Is Your Style of Procrastination Working For You?

I bet you thought I was going to curse procrastination in this blog. Au contraire!  Not all procrastination is bad. As a matter of fact, putting off a major undertaking may give you time to consider the risks. On the other hand, you may have a style of procrastination that works very well for you. According to Mary Lamia in her book What Motivates Getting Things Done, procrastination is a problem when styles collide or when the deadlines are missed or met with unreasonable stress.

Before I talk about different styles of procrastination, let’s clarify the difference between good and bad stress. Good stress is excitement or intense curiosity, like the jitters you may experience before doing a talk. Bad stress is anxiety provoking, panicky, self-sabotaging and physiologically unhealthy for us and those around us.

Lamia distinguishes between Deadline-Driven and Task-Driven procrastination styles, DDPs and TDPs respectively. DDPs note the deadline and begin mentally planning the task in spurts without taking any overt action. They may let the idea incubate for several days and weeks. Come the last day, it all comes together. Many successful DDPs report a surge of “good stress” and a heightened state of focus within hours of the deadline. They often deliver their best work under pressure. If you’re DDP, and the fallout doesn’t take a toll on your health or the well-being of those around you, it’s a safe and effective strategy, so go with it.

TDPs will start tasks almost immediately, but not complete the tasks until later. They may be perfectionistic and postpone task completion until it meets a high level of quality. These folks have a hard time being satisfied with “good enough.” Yet the successful TDPs will manage many tasks at once and eventually meet their deadlines with a minimal amount of bad stress.

Since procrastination, the bad stress variety, is such a common complaint, I find it easier to help my clients become more efficient within a style that suits them versus trying to switch horses. It’s also good advice to share your style for meeting deadlines with co-workers and partners, as both styles can be unnerving to the non-procrastinator.

Would you like to make your style of procrastination more efficient or rid yourself of procrastination for good? Happy to help! Contact me at [email protected]        

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The Creativity of Constraint

Many of my clients are trying to start their ventures while maintaining full or part time jobs. A major complaint is finding the time to make progress towards their project. Their routine was so nice and neat before the ball wrecker of a startup came crashing in and challenged their time management skills. For a budding entrepreneur – it is now your “moment of truth.”  Do you cringe at the thought of keeping “a schedule” or being accountable for your time? I have a client who insists upon using the word “planner” because the thought of “a schedule” would constrain her spontaneity. These folks see a schedule as a tyrant, a force that denies their creativity and free-flowing nature. This must change.

Consider this: Some time constraint will make the best use of your creativity. When you block out regular chunks of time to work deeply on your project, that type of commitment will spur on a greater concentration of innovative thoughts and insights. With even small blocks of time set aside every day devoted to your project, your brainstorming will be more targeted. You will make small, but cumulative gains that amount to something tangible at the end of the week. An opened-ended “no plan” defies progress, invites distractions and draws you into the morass of Web-surfing and social media. How free-flowing will you feel when a year has passed without progress on your venture? Is it worth risking a little spontaneity to see your product or service taking shape? Create a structure that allows your true creative potential to emerge.

Do you need to be creative with time management? Would you like to be more thoughtful and productive with your time? Contact me at [email protected]   

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The (10 +2) x5 Rule?

A February 2017 Inc. Magazine article by Dan Scalco titled Four Ways to Stop Procrastinating Right Now provided some helpful tips for managing procrastination such as creating false (earlier) deadlines, donating $5 to a charity for every hour you waste, and moving tasks to the afternoon if you idled away your morning. His first suggestion, however, was the (10 +2)x 5 rule.  This process reportedly makes a work task “less intimidating.” The (10 +2)x 5 rule goes like this: do 10 minutes of focused work with a 2 minute break and to repeat this interval 5 times which results in 50 minutes of work. The (10 +2)x 5 rule will keep you on your toes, but it is flawed.

This rule feeds your distractible nature and discourages concentration on a task. The (10+2) x5 rule may come in handy for folding laundry or doing yard work, but not for work that requires analysis, processing, or integration of complex information. Here’s why:

  • As clock ticks closer to minute #8 there’s the tendency to start looking forward to the break or rushing the work to beat the clock, again wasting time.
  • If most of your work involves the computer, your 2 minute break will likely be spent on the Internet or on your phone (Good luck keeping those breaks to 2 minutes!).

The (10+2) x5 rule also assumes that you will make nice, clean transitions from the break to the task. Unfortunately, research shows that your brain will continue to reflect on the entertainment from break time for at least a few minutes before you can steer your concentration to the task. Therefore, if you factor in transition time, time needed to re-engage in the task, and time anticipating your break you may end up flipping those numbers – it’s more like 2 minutes of work and 10 minutes or more of break time!

A better system is to keep your phone and any other controllable distraction in another room. Allocate 30 minutes of work and 5-10 minutes of a break. Do that interval 5x and you’ll get close to a good 2 hours of work. Make your breaks screen-less – a brisk walk or some stairs will make the mental transition time shorter. Physical exercise will help you process the portion of the task you just completed, improve your focus and your attitude about the task you’re trying to complete. This (30+10)x5 is much more productive way to get things done.

Just as there are different brains, there are different ways to avoid procrastination. To learn more and to come up with a system that works for you, contact me at [email protected]                   

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Managing Your Time: Hey Big Spender! Part 3 of 3

In my previous blog on Managing Your Time, I urged you to look at “time” as you do “money.” I invited you to assign a dollar amount to each work task in your day. By the end of the day, ideally, if you did everything on the list, you’d figuratively earn a day’s pay. If you slacked off instead, it would reflect in your bottom line. In this blog I’m suggesting you think of every minute of your workday as a dollar. Periodically throughout the day, ask yourself: Am I wasting or saving time right now?

Time is more precious than money. There are many similarities: they are limited, have value, and are measurable. If you viewed your time this way, you might be shocked to see how much better you are with your money than you are with your time. The difference between the two is that you can earn money back, but not time.

Consider viewing time spent playing video games, surfing social media, consenting to interruptions, and worrying as “throwing time” out the window. If you “throw out” an average of four hours a day ( 240 minutes) with every minute at $1, it’s $240 lost a day, x 7 days is $1680 a week out the window! Would you throw $1680 out the window every week? Hell, no! If you’re conservative with money, thinking of “time as money” is a great way to think twice before you act.

Need some extraordinary ways to manage time? Let me know. [email protected]

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Managing Your Time: What is Your Day Worth? Part 2 of 3

If money drives you, think about placing a dollar amount on your day equal to the effort and efficiency you put forth. This is one of my clients’ favorite strategies for enhancing productivity and assessing their performance at day’s end.

For example, imagine a day where you put forth your 100% personal best. What dollar amount might you tag to a day like that? $1000, $5000, $10,000? Let’s say $5000.  A $5000 day  assumes that every task on your list gets done, done well and delivered. The next step is to assign, according to the time needed per task, complexity and priority, a dollar amount where the maximum total for the day = $5000. For example:

  • refining a clear description of your business model = $500
  • making 5 cold calls to prospects = $1000
  • clearing your desk and planning your schedule for the next day = $1000
  • sending out the three proposals you’ve been putting off = $2500

Therefore, accomplishing all these tasks would earn you your max for the day ($5000). Consider attaching greater dollar amounts to the most undesirable, but essential tasks on your list.

At day’s end ask yourself : What did I pay myself today? What did I earn? $500, $2000? $4500? Where did I jip myself and how can make more tomorrow?  You can also use a self-rating scale from 1 (total slacking) to 10 (personal best) and resolve the next day to beat the previous day’s rating. If you easily made your quota, perhaps your allotments per task are too generous, or you can fit more into your day and pay yourself more.

Let me know how this works for you! Need help being productive in not so ordinary ways? Contact me at [email protected]   

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Managing Your Time: “Do the Most Good Possible” (Part 1 of 3)

Planning the next day’s activities with inspiration as your guide helps you make better choices with your time. In the next two blog posts, I will share ways of enhancing your performance in more mindful and meaningful ways. These approaches yield improved mental health, satisfaction and productivity for my busy clients. Today’s blog is about planning. No plan or a murky one = wasted time and focus.

Tonight before bed do two things: 1) Ask yourself, “How can I make the most of tomorrow?”  2) Create a specific plan for the next day. Consider the inspiring quote from psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s best seller The 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos “(Do) the most good possible in the shortest period of time.” So whenever someone tells you “Have a good day,” it’ll take on special meaning.

Planning with the Peterson quote in mind prioritizes the next day’s activities. For each activity list specific points or a breakdown of steps for each. This step will help you estimate the block of time needed for each activity. Use an week-at-a-glance hourly calendar and carve out a reasonable block of time needed for each activity; include any travel or transition time.

You’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve a plan for tomorrow. This way, when you get up, there’s no second-guessing or futzin’ around. Jump right into the day’s pre-set plan.

Here’s an example of how I do the most good possible in the shortest period of time:

6:00-7:00a.m.: yoga warm up=10m (minutes), squats, biceps/pull-ups= 5m, bike intervals= 30m, mat sequence =10m, cool down =5m. I’m psyched and my energy is blazing – that’s good!

7:00-8:30a.m.:  clean up, breakfast, review calendar, quick check emails/ texts, light chores.  Good to go!

8:30-11:30a.m.: Writing. Ch. 2 review, + 2 new sources, + client story, edit Chapter 3, etc. Good work that will eventually help readers do good!

Client sessions fill the remaining blocks of my working day. For you, it may be meetings or important conversations. Either way, just like the above examples, each block should have a series of points or steps specific to that task. This keeps you on track time-wise. Being organized and prepared in this way helps make these conversations timely and productive, which is good for all parties.

Circumstances may shift things a bit, but I pretty much stick to the plan. At the end of the day, I set aside a few minutes to drop a client an encouraging message, well-deserved kudos or a helpful suggestion. That’s adding just a little more good to someone’s day. I’ll be good to myself and set up some reward time for a day well lived – a walk in the woods, piano practice, or a game of table tennis.

A good day starts with planning – a CORE element essential for better focus and follow through. Let me help you build COREage for your goals. Contact me at [email protected]  

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