The Simple Secret to Overcoming Procrastination

time management nowHave you procrastinated this week? A huge reason we procrastinate is because we see big tasks on our list and assume we don’t have time to tackle them right now. This week, I was faced with a large task that had been on my list for a while. I FINALLY crossed it off my list by doing this…

Large Tasks and Small Tasks

Large tasks can always be broken down into smaller pieces. When you see a big task on your list, your first thought is, “Oh goodness, that will take forever. I’ll have to do that later.” But when you see a small task, it’s easier to think, “I can easily knock that out in 10 minutes or so.”

My Decal Dilemma

My sister in law gave my daughter some adorable Monkey decals to put up in her room. They are really cute, but come in about 100 small separate stickers that need to be put together on the wall to make the desired scene. (And they are in no particular order on the sticker sheet. Of course not. Why would they be.)

After a long day of work, the last thing in the world I want to do is spend a few hours sorting through all these stickers and applying them to our textured wall, which is definitely NOT sticker friendly. So this big task kept being added to the “later” pile.

One at a Time

Finally, this week, I decided the decals needed to happen…one sticker at a time. Every time I walked into her room, I placed one or two decals on the wall. It took about 30 seconds. It became sort of a game. Over the course of the whole week I watched the scene grow until FINALLY, yesterday, I put the last sticker on the wall.

As I stood back and admired my work, I was reminded that I can replicate this process with other tasks in my life.

How are books written? One page at a time.

How are presentations put together? One slide at a time.

Your Action Plan

What BIG task are you facing this week? Stop putting it off, and instead, break it into smaller pieces. What will you be tackling this week?

Do you have a procrastinating STUDENT in your life? Why not get them “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” on Amazon.com today!

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

How To Solve Your Time Management Dilemma Over Lunch

Time Management LunchHow many times has this happened to you? You’re at your wits’ end with a project. You know you’re wasting time going around in circles, but you don’t know what step to take next and in which direction. You know you should probably ask for help, but you don’t know who, where, or how, so you simply don’t, and continue the frustrating cycle. Sound familiar? Here is how I broke the cycle this week:

This week, I had a fabulous lunch with a dear friend that turned into a time management coaching session…for both of us. I’ve been going out of my mind the past few weeks as I’ve started to feel the pressure to tie up a million loose ends before Baby Schwartz makes her appearance. My friend was frustrated with a portion of a research paper that wasn’t coming together in a neat and tidy way.

Even though neither one of us could magically take away the other person’s frustration, it was immensely helpful to talk through it and brainstorm solutions. We both left feeling much more confident in our abilities to accomplish our goals. Here are three tips to do the same:

1. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re frustrated

Sometimes we’re afraid to ask for help or admit we’re stuck because we’re afraid of looking stupid or admitting weakness. It takes a strong person to articulate frustration and seek resources to solve a problem. Friends can be that resource.

2. Don’t just vent, look for solutions

Venting and complaining can bring a temporary sense of relief, but it doesn’t actually solve anything. After a brief complaining session, steer the conversation toward brainstorming solutions that can evolve into an actual plan.

3. Share your successes

Follow up with your friends and let them know what worked and what didn’t work! This is less for your friend’s sake, and more for yours. It helps celebrate your successes and focus on positive improvements instead of negative problems.

Finally, I recommend having these conversations over delicious food or coffee. The helpfulness of that factor simply can’t be overlooked :-)

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Are Your Goals Gathering Dust in Your Closet?

Time Management ClosetDo you have “nice” clothes sitting in your closet that you never wear because you’re waiting for the right special occasion? (Men, if this is a foreign concept to you, it’s definitely a thing, and we women do it all the time.)

Perhaps you also have dreams and goals, both big and small, that you want to accomplish…some day. What are you waiting for? There is no perfect time, perfect occasion, or hand delivered invitation letting you know when the time is right. No, the perfect time is now.

My Fashion Fiasco

Last week, I dug through my closet for something “special” to wear out and found a dress wrapped in a garment bag. “Oh perfect!” I thought. “I’ve been saving this dress!” I had only worn it a small handful of times since I bought it 4 years ago as it seemed far too nice to wear for just any ol’ date night or dinner party. I proudly tried it on and looked in the mirror…

…and sighed a deflated sigh. It wasn’t in style anymore, nor did it fit right. When I bought it, I felt cutting edge and stunning because it fit like a glove and was definitely “on trend,” but now it looked tired. The time to wear this dress was 4 years ago, not now. I had missed my opportunity while waiting for “someday.”

What Are You Saving for Some Day?

What do you want to do that you’re putting off until someday? I can go buy another dress, but life opportunities don’t work like fashion. Once they are gone, they’re gone. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you the time is right, allow me to be that person. Make time in your schedule today for something you’ve been putting off.

(And go wear those nice shoes and the perfect pants. Tomorrow is not any more special than today.)

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How to Wake Up Earlier

Time management morningWhat would YOU do with an extra hour in the day? Would you exercise? Spend it with family? Clean that room you’ve been meaning to get to? One of the easiest places to find more time in your day is in the morning. Unfortunately, we aren’t all chipper morning people who easily bound out of bed at 5am, ready to start the day.  Try these three tips to start your morning before the sun does:

1. Schedule a morning appointment

Getting up early is easier to do when you’re accountable to someone else. Try joining a networking group, exercise class, or book club that meets early in the morning. When I chose a Toastmasters club last spring, I almost opted for the 11:30 lunch break meeting, but instead chose a club that met at 6:30 in the morning. Not only does this force me out of bed earlier, but it leaves my afternoon hours free for other things!

2. Look forward to breakfast

Aren’t you much more eager to get out of bed when you know that a gourmet cup of coffee and delicious omelet are in your immediate future? A luxurious breakfast need not take a lot of time. Take a few minutes before bed and cut up some veggies and chicken to throw into a pan with some eggs in the morning. Or just spend the extra few bucks and spring for the “good” cereal or coffee. Having a delicious breakfast to look forward to can provide an extra boost of morning motivation.

3. Lay off the Snooze Button

Set your alarm clock for the time you “no really” want to be up. Setting it earlier and allowing yourself to hit the snooze button 4 times will just decrease the amount of restful sleep you get and allow yourself to linger in bed for longer than you planned.

Like most things in your schedule, getting up early only becomes part of your routine when you do it regularly and form a habit. Don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult the first week or two. Just stick with it, and enjoy the new-found time in your day!

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Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

The Side Streets of Time Management

Have you ever been traveling with a friend who is convinced he has a faster way to get to your destination? It’s usually a little-known side street or back road. These side streets can either shorten your journey…or waste a tremendous amount of your time after getting you lost.

We run across similar shortcuts in our time management.  Before you take a time management shortcut (such as skipping or shortening a step in a process), ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I Have Enough Experience?

Let’s pretend that you’re on your way to a new destination and two people suggest a shortcut. One of those people has never traveled the road before, while the other travels it frequently. Whose advice are you more likely to take? Experience is crucial when deciding which steps to remove from a process. If you’ve never completed a certain task before, it’s a good idea to follow all of the steps in detail, even if you think they might waste your time. As a novice, you don’t know the consequences of removing a step.

2. Am I Just Being Lazy?

If we’re looking for tasks to cut out of a process, we’re most likely to turn to the most tedious and annoying tasks first. It’s important to determine if those tasks truly aren’t necessary, or if you just don’t feel like doing them.

To use a simple example, I was making “For Rent” signs for our rental property the other day. At first, I was marking out the word placement in pencil before inking the final letters in marker. Pretty soon, I got lazy and stopped my pencil layout…only to discover that now my posters were crooked. I cut out the intermediary step not because it was unnecessary, but because I didn’t feel like doing it.

3. Will This Shortcut Make More Work Later?

Sometimes what seems like a shortcut now, in reality, just makes more work for ourselves later. Remember: later always gets here eventually. It’s much faster to do a small, annoying task now, than let those small tasks pile up. Procrastination is the enemy of time management. A shortcut is only truly a shortcut if it saves time, not if it just puts off work until later.

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are You Letting Fear Hold You Back?

This week, you will likely see some spooky ghosts and goblins on your doorstep. However, Halloween isn’t the only time we encounter things that scare us. Some of our fears follow us year round and try to both interfere with our time management, and inhibit us from accomplishing our goals. Unfortunately, it will take more than some free candy to make these scary things go away.

We strive to have excellent time management skills to efficiently work toward our goals. Sometimes, even though we know the steps we need to take in order to reach our target, we let our fears get in the way.  Be careful not to let these three fears stop you from reaching your goals.

1. Fear of The Unknown

Even though we may be dreaming of change, the fact of the matter is, it can be a terrifying concept. The unknown is scary. Sometimes it’s easier to put off taking concrete steps toward a goal simply because the status quo is so familiar. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. If you need help taking that first step into the unknown, look around. You probably aren’t the first one to venture down that path.

2. Fear of Failure

Failure is not enjoyable and in an effort to protect ourselves from that horrible feeling, we sometimes avoid trying at all. If we never try, we won’t succeed, but we also don’t run the risk of failing! This avoidance isn’t something we’re always completely aware of. A common method of failure avoidance is to busy ourselves with so many other things that we can tell ourselves we “don’t have time” to accomplish what we know is really important. Remember: we make time for what’s important to us. Failure, while painful to our ego, doesn’t have to be a dead end, but is rather a necessary pit stop on the way to success.

3. Fear of Disappointing Others

Many of us let other people dictate the way we spend our time. We do things not necessarily because we want to do them, but because we think it’s what others expect of us and we don’t want to let them down. Here is the thing: other people don’t care nearly as much as you think they do. People who are close to you just want you to be happy, and people who aren’t close to you are too busy worrying about how everyone else is perceiving them, that they don’t have time to judge how you’re spending your time. You need to devote your time and energy to tasks that support your own goals, not the goals of others.

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Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stop Setting Yourself Up To Fail

“I’m just not that good at time management.” “I’m not an organized person.” “I’m a born procrastinator.”

These are some of the things I’ve heard people say to account for missed deadlines or a lack of productivity. However, when we attribute our productivity failures to a seemingly unchangeable personal trait, we don’t leave ourselves much opportunity or hope for improvement.

In order to change our productivity trajectory, we must first realize that we have the ability to change it. Otherwise, all of the time management advice in the world doesn’t stand a chance of helping.

Analyze Your Effort

During my time teaching elementary school music, one of my students was almost pulled from my program due to failing math grades. I took him aside and said, “What’s the deal? I know you are a smart and motivated student, but your math teacher tells me you don’t put forth any effort on your math homework.” He replied, “Mrs. Schwartz. I’m bad at math. Why in the world would I waste my time trying when I know I’m bad at something?”

He was stuck in a perpetual cycle. He said he was bad at math, so he put forth little effort…which in turn, made him continue to get worse!

When we label ourselves a “bad time manager” we can’t help but try less. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and everyone will not be equally stellar at all tasks, but we must take an honest look at whether or not we mask a lack of effort with a label of failure. Instead of saying “I’m bad at time management” tweak your thinking to be, “Time management doesn’t come as easily to me, so I’m going to have to try harder than most to meet my deadlines.”

Change Your Strategy

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Few people would disagree with that famous quote, yet we often let ourselves get trapped in a perpetual cycle of failure anyway. If you’ve tried to manage your time with the same calendar, the same to-do list, and the same strategies for years and they aren’t working, then you’re long over due for a change! Some methods work better for different people. Perhaps the reason you haven’t found time management success is because you’re struggling to use a method that just doesn’t work for you. Try changing your approach instead of instantly labeling yourself a productivity failure.

Stop the Comparison

The quickest way to get stuck in a motivational rut is to compare yourself to others. Having role models is important, but there is a difference between a constructive admiration of someone’s ability, and a constant comparison of yourself to everyone around you. This leads to only seeing the good in others and only seeing the bad in ourselves.

We might beat ourselves up over the fact that our colleague always finishes projects three times faster than we do, or that a friend finds time to be involved in countless hobbies while we struggle to maintain one or two. What we might overlook is that same colleague may never spend time with her family or that friend may be cracking under the stress of all his obligations.

Don’t strive to be better at managing your obligations than others. Strive to be the best time manager you need to be to accomplish your goals.

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Worry is the Thief of…Time Management?

When we are stressed about something, we try not to think about it. However, there is a difference between avoiding a worry that is stealing our focus, and putting off a dreaded task indefinitely. One is a healthy way to avoid stress. The other can lead to a time management disaster.

It’ll Get Done!

In college, I had a friend who functioned as sort of a “stress police” for me. Whenever she caught me stressing out about an assignment, she would say, “Don’t worry about it! It’ll get done!”

I think about those words frequently. I want so badly to believe they are sage advice. How nice it must be to simply not worry about the work we have to do and trust that it will just…happen. As I add more roles and responsibilities to my life, I want even more to believe that the “It’ll all get done” attitude is the way to go. I’ve come to the conclusion that the attitude itself isn’t so bad. It’s just missing a step. It’s missing the plan.

Hiding Your Worries

When we are staring down a big, difficult task that stresses us out, we will sometimes try to put it out of our heads and think about other things. This relieves the stress in the short term, but just delays the inevitable. It’s like throwing a sheet over the dishes in the sink. You can no longer see them, but the mess is still there. This isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes you have to throw a sheet over your mess so it doesn’t stress you out while you’re working on other things. However, you need a plan for when to take the sheet off. Otherwise, you have just created a nasty procrastination habit that is going to cause more problems for you later.

When you find yourself worrying about a dreaded task, stop. Either:

1. Start the task now or

2. Create a written plan for when the task will begin

The Plan is Key

Once you have a realistic plan, then you can allow yourself to say, “Don’t worry about it. It’ll get done!” Now, you’re not relying on things to just “happen,” you have a concrete plan for how they are going to happen. Of course, something can always go wrong, but you have little control over that, and we all know how useless it is to worry about something we can’t control. So go ahead! Allow yourself to stop worrying about that upcoming task! As long as you have a plan for its completion.

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Photo Credit: Chanpipat, Free Digital Photos

3 Reasons My New Puppy is Terrible at Time Management

This past week, we were adopted by a puppy named Molly, (who many of you saw on Facebook.) As with tiny humans, tiny dogs consume a good deal of your time and energy. In the past seven days, I have discovered that the new addition to our family is terrible at time management. I tried to explain to her that since her mommy is a time management speaker, this behavior would have to change immediately, but so far I’ve only received tail-wags and face-licks in response. I take this to mean she is deeply considering my suggestions. Allow me to explain what I’ve observed…

3 Reasons Molly is Terrible at Time Management

1) She is Easily Distracted

Molly was not potty trained, so I have taken on that endeavor this week. She goes outside with one mission: pee on the grass. When we leave the house, she is goal-oriented and focused. She prances proudly to the side yard, with purpose and determination. Then the neighbor’s dog barks…and she sees a leaf on the ground…and a bird flies by. Pretty soon, all sense of her original goal is gone and I’m left to stand outside for 20 minutes in the hot Arizona sun.  When we allow ourselves to be distracted, moving haphazardly from one task to the next, our work takes longer. We must approach our tasks with laser-like focus, tuning out distractions until we are finished. Short bursts of focused work are more effective than long stretches of unfocused work.

2) She Doesn’t Plan Ahead

Molly refuses to eat when I put her bowl down at dinnertime, but then whines during the night when she’s hungry. I tried to calmly explain to her that 6pm is dinnertime and 10pm is sleeping time, but sadly, they don’t seem to make calendars for puppies. We are all guilty of putting off tasks we don’t want to do. We become very skilled at rationalizing our procrastination, but that only worsens the problem. Don’t let yourself continually put off tasks, and then whine when you’re stressed right before the deadline.

3) She Panics in New Situations

The first night I put Molly in her crate, you’d think I had put her in mortal danger. She flailed about, barking and crying for hours. Her circumstance was clearly not changing any time soon, but she continued to expend her energy complaining about it. This blatant waste of energy upsets me. When we’re faced with new situations, or a sudden change of circumstance, we must keep calm and adapt quickly.  To do anything else is a waste of our time. We are the most productive when we can keep a cool head in stressful situations.

Molly will get better at all of these things because she has humans training her, however, we will only get better at time management if we train ourselves to form good habits.

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