Sure fire steps to take if you have time management or procrastination issues
Achieve Your Dreams, Perth’s pre-eminent business coaching service, specialising in lead generation strategies to increase sales, customers and clients and give you, the business owner, greater success and control over your business, presents another insight into Business Coaching.
These days I have excellent time management skills, but it wasn’t always so – I had several really bad habits that I’ve had to overcome, so I thought I would share them with you, in the hope you may also find a solution to your time management issues and win back some precious time.
My worst habit was what I call the ‘5 minute’ assumption. More than 35 years ago I learnt several hard lessons in this area. I would almost finish something, saying I would need another 5 minutes. At the time I was a partner in an accounting business doing Tax returns for small business clients. This is before computers and we did everything manually on an 18 column pad, and then transferred the figures to the reports and actual Tax Return. We were very busy and I had other responsibilities, and so I continued my bad habit. Needless to say I soon had stacks of client files on my desk, each needing 5 mins to complete – well not exactly. A client arrived unexpectedly one morning looking for his figures – naturally they were among the stack of unfinished files on my desk, and he wasn’t in the mood to wait, and demanded his stuff back, and I had no choice but to give it to him. Apart from being extremely embarrassed, I also lost a client – big lesson one! I vowed then and there never to repeat that mistake, and thankfully I never have!
Not only was I way behind, but my office was messy, something I was never happy about because I couldn’t file them until the work was finished. It took a solid week to clear all the files off my desk, a lot more than 5 minutes each, I must admit. As I was writing the figures on the reports and Tax return, I would wonder why I did a certain thing, and it would take quite a while to work out why – there were no mistakes, but had I totally finished the task I wouldn’t have taken all those extra, unpaid hours! Other problems emerged – our typist was inundated, and so was I checking, copying and collating the returns. I got through, as I always do, and it never happened again, and there were unintended benefits – I wasn’t trying to remember 20 things at once, which is impossible and this freed my mind to do other things – I had no more guilt over the work I should have completed – this made me feel good about myself, rather than the opposite.
As is quite normal, I realised I had other related problems in this area. I wouldn’t file paperwork, and then couldn’t find a report later, or it took several minutes, I always wanted to do thing as fast as possible – these days it’s a game, but those days it was more serious. I would put thing off until I had to do it, I was disorganised and would spend valuable time jumping from one thing to the next, I even changed lanes in traffic because I thought one lane might be faster, only to find the lane I was in passed us. I would do a job at home, and then couldn’t find a certain tool weeks later, because I hadn’t put it back, and a job would take much longer because I put a tool down and then took several minutes to find it again. One really dangerous habit was chatting with a colleague, who would ask for assistance and I would put down any papers I was carrying, concentrate on fixing the problem, and forget to pick up the papers again – I vividly remember spending more than 4 agonising hours searching for an important invoice one day.
Slowly but surely I noticed all these things and found solutions as below:
- I finish each task I start, which includes filing, putting tools away, and tidying up
- I usually don’t start a task unless I have all the information, tools and equipment I need, but if I do, I write myself notes about what I need to complete the task
- I minimise distractions – I tell clients that I will answer their call if I can, otherwise I will call them back – I try to contact leads as soon as possible – I make it a policy to return all calls and correspondence within 8 hours
- Every night I tidy my desk and begin a new “To Do” list, using today’s as a start
- Every morning and evening I check my emails – I add to the “To Do” list accordingly
- I handle each issue in my order of priority, totally completing the task.
- I try to be proactive, rather than reactive – unless it’s a real emergency I handle it in my time and schedule
- I make a mental note of which rooms I need to visit and carry and drop off everything for that room – that saves countless hours walking backward and forward
- I don’t carry important papers when I leave my desk
- I no longer change lanes in traffic!
- I learned to delegate and outsource. I know what’s important in my life, so I outsource the things that I can’t or am slow at doing – this was particularly hard for me, but I learned anything else is a false economy
- When I’m doing a job at home I put the tools I need in close proximity and once I’ve used a tool I put it back immediately, so I can find it again – this also saves hours walking around looking for a tool I just used.
- I never make an important decision without first ‘sleeping on it’ – that take the urgency and emotion out of most decisions
- The most important discovery I made on my journey is that the human mind works by association, so when I have to write anything I start with a title and then write down everything I can think of and then expand that – this was a trick my English teacher taught me many years ago. It’s amazing and has never failed me yet – if I procrastinate I find my mind fills with ideas and then I can’t remember an important idea, but once I start writing the ideas appear to flow easily. I often edit what I’ve written the following day.
I hope this will help those who have similar difficulties, and especially those with a tendency to procrastinate – below are a few thoughts about beating procrastination with the maxim “Do It Now”!
Action Plans – Do it Now!
- Nothing is perfect – start right away
- Looking for perfect solution is an excuse
- Start anyway – enjoy the journey
- There is no perfect solution for any problem – start with the best you have and constantly update
- Experiment as you go along
- Work out what works for you and what doesn’t
- Your plans should suit your personality – your company’s vision
- Nothing happens without taking action
- You can’t change your current situation without taking action
- Fear is what is usually preventing you from taking action
- Start, despite the fear
- Change can only begin once you change your thinking – Einstein
- Action shows the Universe you are serious about your intentions
- Thinking about a problem will never fix it – you must take some sort of action
- Plans without action are useless
- SEALS make a game out of accomplishing a task – it works for them, why not you?
- Think of a solution in terms of a journey, rather than an end
- Old Chinese proverb – “A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step!” You must take that first step, then the next and so on, and before you know it you have arrived at your destination.
- The more steps you take the better and more confident you become
- Our brain cannot calculate every possible contingency, so start and solve problems as you go along – successful people use this philosophy
- There is always fear associated with doing new things – do them despite the fear
- Excuses as to why you can’t start are usually fear based – start anyway
- Life is a risk – do it anyway – you may not wake up tomorrow
- Do it now – I have known several people who put things off. They got sick and that was that!
- Action begets more action – procrastination begets more procrastination
- The more action you take the easier it becomes
- You cannot ‘think’ your way through your day – you have to get up and do something – this is action
- Our bodies work on the principle that the more energy you expend, the more you have and visa versa
- When you mediate – see yourself taking action
- There is an old proverb – “Practice makes Perfect” The more you do something the easier it becomes and the better you become at it
- Look at the animals around you – they have to find their food – you don’t see them waiting for someone to deliver their meals, unless they are domesticated
- Something is always easy when you know how to do it – watch someone with a talent and see how easy they make it look
- Make action a habit – think, plan, DO
- When you take action you usually feel good about yourself – regardless of the outcome
- It is rare that you can win at anything without taking some action
- I have heard it said the wealthy are such because they take action: the poor don’t, they complain!!!
- Visualise what you need to do to rid yourself of any problem, and then DO IT
- Taking any action towards solving a problem is good – even writing your problem down is action
- When you are about to take any action always visualise the best outcome – it will help you get over the initial inertia
Here are some articles from the Internet
11 Top Tips For Effective Time Management
1. Set clear goals
It’s important that you know what your short-term and long-term goals are – this will enable you to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not. It’s only when you know where you want to go and what you want to achieve that you can figure out exactly what needs to be done, and in what order. Once you are clear about your goals, you can plan and prepare a sequence of action steps to achieve them.
2. Make a to-do list
To-do lists are your best friend. They can increase your productivity by 20 per cent, help to clear your mind, and save you energy and stress.
Start your day by spending five to ten minutes planning your activities for the day – or, better still, prepare your list the evening before. Write out your tasks either on paper or on your computer. Break down large or complex tasks into smaller pieces – chunk them down into do-able, manageable units that don’t feel too big or daunting, and focus on one at a time. As you complete your tasks, cross them off – it’s a very satisfying feeling!
There’s a good chance you won’t get everything on your to-do list done, but make sure you get the most important things done. That means you have to prioritise the tasks on your list and figure out what is actually most important, as well as most urgent (not necessarily the same thing). It’s helpful to number your tasks or assign them ABC status by giving the most important tasks an ‘A’, the next most important ones a ‘B’, and so on.
4. Make a schedule
Using your to-do list and prioritisation as a base, make a schedule for the day and for the week, including time for breaks and contingencies. The schedule needs to be realistic, with padding for interruptions and unscheduled events. How much contingency time you need to build in will depend on the nature of your work. Having a schedule means you won’t have to waste time and energy thinking about what you have to do next – just follow your schedule.
5. Stop procrastinating and just do it
Everyone is guilty of procrastinating, but for some it’s a chronic problem that is a major obstacle to success. You know that looming report or assignment isn’t going to go away, so you just have to bite the bullet and get stuck in.
It’s important to look at the causes of your procrastination – is it because you’re waiting for the ‘right’ time or mood, underestimating the time required or difficulty of the task, fear failure (or success), or have just developed a very bad habit? The only way to break a habit is to consistently act in other ways – so stop putting things off and just do it.
6. Manage your emails and phone calls
For many, emails and phone calls constitute the single biggest obstacle to effective time management. Unless you need to be constantly available and accessible, avoid continuous email notification and let your phone go to voice mail – these things can suck up untold minutes and hours, and make you repeatedly lose focus.
You need to give yourself solid chunks of time to concentrate on your work. Read and respond to emails in blocks only a few times a day so you’re not constantly chopping and changing what you’re doing. This may necessitate reconditioning others and their expectations of you, so they won’t expect immediate responses but will know that you will respond at specified times.
7. Keep a time log
It’s useful to track your daily activities and how much time each takes. This will give you a realistic view of how you spend your time, as well as what interruptions there are, and you might be surprised by how much time certain tasks actually take or how much time is wasted in ways you don’t even realise.
Also note what your energy levels and focus are like at different times of the day. This will enable you to figure out which activities you should be doing at what time of day – you should schedule your most challenging tasks for when your energy level is greatest. For example, if you’re most focused and creative in the morning, then use that time to do your writing or brainstorming, and don’t waste that time responding to emails.
8. Take regular breaks
Breaks will keep your mind fresh and you will be able to return to your work with better focus. If you work straight through, you will put in more hours but work less productively.
Stick to allotted break times. You might want to try the Pomodoro technique to see if it increases your productivity. In this time management technique, you work in 25-minute segments (Pomodoros) with 5-minute breaks between each period, and a longer break every four Pomodoros. Some people swear by this technique as a way of increasing their focus and efficiency.
9. Put good systems in place
Being organised and having good systems for filing emails, computer documents and papers will save you many valuable hours in the long run – so spend some time initially setting up your systems, then you won’t have to worry about it.
You probably don’t have time to do everything yourself, so if you can, delegate less important tasks, or tasks that would be better performed by someone else.
11. Learn how to say no
This is extremely important; your time and resources are limited, so you can’t say yes to everything and accede to every request. You have to stick to what’s important and know when to just say, ‘No’.
Learning how to squeeze more into your day, and knowing how to make the most of your time is essential to your career and work/life balance! So put our tips to use and see your productivity soar!
Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People®
habit 1 – be proactive®
This is the ability to control one’s environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances
habit 2 – begin with the end in mind®
Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership – leading oneself that is, towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.
habit 3 – put first things first®
Covey calls this the habit of personal management. This is about organising and implementing activities in line with the aims established in habit 2. Covey says that habit 2 is the first, or mental creation; habit 3 is the second, or physical creation. (See the section on time management.)
habit 4 – think win-win®
Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.
habit 5 – seek first to understand and then to be understood®
One of the great maxims of the modern age. This is Covey’s habit of communication, and it’s extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy ‘diagnose before you prescribe’. Simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life. (See the associated sections on Empathy, Transactional Analysis, and the Johari Window.)
habit 6 – synergize®
Covey says this is the habit of creative co-operation – the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person’s contribution.
habit 7 – sharpen the saw®
This is the habit of self renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing.
This is the link to our new podcast on this subject:
Hopefully you will now have a better idea about solving your time management and procrastination issues. If you need assistance, please contact us immediately.
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