If there was one major thing that breast cancer taught me (well, other than I was stronger than I ever imagined I could be) it was that I needed to get to know myself better. Knowing and understanding myself has helped me with my blogging, my family and friendships, and with working when my energy is at its highest. I needed to learn when I function best and when I should be focusing on “mindless” business tasks. Knowing myself has helped me become more productive, less stressed and overall happier.
It didn’t happen overnight. Gaining that insight and understanding is still an ongoing journey. I gain more self-knowledge each day and that helps me become a better pet blogger and a happier person – it’s a win-win!
What I learned and what was the biggest eye-opener was that prior to my cancer diagnosis, I “worked” crazy hours – sometimes up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Why is “worked” in quotation marks? Because I realized I really wasn’t working that entire 16 hours a day. Gasp! Nope, I was screwing around on the Internet and not getting my to-dos done. I was procrastinating. I never considered myself someone who procrastinates, but there it was.
Why did I procrastinate? There were myriad reasons:
- It was a project I didn’t want to do.
- It was a project I should have turned down.
- It was a project that was truly overwhelming.
- It was a project I should have asked for help with, but didn’t.
- It was a project that I’d lost my passion for.
- It was a project I was worried I couldn’t complete “perfectly.”
There were other reasons, but I discovered those were my top six.
Once I was slapped with the realization that I, Robbi Hess, was a procrastinator, I picked myself up off the ground and knew that if I wanted to keep my business running while I underwent surgeries and treatments and dealt with recovery, I needed to get my act together and quickly!
This is not a one-size-fits-all for beating procrastination, but it might help you regain control of your day and, frankly, your life. Let me backtrack… before you can BEAT procrastination you need to know WHY you are procrastinating. Take a few minutes, right now–don’t put it off!–and look at my list above. See if you notice yourself in any of those reasons. Add your own unique reasons for not completing projects. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to battle the procrastination monster!
My 15-Minute “Rule” to beat procrastination
I invested in a timer; he’s a tiny little blue owl with soulful eyes, and he keeps me on track. When I have a task that I have been dreading, aka procrastinating, I set my timer for 15 minutes. Once this is done I feel a sense of peace roll over me. Why? Because I know there is a finite amount of time ahead of me to jump into this task–whatever it is–that I have been putting off. Believe me, even chipping away at it for 15 minutes will lift your spirits. BONUS: You may work on it for 15 minutes, realize it’s not as difficult as you’d imagined, and you may ignore the timer and keep plugging away. It can, and does, happen!
Here are the reasons my 15-Minute Rule works:
- Overwhelm is conquered because “I can do anything for 15 minutes!” I know I don’t have to complete the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. It’s like Brian Tracy wrote in his book (paraphrasing Mark Twain), “if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, nothing you do the rest of the day can be worse….” Reducing your feeling of being overwhelmed at a task is like eating that frog in tiny bites; while it may not be tasty, it is easier to digest.
- I’m a perfectionist. This trait means I will sometimes put off a project because it isn’t “just so.” Putting off a project because you’re a perfectionist is a form of procrastination, just so you know! If you’re worrying you won’t do a “good enough” job, or that you won’t gain the kudos you are hoping for when the project is done, or if you don’t have the resources at hand to do a “thorough enough” job on it, set those thoughts aside and work on it for 15 minutes. Tell yourself that “no one can do a perfect job in 15 minutes…” You can, however, do A job and chip away. Go back the next day, or later the same day, and polish that project.
- You will complete something. Look at your to-do list on those days when you’re truly overwhelmed and look for a project that you could feasibly complete in 15 minutes. Grab your timer, set it and work on that one item, uninterrupted, for 15 minutes. Did you finish it? Great! Cross that bad boy off your list! There are days when finishing something is better than finishing nothing. Know yourself well enough to know if you have the energy to tackle a complex project, if not, tackle a part of it and then congratulate yourself for a job well done (or a job well-started).
I mentioned above needing to know when my energy is at its peak. The reason for this is that I know I need to work on creative projects first thing in the morning; that is when I am sharp and full of energy and my creativity is flowing. I get to my desk at 5 am and am ready to greet the day. By 3 pm I am fried, and that’s when I do minor office tasks like filing, bookkeeping, writing down upcoming projects and timelines, etc. Recently, my friend Tabitha Dumas wrote a post about not wanting to be forced to be a morning person. Her creativity amps up once the sun goes down, her children are in bed, and she has her own quiet time. She does her most creative work in what I consider the “wee hours of the morning.” Like me, she knows her body’s rhythms and when her energy is flowing.
What can you do to beat procrastination?
- Understand your reasons for procrastination.
- Get a timer. (I suggest a physical timer, rather than on your phone because I’ve found if you set a timer on your phone it’s easy to get pulled into checking email or playing a game on the phone and then you’re adding a new form of procrastination to your day!)
- Know when your energy is at its highest and perform your most challenging tasks then.
Do you procrastinate? Do you know why? Have you taken the time to understand when you’re most creative and productive? I’d love to know.
Robbi Hess is an award-winning author, full-time writer, newspaper columnist, writing coach and time-management guru. She works with bloggers and solopreneurs and blogs at All Words Matter.