Monday Mornings with Madison


We all are selective procrastinators. We all have that list of things that we know we should do. These are important tasks and were we to act on them, our lives would be improved in some way. But we push them off for one big reason: these are the things we don’t enjoy doing. So instead we busy ourselves with tasks that are less important but more enjoyable. On some level, we hope that the jobs we dislike will magically disappear if we ignore them long enough.

Usually those important things become, in the end, important and urgent. Then we have no choice but to do them. But by that point, we don’t have the time or the focus to do them right. Once again, we pay the price for procrastinating.

If you want to get out of this rut, the first step to take is to recognize that you are indeed procrastinating. It’s not that you don’t have enough time. You do have the time. You just don’t have the will. But start with a small step. Jot down the list of things that you know you should do today or this week. Then look at that list and try to identify the fear or discomfort that stops you from tackling those jobs now. What are you avoiding, and why?

Now add up the benefits that you would gain if you finished off those tasks. What would happen if you did? What will happen if you don’t? And if it’s something that you know you have to do anyway, why not do it now when you have the time and focus? Consider, in other words, what you actually gain from acting, rather than procrastinating.
The next steps will help you move that to-do list to the Out box of your mind.
Do it first: Time management experts recommend tackling your to-do list first thing in the morning. The reasoning behind this advice is that you usually push the jobs you dislike to the end of the day, and then you can tell yourself that it’s just too late to start on them. If you tackle them first thing in the morning, you can give them the energy and time they require and you can then go on with your day with a solid sense of accomplishment.

Be accountable: One of the best ways to get things done is to tell someone else your plans. Disclosure makes you accountable. Telling someone what you’re going to do, and when, increases the likelihood of actually doing it because you can’t just quietly slink away from the challenge. It doesn’t matter so much who you tell — it can be a business acquaintance, a colleague, a supervisor or a mentor. What matters is that once you’ve said it, you trigger your own sense of accountability. If you feel that you have someone to report back to, you’re much less like to procrastinate.

Set your own timer: Some people find it useful to set a 24-hour rule for tasks. This means that they have 24 hours to tackle any new task or else the job expires. Other people set an internal timer for phone calls and emails: every call or email must get a response within 24 hours or else it gets deleted. This is a useful tool for separating out the important messages from the time-wasters.

Many people procrastinate because their tasks seem too daunting. If you focus on everything that has to get done, any job can quickly become too complicated to tackle. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. To counter this, break a big job down into small jobs. What’s the very first thing you have to do? Do you have the tools and information that you need for this first step?  And if you don’t, the first step becomes to get the tools and information you need. Then you can go on to the second step in the process and ask yourself the same questions. Do this until you’ve questioned and answered each step of the way. You know what you have to do and how to do it. Now you can start with the first step and just do it!

“You don”t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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