Leader Volume 10, Number 2
by Donald E. Wetmore, Ph.D.
Dr. Wetmore, from Shelton,
CT, is a speaker and consultant on time management.
He can be reached at: phone (800) 969-377; fax (203)
9298151; email firstname.lastname@example.org; www.balancetime.com
Procrastination is one of the biggest blocks to our personal
productivity. Thinking about doing something and planning to do it
are fine, but what if we fail to move ahead?
Procrastinating the unimportant items in our day is a useful
talent. The problem for many, however, is that we are
procrastinating the important and crucial items, reducing
productivity and increasing our stress levels.
Here are five pointers to help you to better overcome
procrastination. (You can implement them now or perhaps tomorrow
or, better yet, next week.)
1. Plan before the day starts. "People don't plan to fail
but they sometimes fail to plan." Without a plan of action
before you arrive for work, it is easy to get caught up with
"stuff." The phone rings or someone drops by.
You direct your time responding to the loudest voices
demanding your attention, rather than to the most important
priorities on your plate. A plan of action, prepared the night
before is like a roadmap for the next day. You know what your next
step ought to be to get you into productive action and away from
2. Work with a clean desk. "Out of sight, out of
mind." The reverse of that is just as true. When it's in
sight, it's in mind and most of us cannot help but be distracted.
Then our time is directed to less important and easier
tasks, causing us to put off the more important tasks. Working
with a clean desk or clean work environment permits us to have
only the most important task before us so that we can focus all of
our attention on that task without other visual distractions.
3. Reduce large projects to bite-sized pieces. How do you eat
an elephant? One bite at a time. Tomorrow you plan to work on a
three-hour project. The problem is, many of us do not get three
hours to work on any one item. We have to contend with
interruptions, meetings, etc. (I don't know that I even have an
attention span that lasts for three hours!) And we often wind up
procrastinating working on this task because "there's not
enough time to get this done." So,
instead of scheduling the entire three-hour project for tomorrow,
schedule a small bite, a step or two that might take 20 or 30
minutes. Then put the next step on the next day's to-do list and
the next step after that on that next day's list, etc. It may take
several days, but you will get that elephant eaten up, one bite at
4. Plan around interruptions. Interruptions tend to occur in
identifiable patterns. I get most of my interruptions early in the
day versus later in the day. I get most of my interruptions early
in the week versus later in the week. So, if I plan a big project
first thing Monday morning, I'm creating stress because as soon as
I begin, interruptions arrive and re-focus my attention causing me
to procrastinate what I really wanted to do. It is so much easier
swimming downstream with the current rather than bucking the tide.
Therefore, I plan those larger projects for later in the day and
later in the week when I tend to get fewer interruptions.
5. Assign deadlines. Have you ever failed to achieve a New
Year's resolution? If so, that probably happened because you did
not set a deadline. Deadlines move us to action. Without a
deadline, things wind up in our "as soon as possible"
pile, a "Never Never Land" where items will get attended
to "someday," "when I get the time." Create a
deadline and you will be moved to action.