Do you feel overwhelmed? In this guest post, time management experts Karen Leland and Keith Bailey show how to get things done by making taking action a habit.
You know what you need to do. You know why you need to do it. You even know what steps you must take to get it done. But there’s one small problem: you can’t seem to get moving. It’s a common problem. Maybe it’s chronic procrastination or maybe you’re just so overwhelmed that you feel paralyzed. Either way, the task you must complete is just sitting there, gathering metaphorical (or perhaps literal) dust, and growing more ominous by the day.
A recent study by the Families and Work Institute found that a full third of Americans are overworked; more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they are either handling too many tasks at the same time or are frequently interrupted during the workday – or both. In short, we are overloaded. Is it any wonder, then, that we have trouble getting jobs started, keeping them going, or finishing them up?
As a consultant and coach over the past twenty five years I’ve observed that smart and savvy business women use three habits to get themselves to take action, even in tough times. These habits act as an inoculation against procrastination and feeling overwhelmed so that these busy women are ultimately able to press through and get things done.
Habit #1: Chunking Down: Focus on the Trees Not the Forest
In the computer world, chunking means to break things into bits. To chunk down is to move from a whole to its parts; to chunk up is to move from parts to a whole, or from the specific to the general. Chunking your projects and goals down into smaller pieces will help you take action more quickly and easily, while at the same time helping to combat the feeling of too much to do.
Habit #2: Take Energetic Credit for Completion
When we have a big goal or task to work on, many of us wait – unnecessarily and sometimes to our detriment – until the entire project is finished before we experience any sense of completion, satisfaction, or accomplishment.
Often, even though we’re achieving pieces of our projects and goals all the time, we don’t fully acknowledge them. The most productive people we know are in the habit of enthusiastically taking energetic credit for any action they complete, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. These people know not to wait until the big item is 100 percent done before experiencing closure. Rather, they generate energy all along the way by recognizing each item they complete.
Habit #3: Time-Planning: Put a Stop to Putting It Off
Smart people are in the habit of using a time-plan to get beyond procrastination. A time-plan is a method of assigning blocks of time to those items you want to get done (but not a minute-by-minute description of your day!) To harvest the power of planning and create your own time-plan, follow these two easy steps:
Step #1: Identify your power times for different types of activities.
Everyone has high and low periods of energy, attention, and focus. By knowing and understanding your own energy patterns you can create a time-plan that takes advantage of your personal rhythms. Reflect on your own energy patterns. When are your power times? Use your power times to take on your most difficult items. Use your down time for more routine items and errands.
Step #2: Set aside blocks of time for getting certain things done.
Keeping in mind your power times, go through your calendar and schedule a specific day and period of time when you will work on an item. Time periods ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours are most effective. Every hour or so, schedule a ten minute break from your task; this will both keep your brain from getting tired and give it a chance to process any information, so that you can return to your project refreshed.
Lastly, don’t just plan your time in your head – write it down! Whether you use a PDA, a calendar contact program, or a plain old date book, keeping a written record of your time-plan is key.
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Karen Leland and Keith Bailey are the bestselling authors of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. They are the co-founders of Sterling Consulting Group, which helps organizations and individuals learn how to fight distraction and find their focus in a wired world. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org