Stop for a minute and think:
What is the #1 project that you need to get done, but have been putting off? Every day you try to get to it, but other things just seem to catch your attention first, like answering e-mails returning phone calls, cleaning, taking care of little to do’s on post it notes… tasks that suck you in and captivate you until you have no time left to work on what you’ve deemed important.
These IMPORTANT things are necessary to do at some point but are not critical or urgent to do right now. IMPORTANT tasks usually involve something a bit more tedious and time consuming, like filing, billing, writing, making follow-up calls, planning, marketing, ect. Since there is no immediate pressure to get them done, they remain in our mind and on our to-do lists as things we SHOULD do sometime. They absorb our energy as we begrudge the thought of starting the project and they actually eat our time as we subconsciously procrastinate, doing other little things that feel more rewarding first.
What to do?
1) Realize what your procrastination strategies are. What do you do when you have an IMPORTANT project to accomplish? What distracts you from working on it? What things usually get on the to-do list before it? Subconscious procrastination strategies are little and insignificant tasks that take up our time and energy, so we never get to what is really important. Although it feels good to check off 10 little things from the list, the result is that now there is not enough time for that big IMPORTANT project, so it waits another day. This waiting creates stress and the act of procrastination makes us ineffective with our time. Below are links to 50+ ways people distract themselves from what is IMPORTANT. What are your pet procrastination strategies? When you become aware of your favorite methods you are more likely to recognize them when you start doing them and STOP so you can really focus on and accomplish the IMPORTANT project.
2) “Eat your frog” first. Brian Tracey has a great book, Eat That Frog, which illustrates the basic concept of prioritizing. Tracy describes the most IMPORTANT task as your “FROG”. He supposes if the worse thing you have to do all day is eat a frog, the rest of the day will be much better. Likewise, if you do the thing you dislike and avoid first, the rest of your day will be great. You will find that you have more energy because you feel charged that you already got “IT” off your plate. You will have more time; because you are encouraged by your success and are motivated to do more important things that really matter. You are more efficient, because you have a clear mind without nagging toleration’s of things you SHOULD be doing.
How do you “eat your frog”?
A) Identify what is IMPORTANT. Important things are items that need to be done, but will not kill you if they are not done immediately. Note: this is in contrast to urgent. Urgent are things that MUST BE DONE immediately. Often people get in a cycle of making everything urgent. If everything is urgent in your life one of two things has happened: you are mislabeling, or (more commonly): you have let the IMPORTANT projects go too long until they’ve become urgent. The problem with always working in urgent mode is this quadrant does not maximize productivity or give long term solutions, just short term fixes. It might feel good and seem productive as you run around putting out fires, but internally it causes you to feel stressed confused, frustrated and overwhelmed. In contrast, when you stay on top of the IMPORTANT projects, you will amazingly have more energy, more time and be more efficient in dealing with everything else that comes up. Really, I challenge you to try it out.
B) Do it FIRST. Before you go to bed, pick your frog for the next day (or do it the last thing before you go to bed, so you already have a head start on your next day, if you are a night owl!). Then when you get up, before you do anything else on your to-do list (including urgent things – unless it is a real emergency), eat your frog. Block time in your schedule for uninterrupted focused time. No phone calls, e-mails or talking, until your frog is eaten. Know how much time your frog will take to eat, so you can consume it before interruptions are unavoidable. By creating an hour of “no interruption” time, you will be most focused, productive, and effective in eating your frog.
* Make a “to do” list nightly
* Prioritize your “to dos”
* Item #1 is your frog. Complete it before you do any other projects.
* Plan for FIRST THING, uninterrupted time.
* Know and be aware of your personal, subconscious procrastination strategies
* Make it your goal to complete the next 5 top priorities before moving on to other things on the list.