Are you having trouble hitting deadlines? Do you procrastinate when you should be getting things done? Chances are, no amount of time management tricks will fix this until you deal with the deeper issues holding you back.
This guide will take you through all the emotional reasons why you might be sabotaging your own time-keeping, and includes some practical tips on what to do to get you back into time-management heaven.
Take the following steps and surprise yourself at how quickly you can do it.
Five Simple Steps For Fixing Your Time Management Issues.
Step One: Send Your Inner Child to Bed
First off, it’s important to recognise that you’re making a choice. You can either get this done now in the quickest most efficient way or you can time waste, procrastinate, whine (inwardly or outwardly!) or make a million different excuses.
The reality is nobody cares.
Grow up and get on with it. A bit of mental discipline never hurt anyone.
Bit harsh? Thing is we have an internalised child part. For many of us the child part doesn’t want to work, the child might be fearful of ‘getting it wrong’ so wants to avoid, play or hide. Some people find it stressful even thinking about deadlines and so prefer just to do nothing rather than deal with the worry. If you let that child part of you dictate your behaviour you’ll never hit your deadline.
You are a grown-up! It’s time to remind yourself out loud how old you are. Say to yourself, “C’mon Julie, you are a 36-year-old account director” (obviously, fill in your own name, age and occupation instead!)
Tell that part of you that wants to procrastinate, that it isn’t helpful, that you don’t want it or need it. Tell it to go away and find a different game to play and remind yourself instead of how great you’re going to feel when the task is completed.
This is the most simple step, but by far the most important one. If you do NOTHING else, take this moment to send your child off to play and make it clear to yourself that your adult is in charge. Oh, and you can tell your inner parent to stop beating you up too – that’s not going to help you get things done.
[Related: How to stop Letting Your Inner Child Rule Your Life]
Pick some carrots
If you’re driven by the carrot it might be good to tell your child part that when the deadline is achieved you can lie in a bath, watch that film, go shopping – or whatever the ‘reward’ is. If you’re a stick person, you’ll need to come up with something that will make it painful if you don’t succeed. Check out the article below which has tips for how you can visualise things to motivate yourself.
[Related: What Motivates You? Carrot or Stick? Do This Simple Exercise to Find Out.]
Step Two: Plan Like an Adult
Take a moment and – with your adult head on – make a plan. I would hate to remind you of that old adage that if you fail to plan you plan to fail, but it is true.
First write a list of the steps involved. Do this by hand, that way you get the feel-good factor of ticking off the completed segments and the sense that you’re nearing the deadline. It will also make you feel adult and efficient.
Give yourself specific instructions, not vague to-dos. For example, if you write “start research by ringing X and ask the following questions” you’re more likely to feel inspired and get the job done than if you write something that feels too vague or over-whelming like “research book”.
Next, think about the deadline. Can you break it down into three parts or four parts? Chunking down into more manageable pieces makes it much easier to approach.
Another way is to write out everything you have to do to hit your deadline and then 1,2,3, 4, it. The highest priorities are ones, the next are twos and so on. Stick to the plan, get on and do the ones first.
Plan your space
As part of your planning, get everything you need in one place. You don’t need any distractions. If you have to keep getting up and down to get things, you run the risk that the child part might interfere and then you’ll wander off down the procrastination road again.
Less is more. Once you have everything put it into neat piles, on another desk or on the floor. Only have on your desk/table the things you need to complete the first stage of the assignment. Clear the clutter away, it’s distracting and you need every bit of help to stay focused. Don’t use that as an excuse to spend the next three hours re-organising your office, however. Limit your clean up time to 15 minutes. If you need a glass of water or a cup of tea get it now.
Plan your breaks
Do you know yourself? If you know that you will work better with a couple of breaks, schedule the breaks in on your list above. Other than a toilet break, stick to those breaks on your list and time them. I suggest 10 minutes is long enough to make a drink, look out of the window etc. Then it’s back to work. AVOID LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE! This is likely to be the biggest temptation and the strongest hook. Be disciplined, wait until you’ve hit your deadline.
Step Three: Make Your Workspace a Happy Place
If you’re feeling lethargic place some lemon oil somewhere in the room. Apparently, the Japanese pipe this smell through the air- conditioning in their offices as it is believed to stimulate mental clarity. A recent study also suggests it enhances your mood.
Put something brightly coloured near your work station. This might just keep the creativity flowing. I tried using a multi-coloured feather duster. I was amazed – it worked (and, let’s be honest, I would never use it to dust)! According to a study by the University of British Colombia, red in your workspace improves your attention to detail, while blue makes you more creative. (Further reading: Color in Office Environments [pdf]).
If you’re still feeling uninspired and uncreative step back and observe your thoughts for a moment. Are they helpful and supportive or negative and sabotaging? The most important things we ever hear are the things we say to ourselves. If you’re feeding yourself messages like, “I should never have taken this on, I can’t do it, It’s too difficult” what kind of a reaction would you expect? It’s far better to say to yourself “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”.
Did you know that your unconscious mind has a massive storage capacity? Many believe it contains a record of every bit of information you have ever picked up from the moment of your birth. It’s where a hidden cache of information, memories, skills and talents reside. Use it. Ask your unconscious mind good quality questions in order to get good quality responses. So instead of , “I wish I’d never taken on this assignment, I’ll never do it in time,” say to yourself, “how can I get this assignment finished in record time?” You will be amazed and impressed with the solutions that begin to filter through.
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
The interesting thing is that whatever we believe becomes our reality. I’m going to say that again because it is so important.
Whatever we believe becomes our reality.
Successful people don’t wonder whether they will meet their deadlines, they know they will. Do you know why? Because they don’t entertain the idea of failure, it doesn’t enter their world. Successful people believe they will succeed.
To meet your deadline have the absolute total conviction that you can and will do it. When you have strong positive beliefs they strengthen your determination which then fosters your will power. Your will power supports a good sense of self and so your confidence grows. It’s an analeptic circle: in time you develop strong faith and a pride in yourself because you know you can achieve what you set out to achieve.
Step Four: Be Disciplined
Work steadily and allow yourself to get in the flow. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel as you begin to reach your deadlines more quickly.
Modern psychology, NLP, attributes the smooth running of successful businesses to the placement of good systems. Once you have a good system in place it runs on its own with very little need for maintenance. Getting up, going to the toilet, having a shower, cleaning your teeth, in that order, constitutes a system. After a while you haven’t got to think about it, that’s just the way you do it. It works!
In exactly the same way, once you have your way of hitting your deadlines in place, you won’t have to think about it. It becomes automatic. Having your systems in place leaves space for the creativity often required for the work and time for having more fun.
Step Five: Leave a Buffer
Leave yourself a little longer than you think you will need, especially the first time you set up this system.
At this point you are training yourself. Aim to get more done in less time. Set yourself chunks of time throughout the assignment and work conscientiously. Set the alarm on your phone and work consistently until the time you’ve allocated yourself is up. Then take your break.
Imagine you are the Managing Director of your company.
You are setting a good example to your other employees. Remind yourself periodically of Step 1 – you are not a child! Get on with it!
Part of developing this self-discipline is to get hold of your brain and gain mastery of it. The nature of the mind is unruly. It wants to be constantly on the move darting into the future – “what shall I get for dinner?”, “I wonder what John’s doing” – or flipping back into the past – “I can’t believe he said that”, “I wish I was still sitting in the Alps looking at the blue sky”.
Don’t go there; it’s lazy unstructured thinking and not the thinking we need for hitting those deadlines! Get in the now. Be present. Think only about the job in hand. Focus on what it is you want to achieve with this project/deadline.
This is a massive step to maturity, placing your attention on what you want. When you realise that you can concentrate your self–confidence takes another flying leap.
And do you know what? Look forward to it! Hopefully you are working your dharma: living the life you have chosen or at the very least working in a field that you want to be in. If not, you need to put some time aside and work out what you do want to do. Life’s too short to spend most of it in an occupation that you don’t like or enjoy. When you are working more from your heart and you have a passion for what you’re doing, it really should be as effortless being.
Stop Letting Your Child Rule Your Life. A more detailed explanation of the Parent/Child/Adult relationship.
What Motivates You? Carrot or Stick? Do This Simple Exercise to Find Out. A simple visual exercise that will help motivate you to hit your deadlines.
Main Image: Myrrh Ahn