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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PRODUCTIVITY TIPS FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE

If you do creative work, you might consider how to get more done in less time. In the world of multitasking, creatives can become lost because they scatter their thoughts and feelings among too many things to do. I’ve read advice for creatives about making chores into activities. Run all your errands in one afternoon. Cook and freeze enough meals all day to feed everyone for a week or more. Answer routine emails once a week until your inbox is empty.

Of course, I’m going to talk specifically about writers here. You probably know that I’ve done a lot of research on time management and personal organization. And I’ve come up with a set of guidelines from all the research to use myself.

Over the last two or three years, though, I’ve become frustrated with my schedule, which in theory should work so well. I kept wondering why it didn’t. I’m going to show you what I used to do, and what I’m doing now. And why I think what I’m doing now is better.

My days had a set schedule/routine, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I take Thursday and Sunday off—Thursday to shop instead of the weekend, and to do other errands, perhaps see a doctor, whatever comes up. Sunday is my unplug day—I check email morning and night, but the rest of the day I [try to] stay away from the computer.

This is what my schedule looks like:

  • Get up, get dressed, get coffee and orange juice, turn on computer, make bed while computer warms up.
  • Drink coffee and juice, read and respond to emails.
  • Write 1,000 words on work in progress—fiction
  • Exercise.
  • Eat lunch while reading newspaper (resting eyes from computer glare)
  • Housework, more email, odd jobs—not my best time of day to do creative work. I have one chore planned for each day—bathroom and kitchen day, dust and dry mop day, vacuum day, and so on—more about this later.
  • Four o’clock, put computer aside, no more housework, relax for an hour, reading a book.
  • Five o’clock, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up kitchen, read or do email until seven.
  • Seven o’clock, work for one hour on a writing project or marketing.
  • Eight o’clock, downtime or more email, Facebook.
  • Nine o’clock, more writing projects
  • Ten—finish up on computer, shut it down. Read until bedtime.

Okay, I left out personal grooming, talking to my husband, goofing off.

You’ll notice I don’t watch TV. Well, rarely, I watch football games once a week during the season, and the occasional show my husband is recommending, or a movie he’s watching. Not really my thing, though.

Looks really good on paper, doesn’t it? Not that many hours of work.

The trouble is that the marketing also gets interspersed in there—Twitter, Facebook, blog articles, a newsletter every so often, and lots of other stuff I can’t even remember now. If I don’t schedule those times to relax, I don’t relax.

And usually, by 7 o’clock, I don’t want to do anything more. There’s simply too much stuff! Scattered stuff.

So, I have a new plan using the project idea.

  • Mornings stay the same except the writing new stuff switches to marketing when I’ve finished a project until I can’t think of another way to promote that project, then I go back to new writing.
  • Afternoons stay the same except I do projects instead of small bits of housework—my plan is:
  • Monday, major project, will differ each week.
  • Tuesday groceries, some cooking in advance.
  • Wednesday, catch up on email/home office work.
  • Friday/clean house.
  • Saturday laundry..

But evenings become either more writing/editing or marketing—in other words, not doing both every night, again, until it’s done for the latest project.

I’m not saying this is going to help, but it might. I’m a bit excited about this experiment. But would it be better to continue in the afternoon working on writing and marketing, and doing the other chores after dinner? Like with a regular job? Or reverse it and do the housework/chores first thing, get them out of the way, then spend the rest of the day writing? I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.

So, I’ll report back in a month or so. Stay tuned!

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT MANAGING YOUR LIFE

Some basic ideas that will help you live your best life:

Eat at the same time every day, and eat healthy.

picnic 01 by Anonymous - A picnic laid out ready to eat! Originally uploaded by Daniel Delay for OCAL 0.18

Move around more. Go to different places to do different activities on your computer if you use a laptop or tablet. For example, take it to your bedroom to do serious work when you don’t want to be interrupted, or to your home office, if you have one. Put it up on a high counter or bar to do your email and stand while using it. Stretch out on the couch to surf the net. You get the idea.

Do sit-down work in fifty-minute-to-one-hour increments. Then get up and move around. Studies have shown that our attention tends to lag at about the hour mark. Plus your body needs a change of position at least this often.

Schedule your breaks. Yes, schedule them.

Get plenty of sleep. Your work will go easier, your fun will be more fun, and you’ll be healthier, too.

Exercise for at least twenty minutes a day—thirty minutes is better. You can easily fit this in if you break the time into two parts. Do a lot of stretching, some jogging in place, some basic core exercises, and have some hand weights to strengthen your upper body. Purchase an exercise mat, and you can do all of this anywhere there’s enough room for you and the mat.

And finally, do work you love to do, or at least enjoy most of the time. If you’re not, go out and find it.

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.)

 

 

IS HABIT DESTINY?

Why is it so hard to change our behavior when we want desperately to do so? Most people will say it’s a lack of willpower.

But new studies show that’s not it. Rather it’s not having habits and routines in place to keep you on track. This is probably why programs such as Weight Watchers™ work well for so many people. You start a new habit—calculating what you eat every day and how many points. You’re paying attention. You probably now eat only at certain times, including snacks. You’re not buying the food that tempts you—no ice cream in the freezer to call to you at 2 a.m. Plus you’ve joined a group of others who have the same goal—studies have shown this is very helpful. Hang out with the people who are achieving what you want to achieve, or have already achieved it. Peer pressure does work.

But there’s more. Advance planning for everything on your goals list will help your chances of success. Don’t just plan to exercise more. Pick a certain time every day to do it. You want to de-clutter? Again, pick a time of day (a mere 15 minutes a day will accomplish a lot in one month) and do it then. In three weeks, if you do it every day, the new habit is ingrained and you will no longer have to think about it (how often do you think about brushing your teeth or drinking your morning cuppa?).

Put your day on autopilot, and all the things you want to accomplish, unless catastrophe strikes, should get done. This planning in advance has to be realistic. You cannot plan to finish something that usually takes an hour in half an hour. This is where prioritizing comes in, too. It’s always best to do the most important things first and leave the less important things for later.  If the important things take more time than planned or you are interrupted, at least you got those done. Remember to throw in some stuff you love to do throughout the day. Put them on your schedule along with everything else.

Make it a habit to start your day with something you really enjoy, and end your day the same way. You will hear people say it’s best to exercise first thing (and for some people, it might be true). But if you hate exercising, you will soon not look forward to getting up in the morning. Instead, start with something you like—have breakfast with your spouse, read the paper or a book, watch the morning news on TV, read some email, whatever. Then do your exercises. Try alternating the hard stuff with things you love.

Also try this: Count up all the things you do every day that are already habits. You probably get up at the same time every day. What actions do you take after that? Could be you brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink coffee or tea, take some vitamins, grab whatever you need to take to work, get in the car, drive to work or drop off the kids then drive to work, and then list what you do when you get there. Do you greet the same person by the front door every day? Do you put away your purse and/or briefcase in the same spot? Do you hang up your coat, roll up your sleeves, sit down, turn on your computer? You see how many things you do just in the first hour or so of rising? This goes on all day long, and the things go in reverse when you head home.

Imagine if you scheduled the rest of your day in a similar manner. Put yourself on autopilot. Then, if you usually avoid something that needs to be done, do it right away, with as little thought as possible. But on the other hand, if there’s something you would like to do but don’t want to do (eat another cookie, or smoke a cigarette are two good examples), put it off for a minute or so. You might get distracted and forget about it, at least for a while. Then try that again—keep putting it off.

To recap: Decide in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goals. This removes the mental effort of making decisions. Your intentions have to be very clear, and you need to be sure you can accomplish your goal. It’s all in the details. And if there’s a habit you want to break, put off doing it as long as you can. Distract yourself. This would be a good time to do something else pleasurable. So, allow some time for spontaneity in your schedule. Because when you fine-tune these habits, it will be very easy to get back on track after a short break.

Try it and see!

MORE ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT

Think about it—the more organized you are, the more time you have to relax and be really happy.

Routine and organization are essential. Think ahead, plan for the unexpected, and focus on exactly what you want to achieve at any given time. You can learn to do this. And you can unlearn bad habits. Believe me, you were not born this way. You have control.

Here are some hints. Pretend someone very important is going to show up tomorrow and see how you’re doing. Pretend you are being paid for getting each task done. Each task, not for a day’s work. Think about how it will make you feel next week if you’ve done everything you’ve set out to do this week. (How will your future self feel?) How will it make you feel if you don’t accomplish everything on your to-do list?

And speaking of your to-do list, you have one, right? Be sure it’s not too long or too short, but just right. You know from past experience how much you are likely to accomplish in one week. Have a running list of everything you want to accomplish. But choose from those tasks wisely to make your weekly list manageable.

After your list is honed, schedule your activities. Write them down on a calendar, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. These are appointments with yourself to get stuff done. Today is Monday. I do these time management/organization posts on Monday for a reason. Most of us start off the week with high expectations. We hope to be able to look back at the week when it’s over and pat ourselves on the back for getting things done. The new year is coming up. Also a great time of feeling as if you can, this year, get your life the way you want it to be. Start now by planning ahead. Your future self will thank you.