Which Type of Procrastinator Are You?

We all put things off from time to time, but how to kick the habit depends on why and how you procrastinate. Which of the following 3 procrastinators are you?

The Dare Devil

Time Management DaredevilDare Devils thrive under pressure and live for the thrill of a last-minute crunch time. They find it difficult to stay motivated until the last possible second so they put off their work until the deadline is looming. Then, they work like crazy, forsaking sleep, food, family time, etc…promising themselves they will never do it again.

The Solution

One reason people thrive under pressure is it becomes easier to tune out distractions during crunch time. Are you more likely to check your email and glance at Facebook when you’re working on an urgent deadline or non-urgent one? Exactly. Remove distracting Time Killers so they don’t tempt you. Then you’ll be able to work with the focus of an urgent deadline without having to actually live so close to the edge.

Time Management ProcrastinatorThe Rationalizer

Rationalizers are experts at convincing themselves that their work doesn’t have to be done right now. They will find excuses, make bargains with themselves, or downplay the importance of a deadline.

The Solution

Excuses are harder to make when your goals are staring you in the face. Why are you working so hard? Who inspires you? What are you trying to achieve? Make sure the answers to those questions are top of mind when you’re working. Post your goals near your workplace. Seek out people you admire and constantly remind yourself of the important motivators that drive you.

The Overwhelmed Ostrichtime management ostrich

Sometimes we have tasks that are so monstrous, it seems we never have time to start them. When we see the task on our to-do list we skip right past it, hoping it will just go away if we don’t look at it – the time management equivalent of burying your head in the sand.

The Solution

Break a large task into tiny chunks and write those chunks down on your to-do list. Don’t even write the big task at all. It’s too intimidating. Then rejoice in the satisfaction of crossing those little chunks off one by one. This helps accomplish large tasks in 20 or 30 minute time periods since realistically, you can’t always devote a whole day to accomplishing a huge task.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

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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Why Urgent Is Easy But Planning Is Hard

Time Management UrgentWhen you stare at your to-do list, you subconsciously look for three things:

Tasks that are easy
Tasks that are urgent and
Tasks that are important.

When only one task stands out as fitting all of those categories, deciding what to do first is a no-brainer. On the other hand, when everything feels urgent, we have a stressful problem I like to call “Priority Paralysis,” but what about when nothing feels urgent? Here are three reasons an urgent-free to-do list can be a problem and what to do about it!

1. We don’t know what to do first

Urgent vs non-urgent tasks make prioritizing easy, but if “urgent” is the only thing you look for when deciding which task to tackle, what happens when nothing presents an urgent deadline? You don’t know what to do first! This is why The Time Diet is based on categorizing. Pick a Meat task (difficult) Vegetable task (easy) and Dessert task (fun) to focus on during your day. That gives you some parameters to help structure your schedule in a way that ensures you’ll get ahead on your non-urgent tasks while maintaining balance in your day.

2. We’re likely to procrastinate

Another problem with an urgent-free to-do list is that we’re tempted to do nothing! It’s easy to procrastinate when none of our deadlines are urgent at the moment. Remember, if you only deal with tasks when they are urgent, that ensures that you’ll always be faced with a last minute stressful time crunch. Try scheduling “start dates” in your calendar for each “due date.” It’s easy to say we’ll begin something later, but a start date defines exactly when “later” is.

3. We waste time

When we aren’t up against the pressure of an urgent deadline, it’s easy to allow Time Killers to distract us. When people thrive on the pressure of a deadline, it’s often because there is  less time to be distracted and it forces them to focus and work more efficiently. This concept is called Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill the time we give it. Try removing Time Killers (smartphone, Facebook, etc…) even while you complete non-urgent work so you finish faster.

A non-urgent to-do list is definitely something to celebrate, but not ignore. You’ll never eliminate last-minute time crunch crises, but by efficiently organizing your non-urgent tasks, you’ll be able to decrease the amount of time spent up against a deadline.

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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

The Real Reason You Weren’t Productive Today

time management frustrationWe’ve all looked at a lengthy to-do list and wondered, “What in the world should I do first?” Sometimes, however, we know what we should do first, we just don’t want to do it because it’s difficult, time consuming, or worst of all…we’re scared.

When we’re scared to do something, we never actually admit it to ourselves. Instead, we come up with wild excuses to put it off. Try these three steps to conquer your fears, boost your productivity, and finally do those tasks you know need to happen to reach your goals.

1. Tell Someone You’re Scared

It’s easier to make up an excuse for procrastinating rather than admit that we’re afraid to fail, or doubt our own abilities. Verbalizing those fears to others can help us see how unfounded they truly are. Hearing it said out loud helps us admit that we’re putting something off because of fear, not because of the other excuses we’ve imagined. Plus, if you tell a close friend or family member, he or she can remind you why you do have the skills to accomplish what you need to and that the only thing holding you back is…you.

2. Pinpoint What You’re Scared Of

Once you realize it’s fear that’s holding you back, try to pinpoint exactly what it is you’re scare of. Are you scared of being told “no?” Are you scared of losing money? Embarrassing yourself? Wasting your time? Pinpointing your fear can help you address it more directly.

3. Determine What the Reward Could Be

Once this scary task is completed, what will you gain? A new job? More clients? A sense of accomplishment? More money? Pride? Happiness? Defining the reward gives you motivation and helps you realize how “silly” the fear is compared to the reward it could produce. For example, are you really willing to give up a chance at a better career because you’re afraid of being told “no?” Are you really willing to give up on a great opportunity because you’re afraid to pick up that phone, or send that email, or start that project?

This week, I challenge you to make time for at least one thing that scares you. What will you accomplish by casting fear aside and tackling those important tasks that will propel you forward?

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The 5-Minute Rule in 3 Easy Steps

Time Management 5 MinutesLook at your to-do list. Have you been staring at the same tiny tasks, day after day, putting them off until the infamous “later?” What if I told you those tasks are actually wasting your time? The time spent worrying about, making excuses for, and dealing with the consequences of a tiny unfinished task greatly outweigh the time it would take to actually finish it. This is why I’m a huge advocate of The 5-Minute Rule:

If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now

Not later, not tomorrow, now.

You can give it a try today. Pick a tiny “Vegetable” task from your list you’ve been putting off, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. Will this be any easier to do tomorrow?

2. Is there any reason I can’t do this right now?

3. Will this take more than 5 minutes of my time?

If the answer to all three questions is “no,” then go finish that task right now. In fact, when you’re finished, email me (Emily@TheTimeDiet.org) and let me know what you did! I would love to know what this blog inspired people to do.

My “Battery” of Excuses

I’ll share my example of The 5-Minute Rule from this week. The battery in my garage door clicker died a week ago.  When I come home, I pull into the driveway, get out of the car, open the garage manually, get back in the car, and drive in. A huge problem in the grand scheme of life? No. But every time I did it, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that I haven’t taken 5 seconds to get a replacement battery out of the drawer and change it, but by the time I get inside, I’m distracted with a million other things to do and the thought of going back out into the garage seems simply absurd.

My excuses were fabulous: “I’m sure those batteries are lost by now,” “It’s always so difficult to get the back of the clicker open,” “ I already took my shoes off and I don’t want to step on a scorpion in the garage” (a real consideration in Arizona!) Finally, I said, enough! I write a time management blog and this behavior is simply unacceptable.  I started the stop watch on my phone and went to change the battery. When all was said and done,  2 minutes and 30 seconds had elapsed. 150 seconds. Why in the world hadn’t I done that sooner?

What will you accomplish using The 5-Minute Rule? Drop me a line and let me know!

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How To Turn “Meaning To” Into “Done”

Time Management Reminder“I’ve been meaning to get to that!”

Have you uttered that phrase recently? When we say this, it’s usually our way of saying, “Hey, look, I know that what you’re asking of me is important, and it’s been on my mind frequently, I just haven’t made it a priority yet.” The next time a task you’ve been meaning to do is on your mind, ask yourself the following three questions to turn meaning to into done.

1. Can I do it now?

When an important task is on your mind, it’s easy to say, “I’ll do it later” but what is stopping you from doing it right now? Is there a reason you can’t pick up the phone right now and make that call? Or type up that document? Or send that email? You might not feel like doing it now, but will you feel any more like doing it 24 hours from now? Instead of thinking about how long it will take, or how much you wish you didn’t have to do it, focus on how good it will feel to not have this task tugging at your mind anymore.

2. If not now, when?

Sometimes, we think of important tasks when we’re in the middle of something else and it would be distracting and counterproductive to drop what we’re doing and switch gears. In this case, instead of saying “later,” pull out your calendar and commit to “when.” Even if it’s a tiny task that doesn’t seem like it deserves it’s own place in your agenda, add it anyway. It’s much harder to put something off when you’ve validated its importance with a spot in your calendar.

3. If not when, ever?

If you’re still having trouble making this task a priority, is it really necessary? Remember, we make time for the things that are important to us. If you can’t make time, perhaps it’s because what you thought was important is really just something you wish was important or should be important. Either acknowledge it as something you value and start making the time, or accept that it’s something you can live without, and let it go.

Last week, I joined Toastmasters. I’ve been meaning to do it for the past year or so and just haven’t. I finally decided it was important, so I found a club, put it on my calendar, went to the meeting, and loved it. What have you been “meaning to do” this month? What are you waiting for?

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Procrastination, Peeps, And Why Both Are OK Sometimes

Time Management PeepsThe day after Easter is a pretty fabulous day on my calendar. It is the day that my local grocery store puts Peeps on sale for 75% off. I suppose I use the sale to justify eating those glorious, sugary, terribly unhealthy marshmallow chicks once a year.  That’s why I put off buying them until the last minute before they clear off the shelves. Now, doing anything at the last minute makes me a little uneasy, what with being a time management speaker and all, but I’ve found that sometimes a little procrastination doesn’t hurt, especially when you have a good reason. That advice saved me hours of time this week. Allow me to explain:

To Procrastinate or Not to Procrastinate

I have a grant proposal due tomorrow. Not wanting to put it off, I sat down to start it earlier in the week, and immediately became frustrated. Words and ideas just weren’t coming to me. I stared at the blank computer screen, occasionally typing a mangled sentence or two, and then immediately deleting them because they made no sense. I was not at all in the right mindset to conjure up brilliant thoughts and began to realize that writing a 10-page proposal could easily take me all day at this pace. This was torture.

I closed my computer telling myself I would come back to it later, but that didn’t feel right. “I’m procrastinating!” I thought. “I should just do this now and be done with it.” But as the minutes ticked by and my document continued to remain stagnant, I knew I was wasting my time. I would have to give “do it later” a shot. (Besides, NPR said it was OK.)

Coming Back to it Later

Over the next couple of days, I wrote down a few scattered proposal ideas that came to me while doing other things. I woke up on Friday morning feeling inspired and took a look at the ideas I had written. The picture of what I needed to do was all starting to become clear, and I sat down and hammered out 5 solid pages pretty much without stopping. After getting a strong start, doubling that number proved to be no trouble at all.

Had I continued to work on the proposal the first day I tired, I probably would have finished it, but it would have taken hours. I had the luxury of time and needed to step away from the project for a while and come back to it later. Was I procrastinating? Sure. But it ended up working out for the better.

What’s The Point?

The point of this week’s blog is not to say that you should always stop doing things when they become difficult and put them off until later. The point is that sometimes procrastination can be justified. Whether you are waiting to buy your favorite once-a-year sugary snack for a few pennies, or waiting for a spell of writer’s block to pass, there are times when waiting until “later” can pay off. Just don’t make your last minute solution a habit.

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Schedule Your “When”

Time Management Start NowOften when we say we “haven’t gotten around to” something, what we really mean is that we haven’t committed to a deadline and tried. When a boss or supervisor is checking up on us, we’re forced to finish our tasks, but when we are only accountable to ourselves, we can sometimes allow too much leeway. This is why creating a deadline and making a commitment are half the battle. Make this the week that you schedule your “when.”

“When” before “How”

When our schedules are already bursting, we don’t like to add more things to them. It doesn’t seem like we’re able to fit anything else into our day, so we wait. We put off tasks that are important to us at the expense of tasks that we owe to other people. It’s difficult to figure out how you’ll find time to do something if you don’t first set a goal of when. Once the when is established, the how comes much more easily.

My Deadline

As part of my doctoral degree, I have to take three written exams. There is no set date these are offered. Students are supposed to schedule them whenever they feel “ready.” I have been waiting for the day when I wake up and feel “ready” to regurgitate all of the knowledge I’ve acquired in the past three years, and that day has yet to come. My days are full as they are and I don’t have large blocks of time at my disposal to study for these exams. This week, I realized the only way I’ll ever finish these tests is if I just schedule them.

The last week of January, I will be taking my first doctoral written exam. My “when” has been established. Over the next month and a half, I’m going to figure out the “how.”

Schedule Your When

Have you been putting off something that’s important to you or that you know needs to be done? What are you waiting for? Take out your calendar, pick a day, and make a commitment. Putting it in your calendar makes it real and forces you to start constructing a plan. Until you add it to your schedule, your task is just an idea. Turn your idea into an obligation.

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Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos.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

Time Management? That’s Debatable

“That’s ridiculous” “You don’t know what you’re talking about” “That’s just not true.”

These could be statements from one of the recent Presidential debates, but you might also recognize them from the internal time management debate we have in our heads all the time. When we don’t want to do something, our responsible side says we need to do it anyway, and our inner procrastinator says to do it later. Consider the following when you’re trapped in a time management debate.

 1.  You Never Regret Productivity

Think about it like this, when we convince ourselves to tackle something now instead of putting it off, we rarely ever say, “Gosh, I really wish I hadn’t done that.” However, when we choose to procrastinate, we rarely say, “That was a wonderful decision.” Use this experience to your advantage.

2.  Imagine the Worst Case Scenario

Rather than think of the benefits of getting work done early, sometimes it’s more effective to think of the problems that come from procrastinating. Think of what the worst possible scenario could be if you put off your work. If that scenario sounds unappealing to you, start the task now to avoid it.

3. Find a Productivity Coach

It’s usually pretty easy to find people in our lives who will encourage and enable us to procrastinate, however, it’s important to find that one friend or colleague who instead tells you to snap to your senses and just start your work. Think of this friend as your “Productivity Coach” who you can call when you are in need of some help in your time management debate. Sometimes just hearing another person weigh in can give your productive side enough of a boost to be victorious.

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