Guest post by Kathy McDonald
Theresa* was feeling overwhelmed, and unsure where to begin. The various client projects she juggled were a smelly soup in her head.
“Get it out of your head and on to paper,” I urged. “Then you can prioritize.”
Seeing her projects and tasks listed out started to make her feel more in control.
“Which unfinished project bugs you the most?” I asked.
“The white paper,” she responded without hesitation.
Teresa kept putting off getting the white paper done for a client. It didn’t have a deadline. That was part of the problem. Deadline-oriented client work always came first. The white paper continued to slide until two months of inaction was making Teresa squirm. It was getting embarrassing.
What are you avoiding?
Let’s face it. We all have work we avoid for various reasons – we don’t like that part of our work, we don’t understand what we’re suppose to do but are afraid to ask for help, or we haven’t bought into whether this work is really necessary.
Still, sometimes you have to push through and get work done. Here are my sure fire ways to get into action that I used with Teresa:
1) Get it down, get it done
When we feel overwhelmed, it’s usually because we are carrying too much in our heads. All those jumbled thoughts start to feel like a dank swamp. When you put your thoughts down on paper it’s much easier to think through the steps to take and how to prioritize.
2) Time box
Some work doesn’t have natural milestones or stopping points making it difficult to chunk it down into manageable steps. That’s when it’s helpful to time box.
How long can you work on a dreaded task before that ants-in-your-pants feeling sets in? Ten minutes? Twenty? Commit to doing a chunk of the project for this minimum amount of time each day until it’s done.
You can do anything, even the most unpleasant task, for ten minutes. Set a time and get to work. When the timer goes off, if you want to stop then stop, and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made. Block out the next time box on your calendar. If, however, you’re on a role and want to keep going, great! That’s often the case. Getting started is the hardest part.
3) Chop liver strategy
What’s the work you dread? Do this chop liver task first, even before checking email. That’s right, I said it. Get it over with. I guarantee you will be flying the rest of the day from the energy you free up getting your chopped liver done. Energy you can use to blow through the rest of your to-do list.
4) Make it public
Commit to someone else when you’re going to get the work done. Deadlines are your friend. When we commit to one, especially to a boss or client, we are more apt to get it done. We don’t want to look bad in front of them or feel like we let them down. Use that social pressure to your advantage.
5) Know your own rhythm
When are you most productive? First thing, mid-day, or are you a night owl? Stop scheduling meetings during this time. Protect it for when you need to get challenging work done.
Avoiding work occasionally isn’t a character flaw. It’s human. But when it’s time to get into action, these strategies will help you push through.
What’s your favorite get-into-action strategy?
Kathy McDonald is a recovering Type-A, work/life author, blogger and coach, who specializes in helping people make time for life. If you’re looking for help getting more productive so you can work on your business not just in it.
* We can learn from each other, but names are changed to protect confidentiality.