A little over two weeks ago I was on a business trip and was hunkering down to be productive, only to discover the Internet connection in my hotel room wasn’t working. Ugh. Maybe the lobby will work. Oh, they have free bagels! How nice. Let me reboot. CRAP. No connection here either. No problem — just go to the local coffee shop, right? Well, now that I drove here, I may as well buy a coffee. Oh, the weather is SO NICE right now. Ooh, that’s sexy rehab across the street. Wait – that the heck? Wi-Fi not working HERE EITHER?? Working is getting difficult…
Ok, what about when 3 coffee shops, and a bar all turn out to have spotty to broken Internet connections — which isn’t apparent until I show up to sign on? And I’m running out of possible wi-fi connections in this town!!
Admittedly, even when I’m home or in my office and the Internet is working just fine, I often find myself getting up to grab a snack, get some water, check the mail — you get it — anything but what I’m supposed to be doing! Sometimes – even PREPARING for a call or what I call an “income generating activity” can be procrastination, if it’s preventing you from doing what needs to be done NOW.
We’ve all been there, right? And as a self-employed entrepreneur, I know I’ve got a bad case of bright shiny object syndrome and am highly susceptible to distraction. The key thing is to skip the recriminations (ooh! I like that word!) and figure out how to come out of it. Here are my top tips to stop procrastinating and be productive.
1. The first step is to recognize that you are, in fact, procrastinating. This can be harder than it sounds because we like to disguise our time-wasting as important tasks (“I can think more clearly once that drawer is organized.” “I can close that file out if that document is in the mail.” You get the idea.) So, if you find yourself meandering aimlessly or feeling like one foot is nailed to the floor, just face it — you’re procrastinating. Even if you’re getting the smaller things done, that big item, probably the most important one, remains.
2. Make a list of the top 3 to 5 (no more than 5!) things to get done immediately. “But I have so much to do — there’s no way I can list only 5 things!” you say? While that may be true, that list of 37 things you created for yourself today is what put you in this place, spinning around trying to decide what to do first. It’s all about….
3. Prioritize. The next step is to prioritize your list, placing the most important/urgent items at the top. One way to determine what belongs on the list and what belongs at the top is to ask yourself “What is the ultimate impact if I don’t do this item, or if I don’t do it by the time I said I would?” If the anticipated impact is little to none, maybe this doesn’t belong on your list at all or can be delegated. And if the anticipated impact is huge to catastrophic, that item belongs at the top and is what you should do next.
4. TIME BLOCK. Now it’s time to schedule the activities you identified, and I literally mean to place them into your calendar, either electronically or on paper. It’s not enough to just have this in your head; it’s got to be an actual appointment with yourself to complete this task and treated as you would an appointment with another person. My Google Calendar controls my life and constantly tells me “what’s next.” When I have detailed tasks to tackle, I schedule my time in 30 to 45 minute blocks, shut off my phone, park myself in a quiet place and focus. This became a HUGE PART of my business, especially when I realized I was my own boss, and I needed something else to tell me what to do and hold me accountable – even if that “thing” is a calendar I control.
5. Execute — all the previous steps become a higher form of procrastination if you don’t get the job done, so do your prep work, carve out the time and Shut Up and Do It!
More on these suggestions and additional steps are available in the book Get Your Ducks in a Row by Chuc Barnes, which is required reading for my mentoring & consulting students — you can learn more about it and other books I recommend on productivity, time management, and being a real estate investor here.
What helps you to pull out of a procrastination tailspin? Share your thoughts on the AA Real Estate Group Facebook page.