procrastination runs in my family. i think it’s genetic. my sister & i often excuse this poor habit by saying, “we work better under pressure.” maybe. but we would probably work really well using sound time management, too.
i like deadlines, & i function best when there are constant deadlines that keep me working so i don’t procrastinate anything. i used to work at a design studio where we designed & assembled custom wedding invitations. i was the production manager. we worked on a 3-4 week turn-around schedule with occasional rush orders thrown in, so nearly every day there was some order that needed to be shipped & often times more than one order. i loved working in that environment. it suited my personality, both strengths & weaknesses, ideally.
but now, i find myself in a job that requires more proactivity in follow-through, not to mention how many personal goals i have that have no timeline or deadline except my own hopes & dreams. the result — i find myself habitually deferring important but not urgent tasks to attend to “tasks of the moment.”
that word deferring has become both a favorite & most despised word in my life. i organize my entire life in my smart phone 2do list app, & it has this handy function called “defer” by which i can shuffle my 2do list around as fits my schedule & time constraints [& whims] each day. i love it & use it all the time. unfortunately, i use it all the time.
in his book 7 habits of highly effective people, stephen covey talks about organizing our tasks into four categories or quadrants — 1. important & not urgent [ex: exercising or spending time with family], 2. important & urgent [ex: paying your bills or finishing your newsletter article on time], 3. unimportant & urgent [ex: reading & replying to every single email in your inbox or organizing your filing cabinet right now], & 4. unimportant & not urgent [ex: reading a good book or indulging in your favorite hobby]. this prioritization has been very helpful to me when i’ve applied it. he suggests trying to focus most of your time in the second category of tasks, to not let yourself be easily derailed by category three, & to purposely carve out time for one & four [important goals & fun stuff]. the best application of this method in my life is calling a “quadrant three” task a three. these are those distracting “tasks of the moment” that mask themselves in urgency & emergency but have no real, lasting need or value. in so naming it, i give myself permission to ignore it, avoid it, or to say no.
another book that has given me very helpful & practical tips on prioritizing my 2do list is 18 minutes by peter bregman. here are my favorite take-aways from it:
>> spend 5 minutes first-thing every morning reviewing your 2do list & getting started.
>> set a simple alarm to go off every hour during the work day [8 times] & take one minute to refocus & reevaluate your priorities & productivity. [my 4:00 p.m. alarm chimed as i was typing this!]
>> spend 5 minutes every evening reviewing, scheduling, & culling your 2do list for the next day.
>> schedule your 2do items in your day planner. assign a time slot to each one. [this has been the most incredible thing to my productivity!]
>> if you have a task that you’ve deferred for several times, apply the “three-day rule” — after three days, either do it immediately, schedule it to a specific time in your calendar, delete it, or put it on the “someday list.” [i love, love, love this rule!]
>> have a “to don’t list” — we need to prioritize what is not worth our time. [my list is its own tab in my 2do app & includes answering unknown phone numbers, attending events for strangers, & attending product parties of any kind.]
>> have a “someday list” — someday is NOT a day of the week. but there may be things we want to do that can’t be done immediately, can’t be scheduled anytime in the near future, & we aren’t willing to delete. i have a “maybe” list with its own tab in my 2do app, too. overly-deferred tasks go here, usually to die! i review it every month & reapply the three-day rule. it is such a relief to not have tasks like these hanging over my head in my daily 2do list.
one last idea: set goals for yourself. [i wrote more about my version of doing this here.] and read those goals every morning! spend time reviewing them & planning how to execute them in various steps each week! keep in front of you constantly what is most important.
these concepts & practices have helped me use the seven days each week with more purpose & intentionality, the goals of a student of life. God has a plan for each of us, & i don’t want to miss out on any of it, especially not because i procrastinated or squandered away my time.
what do you do to prioritize & use your time wisely?