THAT OLD BUGABOO, PROCRASTINATION

 

 

 

 

Who has never procrastinated? It’s not always a bad thing, but most often, it is. Here are some ideas on how to cope:

PROCRASTINATION CAUSES AND TIPS FOR OVERCOMING:

  • Overwhelm (break the task down into small parts)
  • Task is unpleasant (hold your nose and get it done—probably best to tackle the whole thing at one time, if you can)
  • Space is too disorganized (take 15 minutes a day to deal with it)
  • Perfectionism (learn to tell yourself “good enough” when something is good enough. Being perfect is impossible)
  • Difficulty making decisions (not making a decision is a decision to keep the status quo. Is that what you really want?)

HABITS TO OVERCOME PROCRASTINATION:

  • Do your most important task first every day when your resistance is lowest. Later, it has built up because you keep thinking about it and putting it off.
  • Check in with a friend on progress (perhaps you both have a similar problem; discuss what you’ve accomplished or not)

MAKE A PLAN:

  • Use the five-minute rule. Tell yourself you’ll only work for five minutes on whatever-it-is. You can do five minutes! Usually that will be enough to make you continue
  • Schedule your day, daily
  • Try to stick to your plan as much as possible, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to everything every day
  • If you work at home, tell your family what your plan is and ask them to help you make it work
  • Learn how to get rid of distractions (that would be another post, but examples are to turn off electronic devices, close your browser, and shut the door to your office, if you have one

Here’s an example of my own plan:

DAY OF WEEK TIME OF DAY ACTIION AMOUNT OF TIME
Monday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min
1:30 Marketing 1 hour
300 Exercise 10 min.
3:15 Housework 30 min
4:00 Marketing/social media 1 hour
7:00 Short story brainstorm 1 hour
8:30 Marketing 1 hour
Tuesday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min
1:30 Marketing 1 hour
3:00 Exercise 10 min.
3:15 Housework 30 min
4:00 Marketing/social media 1 hour
7:00 Short story brainstorm 1 hour
8:30 Marketing 1 hour
Wednesday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min.
1:30 Marketing 1 hour

Sorry about the wonky chart formatting. Can’t get rid of it, so it’s the best I can do. I think it’s good enough!
For more in-depth ideas, check out Dr. Patrick Keelan

Use action plans to achieve your resolutions in the New Year…and at any other time

And there’s Lifehack:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/29-ways-to-beat-procrastination-once-and-for-all.html

Procrastination is a problem for most of us at one time or another. Learn the reasons for yours and how best to deal with it. Good luck!

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MORNING, ALL DAY, AND NIGHT

For a more productive day. Some of this is a repeat, but I think it’s worth saying it a bit differently so it can sink in.

When you first settle down to work, decide what your top priorities are for the day and decide when you’re going to do them. Make a to-do list in order or list them on your calendar.

What you want to do in the moment is often different from what you’d hoped to accomplish that  day. Stopping every hour to think about what you’re doing will help keep you on track.

Before dinner, assess your day. What went right? What do you wish you’d accomplished and didn’t, and why not? What can you do tomorrow to make it a better day than today was?

Fine tune: Only decide what you want to do each morning in order to be happy about it when you look back. After lunch, decide what you want to do in the afternoon so it will be a great one. Same after dinner. What will make it a memorable or productive evening?

Example: If you’re a writer or work at home, decide how much you’re going to write (words or timeframe) in the morning. Maybe morning is also the time you exercise. Get those two things done before lunch, and you have a great start. Afternoon—is this the time you’ll do housework, catch on email and phone calls? List what chores and emails you want to work on. After dinner, decide whether you’re going to do a few more work-related things or chores, or if you’re going to watch a movie you’ve been putting off, or a TV show, or dip into that book you got from the library. Try to leave at least the last two or three hours before you go to bed for relaxation, doing something you love to do so you end the day in a great frame of mind and relaxed.

DEADLINES

Have you thought about deadlines? I hope you’ve learned to prioritize your to-do list, keep your calendar updated, and have a place to jot down notes.

Next in your time management arsenal should be making deadlines for each task. Many of us do not report to anyone else—we’re stay-at-home moms, creatives, or entrepreneurs who report only to ourselves.

 

Working to deadlines, self-imposed or not, is smart. Some can be as simple as having a goal to finish a certain project by lunchtime. Or have several things you want to do before you go to bed every night. Others can be a lot more difficult to set, especially if they’re really big projects (such as writing a book or decorating a whole house). In the case of big projects, break them down into daily doable timeframes, figure out how many days it will take you to finish, give yourself a few days wiggle room, and put that deadline down on your calendar. And keep it at the front of your mind every day as you do your daily work.

Good planning, then having deadlines are the keys to good time management.

WORD BY WORD

If you write 1,000 words a day it can equal a lot a year. Here’s how:

SIX DAYS A WEEK

If you write 1,000 words a day for six days a week for one year, you will have 313,000 words written by the end of the year.  Divide by four, and you will have four 78,250-word books in rough draft.

Your novel or nonfiction book may need to be a few thousand words more than that, but you can, no doubt, squeeze those words in before the end of the year.

Write a short story every month. = 12/year by writing 1,000/words or less one day a week.

Write an article every month. = 12/year when you have some extra time

At the end of one year you could have three novels, one non-fiction book, twelve short stories and twelve articles written.  This means that you have to do only two things:  Write 1,000 words a day, and edit 1,000 words a day, Monday through Friday, plus write and edit 1,000 words for your short story quota (could do 500 words in one story, and 500 in another, for example) every Saturday, and squeeze in that article when the mood strikes, but aim for one a month.

RADIATE

 FIVE DAYS A WEEK

If you write 1,000 words/day, five days a week, you will have 261,000 words at the end of one year.  Divide by four, and you have exactly enough for four 65,250-word books.  Make one or two a bit shorter, and you can squeeze in a two-week vacation.

If you get most everything you write published, each will help sell the others.  Someone may read your nonfiction book and find out you wrote a mystery, so will try that out, or vice versa.  Someone may read a couple of your short stories or articles, see your bio, and decide to try one or more of your books.

The trickiest part is to keep up the pace and to make sure that if you edit out a whole chuck of one of your pieces that you also write enough words in that day to make up the deleted words.

Make up a chart for tracking how much you actually accomplish every day in a spreadsheet, and you will be amazed at how much you have done in just half a year.

Excuse me while I work on my second 500 words for the day. (But no, although I wish I could meet this goal, I haven’t yet. But there’s still time.)

 

 

FEBRUARY IS TIME MANAGEMENT MONTH

Who knew? Who knew there was a month dedicated to time management? It makes sense to have it in the second month of the year because this is the time those wonderful resolutions begin to weaken.

How was your January? Did you make some plans on how to spend your time to reach your goals for the year?

Here’s a quick recap on how best to manage your time.

  • List your goals.
  • Order the goals in importance, giving them A, B, C, and D ratings.
  • Plan to do your most important goals early is the day unless you’re a night person. Otherwise, plan your evening hours.
  • If you complete your A goals, move to B, then C. Decide if you really, really need to do most of the C and D ones.
  • If you have a sit-down job, resolve to get out of the chair at least every hour and move around for about ten minutes. If you stand a lot, take some sitting breaks regularly during the day.
  • Keep track of your time. You need to know how long things take in order to do a good job of planning in the future.
  • At the end of the day, pat yourself on the back when you accomplish all your A goals, put your feet up and read a good book. Or watch TV if you absolutely have to. <grin>

And basically, that’s it. My job is now done. But most likely I’ll be back with more tips as the year goes by. You are warned.

OVERWHELMED AND PROCRASTINATING?

The feeling of being overwhelmed is often the cause of procrastination. It definitely is for me. Feeling as if I simply cannot get the job done is the main cause, maybe the only cause, of my procrastination, because I get lots done. But I’m often berating myself for leaving some things, always the same things, undone.

One example is email. And I’m getting a handle on it now by slicing and dicing it into manageable chunks. You can use this system for most things, so let’s go step by step with what I’ve been up to.

First, you have to know how to use your tools. In this case, your email program. I know mine pretty well by now—I’ve been using Eudora since the last century. One of the most important things I know is how to make mailboxes. Other programs might call them folders. This is where you can put emails by group, just as you file papers. Next, you need to know how to filter messages. I do that for some friends, family, lists/groups and certain businesses. In Eudora, the mailbox name gets bolded when there’s anything unread in there, so I always know where I have new mail.

Now my inbox looks a lot less full (overwhelming), thus a lot more manageable. So, when I check mail, I first go through my inbox and delete every piece of spam I get. If any stray messages are in there, I slide them over into the correct mailbox. Now I have the email I really should attend to right away in front of me. The others can be read and answered, if needed, in their own time.

I also don’t answer every email right away. If I do, many people will then answer me right back, and I could spend all day with seven or eight emails, reading, then answering. If not urgent, wait at least a few days, a week or ten days may be better to answer friends’ emails. Back in the old days, people didn’t get those instant responses, and we’re probably even more busy now. Check the date every morning, and anything older than the week or ten days you’ve set for yourself is the one that needs to be answered right away.

How can we apply this process to other to-dos that overwhelm us? Cut them down to size, into pieces. I do this with housework. I do a couple of things every day. One day it might be laundry and ironing. Another day it’s cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. One day I vacuum and dry mop, etc. Getting too much regular mail, as well as email? Spend fifteen minutes a day with it after dinner, handling it as quickly as you can. Throw away the junk, unread. File things right away that need filing and pay bills. Make a pile for reading, take it with you to your chair to read during commercials or in other stray moments. Planning for a party or big event? Do one chore a day, making a plan in advance so you know how many days you’ll need, adding a couple for a cushion.

This system defeats boredom and makes you feel in control. It changes what you say to yourself about what you need to do. Instead of, “I need to clean the whole house today,” you say, “I only need to dust and vacuum today.” Instead of saying, “I need to straighten out my closet today,” say, “I’ll work for half an hour on straightening out my closet, then quit for the day, and do the same tomorrow.” And so on. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

HOLIDAY TIPS FOR ENTERTAINING

Entertaining can be a chore (you have to invite everyone from work because that’s the way it’s done at your office or your partner’s office), can be stressful (you’re new at it, or unsure of some aspects, or just generally have stage fright about such things, like this and making speeches), or can be loads of fun.

Of course, you know your attitude can make a difference. That and a lot of prior planning and some experience with entertaining either small or large groups.

the toast by johnny_automatic - man making a toast at a dinner partyFirst, tell yourself over and over again how much fun everyone is going to have. Think up some topics of conversation to have handy in case it lags. If you feel pressed for time, delegate. Either pay for someone to cook and/or clean, or get family members to pitch in. If you can’t do either, scale back on what you will serve for food. Can you just make it a cocktail hour instead of a full meal? Can you have some relatives and close friends bring food? Can you lock some bedroom doors if you don’t have time for a thorough cleaning?

Have you planned what you’re going to wear, what you’re doing for decorating, and what you’re going to serve for food and drink? Plan what you’ll wear first, then decorate, then plan and make food ahead.

Have signature drinks and food that are quick and easy to make. Things people always want you to serve. Try for one for each course, so if you’re asked to bring something for a specific course for someone else’s party, you’ll have making it down pat. This means an appetizer, a main dish, a salad, a vegetable casserole, and a dessert. Also think about a nice punch. Fill in with what other people bring, with beer and wine, if yours is a drinking crowd, soft drinks. Use easy things like chips and dip, a main course you can make days ahead and freeze, a simple but fabulously elegant dessert.

Be sure you have enough serving dishes and utensils for everything. If possible, use paper plates, napkins and so forth for a large crowd (unless you can afford large services and people to do the clean-up). If you buy special serving dishes and other things for the holidays, be sure to have one spot where they are kept so it will be easy next year to get them out to use again.

Most important of all, when the big day comes, relax, plan  to enjoy your own party, and go with the flow. Most likely it will be fabulous. Anything that goes wrong can be something to laugh about at next year’s party. Remind yourself that you’ve done the very best you can, and let it go at that.