Procrastination versus Effective Action
We all know that in order to be successful, we must take action. It’s simple, right? Then why is it so hard to do? Often it’s because the tasks are boring or difficult, or something we just don’t want to do. So, how do we overcome this? The problem is that denial won’t cause the task to go away. Procrastination won’t make it any easier; in fact, it will make it harder. So what do we do?
Here are a few ideas that can help:
Take a look at your thinking. If your mind is full of negative thoughts, you will start to believe that the task is impossible and that it’s okay to give up, put it off, or leave it unfinished. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I will get this done now.”
Get to know when you’re peak performance time is. Regardless of how you feel about the task, choose that time to do it if it’s urgent or important
Make the main thing the main thing. Decide what your most important tasks are and do them first. Prioritize and organize. Often people use the excuse of working on email as a way to put off more important work. It isn’t being rude to ignore your email; it’s prioritizing and taking responsibility for what you need to do.
Are you overextending yourself? Learn to say no. Many times it’s hard to say no either because we don’t want to let somebody down or because we’re afraid to turn jobs away. But the truth is that if we overextend ourselves, we might not finish any of our jobs or we might finish them late. Either way, our clients will be unhappy. Most clients will respect an honest no if you are too busy, and will either opt for a later time or find someone else for the job, but they will remember and appreciate your honesty.
Be careful about distractions. People may come to you and say, “I just have a quick question,” and that might be true. But if 20 people come to you with a quick question, your day is used up with other people’s work. Either tell them you will get back to them at another time, or, better yet, don’t answer the request in the first place. When you’re important tasks are completed, you will find time to answer the questions you really want to answer.
Learn to make decisions decisively. Some people train themselves to do this by setting a stopwatch. They give themselves 1 minute to make a decision and then move on. If you spend too long deciding, you might not make a decision at all.
Don’t forget to treat yourself. No matter how hard we work on our mindset, there will always be some tasks we just don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with a bribe for completing the things we don’t like to do.
Take a look at the time you waste when you’re away from your computer. What do you do when you’re shopping, driving, or standing in lines? Is the real estate between your ears going to waste? Do you fill that time was worrying or negative thoughts? Instead, train your mind to be thinking about new things you can do for your business. Take a notebook with you and write down any ideas you have that might improve your business. This is a very popular technique because frequently people have great ideas but can’t remember them by the time they get to a place where they can write them down.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just as you don’t want to be overwhelmed by people or things outside yourself, you don’t want to set unreasonable goals for yourself. Come to understand what you can reasonably accomplish in a certain period of time and make that your goal.
Then, break it down into steps so that you won’t be overwhelmed in the process of completing it. Remember the old adage,” By the yard it’s hard, by the inch it’s a cinch”.
For tasks that you find especially daunting or unpleasant, you could make use of some tools that lots of people like. One is a simple kitchen timer. Set it for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes and work as intensely as you can on the project. Then take a break and work on something else for a while and come back to it.
Learning to Focus
In his very interesting book, The Four Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss has a chapter on time management in which he tells us to forget all about it. He asks us five questions:
- If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours per day, what would you do?
- If you have a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what would you do?
- If you have a gun to your head and had to stop doing 4/5ths of different time-consuming activities, what would you remove?
- What are the top three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive?
- Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplished today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
While Ferriss may not have a lot of respect for time management, he has a great deal of respect for focus. All five of his questions are attempting to get his readers to focus on the important things and minimize or throw out completely the unimportant things. Can you answer these questions for yourself?
Ferriss also talks about the 80/20 rule – you’re probably aware of it – which says that 80% of the output result from 20% of the inputs. Another way to look at this is that 80% of the results come from 20% of the time, or 80% of the profits come from 20% of the products and customers. (Pareto’s law).
A final thing Ferriss discusses is Parkinson’s law which states that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. Ferriss contends that giving too much time to do any task, we make a mountain out of a mole hill and that a product of better quality will be produced when given less time. In all fairness, it all depends on the project. You can’t demand a product in a day that in actuality needs a week to produce and expect top quality. But the point he’s making is about focus. And the point we need to take away is that we need to take a fresh honest look at our business and make the main thing the main thing.
What is your 20%? How much time do you spend doing the 80% in order to avoid doing the 20%? When you can answer that honestly, you probably understand exactly what focus is. Now the steps are clear:
- Decide what your 20% is
- Ask yourself why you’re not focusing on it.
- Decide how you’re going to make the main thing the main thing.
Most of us get caught up in trying to accomplish trivial tasks. It makes us feel good. But what you make out of your business and your life is the outcome of what you focus on. So it’s critical to focus on the most meaningful things in your business and in your life.
Like so many other things in life, learning to focus comes down to making a decision that you will do it