Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, right? It’s what makes us human. If I dust off my old HR hat and pop that on, I might say everyone has their strengths and “development opportunities” (aka keeping plants alive…not that I would know anything about that <cough>)
One thing I am really good at, however, is getting shit done. Deadlines are my jam (yeah, I know I’m weird) and I’m a sucker for a to-do list. Without an end date and a plan for a project I’m in procrastination city!
So I wanted to share my tips in case they might help you out if you’re spinning your wheels on a project or if you’ve just extended your deadline for the fifth time.
1. I break it down into manageable chunks
Sometimes procrastination is born out of a tasking seeming bigger and scarier than it really is. Writing a book can be like this. 100,000 words seems like a huge task…but it’s only 274 words a day if you write the book over the span of a year.
For me, big tasks need to be broken down like this so I look at the individual chunks rather than the whole piece of work. Want to read 12 books this year but can’t find time to fit it in? If one book takes 10 hours to read, then that’s only 20 minutes of reading per day for the month, per book. If you want to read in chunks, that’s ten minutes in the morning and ten in the evening.
Sounds a whole lot less intimidating like that, doesn’t it? The average adult spends HOURS online every day, so carving twenty minutes out of that time is totally doable to achieve your goal.
2. I start with the most important thing first
This was a game-changer for me. In the past, I was a “get the little things out of the way first” kind of person, thinking it made me more productive overall. Uh, wrong! What it gave me was “decision fatigue” (check out this New York Times article on decision fatigue, it’s fascinating reading!) meaning all my clarity and energy was spent on lower value things like answering emails and running errands.
These days, I start with the most important thing: getting my words done for the day. For you, it might be exercise, or spending time with your partner, being more productive in your job or creating something. Give your mind’s freshest part of the day to the thing that matters most.
3. I switched to working in sprints
I use the Pomodoro method - which is working in sprints of 25 minutes with a five minute break between sprints. You might enjoy a longer or short sprint, depending on what you’re trying to get done. I even use this with chores I don’t really want to do, like cleaning the house. 25 minutes sounds a heck of a lot more manageable than committing to doing something for three hours.
But the great thing about the sprints, is that once I’ve started then I usually find my momentum and it’s easier to keep going. Now, I get more words done in less time.
4. I have performance reviews…with myself
One thing I struggled with when I started writing full time was the feeling that I never knew if I was doing well. In creative work, it’s hard to know how you’re performing—sales can be inconsistent and affected by many things out of your control, and working hours doesn’t always equal output. So, I treat myself like BOTH boss and employee.
That means when I set my goals at the start of the year (trying to include things I can directly impact), I break each goal into multiple tasks. Then every month I figure out which tasks I need to do to achieve those goals and I have a weekly check in to make sure I’m focused on the right things (e.g. I’m prioritising writing words on my manuscript over spending time on Facebook.) This helps me to feel like I know what I need to do and that I’m not drifting and getting distracted by things that aren’t helping me achieve my goal.
Now, knowing what you need to do is a whole other blog post. But this is my guide for getting things done. For me that means writing more, being on social media less, finishing projects that push me toward my strategic goals and saying no to opportunities that don’t align with my goals.
Remember, not every approach will work for every person. I’m a person who’s very motivated by being organised and tracking my work, you might not be. But try it - worst case scenario, you find something that doesn’t work but it might teach you a thing or two!
Like these tips? Check out my other “how to” articles: