Word Count: 1300
Read Time: 6 min.
O.K., I admit it, though I hope this short piece will be of help to you as you do whatever you do, it is really written as a “self-help” piece…for ME. So why are we placing this article under the LEAD category? Because we are all the sole leader of ourselves, right?
I know confession is good for the soul, and probably a few restless nights, so I confess to being more of an idea enthusiast, less of a “do-er”. Getting an idea into motion, converting ideas to action has always been downers for me. So, in my own self-analysis, what causes this disease in me?
Oh, Where to Place the Blame
I have tried blaming the fact that I am working so often from home these days with the ever-present attention of our two wonderful dogs and the lure of the TV, the fridge, the bed…ah, the bed, what a great place to extend the short power nap to an afternoon snooze. I have tried placing the blame on my wonderful, forgiving and so tolerant wife…but she will, rightfully, have nothing to do with that excuse.
I have narrowed my disease to two key “viruses”… dare I use that term? Yes, since I will likely need a vaccination, I think, to rid myself of these curses.
I Found the Culprit – Me
The culprits? Procrastination and not adhering to proven ways to be “productive”. I have never liked the words productivity or structure…for, to me, they mean I lose some control over how I spend my time during any given day. Oh, so maybe there is a third virus at work here. Need to control. I have not yet learned that being productive may actually require some structure and could mean being in control. Hmmm, I will have to lose some sleep over that realization.
So, what am I doing to actively treat my malady? I am reading the advice of others. On another day, sometime in the near future, I promise, I will consider actually taking this advice.
Consultant, Cure Thyself
One of my favorite contributors to leadership, management and self-help, the Inc. writer and independent writer of leadership books, Jeff Haden. Always practical, always down-to-earth eschewing the “magical always work” pearls of wisdom, Jeff is my go-to guru.
In a recent piece written for Inc. magazine, Jeff relays Belle Beth Cooper’s “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Productive”…sounded scary to me, but upon reading and balancing advice given to me by my own family, I actually found some usable and extraordinarily helpful tips. The following are heavily edited pieces of advice from Belle, additions of family advice, and a dash of “typical tips” to “get things done” following my idea.
- My daughter, Mary-Margaret Baker, who now manages The Jackson Creative, LLC from Washington State and designs and adds the class and polish to GFB Connect offerings offers:
–Set hard deadlines, while being kind and realistic to yourself. I find this helpful but hard to keep to. Hence this article is being written three days past the deadline. Deadlines are the same as reaching the tape first in a sprint or race. They give you a target to keep in front of you, the old “Carrot, not Stick” approach. The way to be successful with deadlines, set them for realistic dates. Don’t over promise and under deliver. That never works and often frustrates others. Ask someone to keep on your tail to meet deadlines.
-Also from MM, set aside specific time each day to work on tasks, even without completing them. BTW, having to “complete something” before moving on is another disease…I have always thought of it as linear vs multi-tasking. One thing at a time – till it is complete. Not good because it moves other things, even easier to accomplish farther back in the pack.
- From my wonderful wife, Margaret, upon whom former co-workers and employees of one of our companies bestowed the title, Saint Margaret, for putting up with my fountain of half-baked ideas, over-promising and taking the “Oh, yes we can do that!” approach with clients, then returning to ask staff, “Can we do this?” Maggie suggests that, while home, once I successfully arise from that wonderful bed, have my coffee, I should go to the study and write for 2 hours, BEFORE sitting at the bar with coffee in hand and completing (there is that problem again) 3-4 crosswords (I am an admitted cruciverbalist.)
Actually, this is good advice for me. Limited time means I cannot finish everything at once. It means I have a self-imposed deadline, and it preserves my need to control my time.
Now for a few brief tips from both Jeff and Belle.
- Rework your To-Do List, limiting your tasks to accomplish that day to no more than three MITs (Most Important Things). Do these tasks first (see Margaret’s tip above) at home or when you first get to the office before your days are filled up with other “stuff that intrudes”.
- Build habits or routines that tell your brain and body it is time to get to work. Specific clues as to when to start: alarms, finishing that cup of coffee (just one), playing relaxing music while working, closing your door, etc.
- Review your day and identify your points of wasted time. Replaying the day is easy. Considering ANY time as wasted is tough, since I feel ALL time spend has a purpose, even if the purpose may be to rest, take a break, interact with others, take a nap, have a leisurely drink with one’s spouse or simply “chilling” to reflect, think, process, wish, dream or even regret.
- Have no regrets about stopping work. Belle suggests building habits to help you stop working. She cites Hemmingway who said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never get stuck.” This can work in any type of work. You know what you have done, what is to be done next, and you will be excited about starting up again.
- Set up something cool after work to look forward to, and to help you wind down.
- Her next two suggestions, reinforced by Stephen Covey in his famed woodcutter story, are two I really like. Take more breaks and Take more naps. I love those two…probably driven by my viruses mentioned above. The logic behind these two suggestions are fairly obvious: restore you cognitive processes and recharge you mind and body. The science suggests one should take a 15-minute break after each 90 minutes of working. It is based on ultradian rhythms. After your rest, the mind/body can “fire up” again.
- Most people suggest checking your email at the end of the day to avoid getting side-tracked with short bursts responding or shifting gears mid-task. However, Belle suggests what most see as counterintuitive IF you work with distant or remote teams. One needs to stay up to date where team members are, especially those in different time zones who may be working on their part of a task while others sleep. So, she suggests checking email first thing in the morning. Interesting. My personal preference is to check emails during a 15-minute break, starring those to be tended to at the end of the day and dealing only with the most urgent at that moment, dispensing with it in short order.
I have tried several of the above suggestions today in finishing all the articles I had due.
They worked…I have finished all pieces, sent them to the editor, and am feeling good physically and mentally.
Tony Jackson, Managing Director
GFB Connect, Inc.