Time is one of those things that seems so hard to control even though it’s 100% predictable.
Somehow determining how much we can get done in a single day, or a single week is shockingly elusive. Did you know that those who work in an office environment are only productive for an average of six hours per day? And yet so many of us still put in a full eight-hour workday and then go home to all of the responsibilities that go along with adult life; cooking, cleaning, etc.
How often does it happen that you look back on your week and think, “Where did my week go and why didn’t I get “thing X” done?” A big reason for that is procrastination.
Procrastination is a worldwide affliction and here are some reasons why:
Commitment is Hard.
Do you find yourself buying Christmas presents a day or two before the holiday because you can’t commit to the perfect gift idea?
We’re Scared of Success.
Completing a presentation at work, finishing that novel, or committing to those gym workouts means you might get better at something and have to take on the new responsibilities that come along with your success.
We’re Terrified of Failure.
What if you spend hours of your life on something and it doesn’t work out?
The Distractions are Overwhelming!
With the rise of social media, the easy access we have to the news and all the click bait ads that come with it, and the constant availability of Netflix, why would we ever want to leave our couches?
While there seem to be countless reasons to avoid our responsibilities, it doesn’t mean we should. It’s time to think of these distractions as a challenge and create a space where we learn to grow as individuals personally, in our careers, and for our families.
Now that we know why we procrastinate, here’s a few ways to outsmart our sneaky brains so we can get stuff done:
Do the Large Projects First.
This is personally the most difficult for me. It often seems logical to do the tasks that only take five or ten minutes first. Wash the dishes, send an email, dust a cabinet. By the end of the week, I’ve checked a few dozen little things off my list but have yet to tackle that large project that is now a week behind. In reality, you could be getting one large task done in the time it takes you to complete six smaller ones. While checking things off of a list is incredibly satisfying, you need to be honest with yourself… do these tasks NEED to be done at this exact moment? Or are there other things that are more important?
Eliminate the Distractions.
But how to do you get those larger tasks done without constant interruption? It’s time to eliminate the barrage of distractions. Pick a task and set aside a large chunk of time to get it done. Now close your email, turn off your phone, and if you can move to a quieter, less busy space while you complete this task, do it! Let anyone who might need you during this time know that you are unreachable for the next set amount of time. People will respect your time if they know you are serious about it.
Schedule Your Time and Keep the Commitment.
Which is a great segue into scheduling your own time. Set expectations for the things that need to get done. If your family, co-workers, boss, or friends know that you have set aside time to complete a task, they will respect that time. This publicly announced time commitment is the only way I can consistently get a workout in. Every Thursday night my family knows that I go to the gym for an hour by myself. What I do at the gym changes each week, and I often get additional workouts in at other times during the week, but Thursday night has become “mom’s gym night” and that means I go consistently without fail every week.
Only Schedule the Time You Need.
Tasks have an amazing way of filling the time you give them. If you have research to do, or data entry to complete, give yourself a set amount of time and see how much you can get done. If you know you only have an hour, and you’ve turned off all other distractions, my guess is you’ll be amazed at how much you can complete when you really commit. On the flip side, if you give yourself three hours, you’ll most likely start filling your time with tasks that do not directly help you complete your task (hello Facebook.)
Break Larger Tasks into Smaller Tasks.
Don’t set aside Saturday to clean your house. Set aside half an hour to change the sheets on the beds. Set aside an hour to clean bathrooms. Commit to an hour of vacuuming and mopping. Taking on smaller, more manageable tasks tricks your brain into thinking you’re almost done! As opposed to thinking, there’s so much to do, I’ll never get done. I should probably catch up on some reading instead. (Side note: scheduling time to read a book where kids and husbands don’t interrupt is also a fine idea.)
In the end, it comes down to training your brain. Mind over matter.
I get it, commitment is tough. But starting your Christmas shopping in November is okay. Keeping a stack of birthday cards in a desk drawer so you can send them out on time is perfectly acceptable. Setting aside focused time to complete tasks is necessary. Cleaning your house one-half-hour at a time is a great way to get it done. And finishing that novel is going to feel so good.
Stop putting off your success and get something unexpected done this week! I’d love to hear your tips for scheduling and completing your tasks. Leave them in the comments below!