During the last week, what did you postpone until tomorrow that would have been better handled today? Calling a difficult client? Hitting your prospecting goals? Saving for a rainy day? Going to the dentist? Paying your bills? Calling a loved one? Having a physical check up?
One of the most common ways that people create stress and struggle in their lives is through procrastination. If you have ever said, "I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with it now," you paid the price of procrastination in several different ways. First, thinking about doing a task and then not doing it is a waste of time. Second, the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult it becomes to take action to complete the task. Third, delaying the task often can increase the cost of completing it. For example, if you put off opening your bills and miss a payment deadline, you end up paying a late fee.
The Nike tag line "Just do it!" is one approach to coping with procrastination. Unfortunately, "just doing it" is not that simple. The next time that you find yourself struggling with procrastination, here are six simple strategies to get you unstuck and into action.
1. Monitor when, where and how you procrastinate
One of the first steps in changing any behavior is to be aware of the circumstances that trigger the behavior. Pay attention to how often you postpone important tasks. Record the details. Normally, most people experience guilt or self-blame when they procrastinate. On the other hand, it’s equally important to notice which types of activities that you do complete. Note how you feel when you complete tasks in a timely manner. You can use these positive feelings and habits to help you reduce or eliminate procrastination in other areas.
2. Delegate it or dump it
If there is an area where you consistently procrastinate, a great strategy is to delegate it or dump it. Many people use the word "should" to make themselves feel guilty about what they don’t complete. Other people use the word "should" as a tool to manipulate others into doing what they want them to do. For example, you may believe that you should blog or you should door-knock. If the activity is something that you don’t enjoy doing, consider delegating it. If you can’t delegate it, don’t try to force yourself to do something that you hate. Dump it and concentrate on completing the tasks that you enjoy.
3. Take baby steps
Prioritizing activities is important. Nevertheless, the most effective way to stop procrastinating is to begin with what is simple first. If you tackle something that is too difficult first, you can easily become discouraged and give up. This results in increased struggle and stress. Instead, choose a task that will be relatively easy for you to complete. Once you complete that task, go on to the next task. Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
4. Put a time limit on what’s not handled
For example, if you don’t read magazines that you receive in June, put them in the July stack. If have not read the magazines by Aug. 1, discard them. Allowing them to pile up is a constant reminder of your procrastination and only makes you feel worse as the pile continues to grow.
5. Touch it once
This is a powerful strategy that produces real results. The goal is to handle each item immediately by completing it, delegating it or dumping it. When it comes to paper items such as bills, place a red mark on each item that you touch more than once. In other words, if you don’t handle the item immediately when you touch it for the first time, place a big red mark on it. For items such as e-mail, if you don’t handle it the first time you read it, highlight the first line in red. It won’t take long to realize how often you are handling the same pieces of paper or digital communication over and over.
6. Use the 80-20 Rule
Prioritize what’s most important and focus on completing those items first. The 80-20 rule says that 80 percent of the benefit comes from the top 20 percent of our activities. Conversely, the bottom 20 percent produces less than 1 percent of benefit. To demonstrate this point, try the following experiment for one week. Eliminate the bottom 20 percent of your activities that produce the least benefit; the result is that you free up eight or more hours per week. What’s particularly interesting is that virtually everyone who tries this approach discovers that eliminating the bottom 20 percent of their activities produces no negative consequences.
Reducing procrastination requires a series of small steps over time. If you are ready to stop procrastinating, then how about completing a task that you have been putting off right now?
Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.
Ross will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. Register today.
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