doesn’t really matter. The point is that it is on a to-do list and it isn’t getting done for whatever reason and it is causing us stress and anxiety.
So take a breath, sister – you are not alone! Let’s tackle the monster of procrastination, together, with these 3 winning tips:
1. Focus on the right things
This may sound a little crazy, but you would be surprised at the number of times I have encountered people who have become confused between a ‘goal’ and a ‘task’, or they have assumed that they are responsible for doing something specific, when in fact, someone else could or should actually be taking care of this. So, the first step is about establishing what you are dealing with and discerning whether it is perhaps someone else’s responsibility (and no, I am not saying you should pass the buck every chance you get!) or if perhaps you have confused ‘goals’ with ‘tasks’.
It is also highly possible that you are not planning your day properly and you are focusing on what Stephen Covey calls these items ‘little rocks’ (think distractions such as online shopping, recipes, cat videos or task that aren’t your responsibility, but that you have taken on). If you fill your entire day with the little things, you never get to the actual ‘big rocks’.
The key here, is to be super clear on what is your responsibility to get done and what is really important. If it is a goal and not a task, then you need to split it into its smaller component parts and move things to your calendar instead of your to-do list. If it is something you have taken on that you shouldn’t have, it’s time to learn to delegate or assign duties to the right people.
2. Schedule and Prioritise
There are so many different tools available to manage our time and the key is really to find one that works for you. Perhaps you need to use the quadrant method where you rank your to-do list on an x-y axis of importance vs. urgency. The most important and urgent tasks are the ones that you need to get done and out of the way, first. The least important and least urgent tasks are possibly items that you can delegate or outsource or (wait for it!), reschedule.
Some people find that working in ‘blocks of time’, works for them. They allocate a block of between 25 and 50 minutes for focused work (no phone calls, texting or emails) and then take 5 or 10 minute breaks to relax and refocus their mind. The also prioritise their most important work at their most productive time of the day.
Robin Sharma suggests following the “90/90/1” principle, whereby you focus on your single most important goal for the first 90 minutes of every day, for 90 days. This technique is especially effective if you are looking at expanding your business or augmenting your service offerings or developing a new product. It also works if you have decided you want to focus on health and fitness or you have something especially big that you want to achieve.
3. Fun and Rewards
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, women are especially bad at cutting themselves some slack and celebrating when they have achieved a milestone. This is partly because we focus so much of our time and energy on making others feel good and recognizing their efforts and it is also partly because we naturally tend to just take on so much that we don’t actually recognize that we are going above and beyond the call of duty. So, show yourself the same kindness that you would show to others and make sure to schedule some time for fun or rewards when you have completed something especially challenging or something that you were putting off. Whether it’s taking a 10 minute dance break (trust me!) or rewarding yourself with a latte or a mani or a brand new book or perhaps even an hour off work early on a Friday, make sure that you recognize and reward your own efforts, just as you would for anyone else.
As with anything relating to self-discovery, the key to tackling procrastination, is finding something that actually works for you and that is aligned with your personal values and your way of working. Don’t be so hard on yourself and put so much pressure on yourself to do it all and be this perfect business woman, partner and mother. Schedule the important things, make time to have fun and learn to let go of the things you can’t control 100% so that you don’t feel the unnecessary guilt or anxiety. You’ve GOT this, girl!
Deborah Hartung is a consultant, coach, author and speaker, and the founder of Pivot PeopleTech. She loves helping entrepreneurs find their unique voice and leadership style in order to empower them to create amazing places where people truly want to work. She has spent the majority of her career in HR and labour relations management and consulting, gaining experience in all fields related to the human experience in the workplace. While her main focus remains on consulting, coaching and training in the HR and labour relations space, Deborah is passionate about people and technology and the opportunities for the advancement of humanity in the digital age. Professionally, Deborah is known as an HR turnaround specialist with a proven track record in improving workplace culture, employee engagement and organisational effectiveness.
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