40. How to Stop Procrastinating

March 25, 2011

Many time management gurus, such as Steven Covey of the famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, tell you to write down everything you need to do, categorise them all into 'important' and 'not important', 'urgent' and 'non urgent', and then schedule time in your diary for doing the most important things. If that works for you, do continue. If it doesn't, if you are forever at the mercy of the 'urgent and important' category, and never make it into the 'non-urgent but important' category, you might be interested in another approach. 

My experience of Steve Chandler is that he is a tell-it-how-it-is, get on with it, no nonsense kind of coach. We all need one of those from time to time. Probably, if we weren't all so polite and sensitive, we would occasionally tell people in our lives to 'Just do it!', and sometimes that might be exactly what they need. Sometimes, though, you  may just be echoing their own self-criticism and will only make things (and your relationship) worse. So it may be best to stick with yourself...

But there is a place for the kick up the proverbial approach and if you think you need one, Steve Chandler's new book, Time Warrior, is just the thing.  

'How to defeat procrastination, people pleasing, self-doubt, over?commitment, broken promises and chaos.'              Sub-title of Steve Chandler's book, Time Warrior.

The fundamental principle of Chandler's approach is that managing your time is useless, because all it does is make you feel worse. The reason you feel worse is because you are spending your time living in the future with all the things you haven't done.  Sound familiar?  The secret of getting things done, he asserts, is to do them. This is hardly controversial, and yet most of us would grudgingly admit that we do spend a lot of time thinking about the things we need to do, rather than doing them.  And it is the thinking about them that produces 'overwhelm', not the tasks themselves. If you focus on what you're doing it is simply impossible to feel overwhelmed.

So Chandler's first tip is: if you want to do something, do it right now. You know the way that we look in dismay at our email inbox and start clicking on them one by one to see what they're about? Chandler says you should act on emails immediately you open them. Otherwise don't open them. 

A second tip is, don't stop. So often we set off on a task, but we haven't protected the time we need to do it. Maybe we have an 'open door' policy at work, and people pop in for a chat all the time and we haven't the heart to refuse them. Maybe we're easily distracted and don't take ourselves somewhere that we won't be. Chandler doesn't advise that you so much 'schedule' tasks in your diary, as 'carve out' time with your warrior's sword, and one can imagine that protecting the time with the same implement would also be effective.


'One uninterrupted hour is worth three interrupted hours.'

A third, and I have found this particularly helpful, is to take no notice of how you're feeling. Feelings are not a good arbiter of what you should and should not be doing. I remember the last time I ran in Race for Life I suddenly realised that waiting until I felt like training was a ludicrous way to proceed (for obvious reasons). I decided that I would run on certain days, whether I felt like it or not. I can remember getting home from work after a long day, noticing how unappealing was the prospect of changing and setting off to the park, and doing it anyway. It was extraordinarily effective. 

Often people go to coaches saying they want to do something, but that they can't find the motivation. Waiting for motivation is not an effective way to get things done, a) because it may never come, b) waiting itself is de-motivating, and c) action is motivating.

The last tip that I'd like to pass on (although there are many others in his book) is this: 

'You don't need to know what to do or how to do it, you just need to choose what to do'

Very often we don't start a project or task because we don't quite know what to do or how to do it.  Chandler advises that we just choose something, anything, and start. Start small, the smaller the better, he says, and start even if you give it only three minutes of your time.

Try this:
1. Think of something you've been putting off doing for some time.

2. Choose one small thing to do in relation to this task or project.

3. Give it three minutes of your time, right now, and start.

Have a productive week!
 

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