The average desk has 36 hours of procrastinated work on it. Let’s hope you’re producing at a higher rate.
Not Enough Time?
Management guru Peter Drucker says “Time is the scarcest resource.” Everyone has exactly 24 hours in their day. If you waste one minute, out of the 1440 you have each day, you’ll never get it back.
Guess what? You can’t manage time. You can manage your results, and isn’t achieving all your meaningful results what matters, not “managing time”?
The person among us is rare who operates his or her life as if it actually mattered. Most of us live our days as if we had inexhaustible “time accounts.” Thrift with our money has no correlation to our management of our time.
How we spend our time is mostly a matter of learned and practiced habits. There are two crucial areas to “time management”:
- Structuring your time (figuring out exactly what you have to do and determining when you have to do it)
- Setting priorities
The chief pitfall in structuring time or the old time management trap: making a lot of different lists on envelopes or scraps of paper. You take your eyes off your lists, lose your lists, confuse yourself, or all three.
Simple Results Management Systems
Find a system that contains all your lists, calendar, etc., and is convenient to carry with you. Track everything you want and have to do as well as your ideas, phone numbers, and other commonly needed information. This could be an app that’s shared on your phone and other devices, or an appointment book.
Copy ten items (not more!) that you intend to accomplish per day onto a daily to-do list. There are courses to train you in time management, coupled with a proprietary organizer, book or app.
The trap in priority setting is overkill. You can’t accomplish ten major items in one day. If you overload yourself, you won’t get anything done. Set limits. Group items on your daily list into three categories: urgent/important, medium-priority, and routine. Include a mix of each daily.
Time Management Procrastination
Time management is the fine art of keeping up with yesterday (if you like a life filled with mini-crises). It may be a problem of poor decision-making and lack of a structure for accountability.
The average desk has 36 hours of procrastinated work on it. 14% of New Year’s resolutions are kept by March 1st. Our culture is designed to support procrastination. 80% of middle managers have exercise gear, but only 16% use their gear on a regular basis.
Perfectionism may be at the root of your habit. You are choosing NOT to do something when you procrastinate, when you don’t decide.
You get sidetracked easily into doing things you didn’t plan to do. You let minor things take up major portions of your time, like web surfing, dawdling over email & other busywork.
You schedule something for every minute of every day. Always on the verge of being swamped by the things you “have to do,” there’s neither time nor time management left over to focus on hard, important tasks or taking care of yourself. You get bogged down in minor things that subordinates should handle.
When something is super important, you’ll usually get it done on time and in good order, but in other areas of your life you tend to be lackadaisical about organizing your time. Those pile up, nag at your conscience and drain energy, passion and creativity.
Things you would like to do get put off because you never seem to have time; non-critical work assignments keep slipping further and further down in the growing pile of paperwork on your desk; the dreams of accomplishment you once had seem to recede further and further from reach.
To improve your habits in using your time, work on these areas: concentration, setting priorities, and keeping a time diary. R. Alex Mackenzie, a well-known management consultant and author of the excellent book The Time Trap, says, “The ability to concentrate is a power that has enabled men of moderate capabilities to reach heights of attainment that have eluded the genius.” (Attainment! Managing your results!)
Take a single task and focus on it for ten minutes. Vow that you will allow no extraneous thoughts, people, or telephone calls to intrude. Do this daily. Gradually lengthen the time. Most people have trouble concentrating on a single task for much more than twenty minutes, unless you’re consumed by it.
It’s hard to attain your goals if you don’t know what they are. The stoic Roman philosopher Seneca was dead right when he said, “When a man does not know what harbor he is heading for, no wind is the right one.”
Take time to figure out what needs doing first; don’t just plunge into the least painful task at hand. People will always try to interrupt you with trivia. Don’t let them sidetrack you.
Eat Elephants One Bite At A Time
Break your day down into fifteen-minute segments and record everything you do in the course of the day. Enter your activities—no matter how banal—shortly after you do them. Don’t wait until the end of the day to fill in your diary. If you do, you’ll overlook the piddly stuff that is probably the biggest factor in your time-wasting.
Follow this course for a couple of weeks and you should get a pretty clear pattern of where your time is being wasted. Repeat this procedure twice a year to make certain you haven’t slipped back into old habits.
Remedial Steps For Procrastination
- Do something—anything—immediately. This will generate a feeling of accomplishment.
- Break down the seemingly overwhelming task into smaller pieces. Make a daily routine of completing the task.
- Ask for help. Have a colleague share thoughts or give you a hand with (at least part of) a project.
- Delegate responsibility if it is appropriate. (Be ruthless about assigning others work, versus doing everything yourself!)
- Reward yourself for tasks completed. Small but appropriate goodies, things you have been denying yourself work well. Relish the natural momentum of accomplishing your goals and changing your behavior. If you complete a portion of a large project, buy a scoop of Gelato, or take a break to walk outside in the sun. If you complete a large project, celebrate that with a larger reward. Celebrate all your successes and accomplishments, and build your habit of success.
- Share your triumph of getting things done with a friend. Do this with someone who can appreciate and celebrate it with you. Positive reinforcement is the best way to maintain momentum.
Get support. This could be someone you can count on to simply sit by and keep your feet to the fire, until it’s a well-established new habit, an “accountability partner” of some time, someone who actually pitches in to help overcome the mountain of challenges, or another type of support.
Why Is Making These Changes Important?
How long do you want to continue to do the same thing, over and over, hoping for a different result? How long are you willing to tolerate your compromised results and joy in life? How important is it to end up where you want to be, in one year, five years, or ten?
Don’t you owe it to yourself, to your family, to your customers, to your legacy to become and achieve all you’re meant to? When would you like to begin?
Ric Lobosco is a Business Performance Mentor, Management Consultant, Speaker. 35+ years helping businesses improve, grow, become more profitable & eliminate years of frustrations. PerformanceAllies.com – (415) 488-6010