5 Tips to Squash Procrastination from an Actual Procrastinator

Procrastination is a subject of extremes.  Many people will tell us that their work is suffering because of their procrastination.   Others say that putting work off to the last minute is a strategy for building adrenalin to do their best work.

I used to be a part of the second group, Team Crunch. I would tell you that I do my best work under extreme deadlines.  That is when my creative juices flow and great ideas pop up.  I still think that is partly true; I do get most energized during crunch time, but it is not when I do my highest quality work, and it is not fair to my team.

I have learned over the years that I need to deliver my work at a measured pace that allows time for me to double check my work and let others question my work. These are not innate skills for me; I have had to learn strategies for pacing my work.  Here are a five of my favorite strategies help me squash procrastination.

Tip #1:  Triage and Organize

Triage your tasks into the following three categories.

1. Do it now: Tackle your urgent tasks that need immediate attention right away. These tasks immediately go into your to-do list within a short period.  For example, complete this task within one hour.

2. Defer to a scheduled time/date: For tasks that require more time, schedule them on your calendar or they will be deferred forever (a.k.a. procrastination pit). One of our favorite work schedulers is Asana. Asana is a web based tool that allows our entire team to schedule work for one another, set due dates, and check off things when they are completed.  We can even have a conversation about the project in real time.

3. Someday/Maybe: Make a list of tasks that are not urgent or a high priority.  Set a date to review these items every 30 days and see if they make it to your schedule list.

Tip #2:  Break It Down and Measure Progress

How do you eat an elephant?  One bit at a time.  That is the same way you tackle a big project.  Break a big project down into monthly tasks, weekly tasks, and daily tasks. The progress will be motivating, and before you know it, you will have that big project completed.  Seeing progress is a major motivator to people.  In a Harvard Business Review article titled, The Power of Small Wins, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer write “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important are making progress on meaningful work.”  The two key items here are progress and meaningful work.   You must find a personal connection to the importance of any project you are working on.   And, find ways to see incremental progress as you tackle each step in the journey.

Tip #3:  Stop Playing Kick the Can

When I was young, my friends and I used to walk down the street, and we would kick a can all the way home.  Why were we kicking the can?  We did not want to pick it up and throw it away, so, we would just keep kicking the can as if it would magically throw itself away.  And as you may guess, the can was always there when we got home, and we eventually had to pick it up to throw it away.   Most of the time I am quite motivated to accomplish things, but sometimes I need a boost.  So, I practice self-talk and say a mantra out loud to get myself going. My mantra is, “Now is always better than later, today is always better than tomorrow.”  If that does not work, I remind myself that if I don’t tackle this task now, it will only become a bigger, more urgent problem tomorrow.  And, I tell myself to stop kicking the can down the road.

Tip #4:  Cramming Does Not Create Quality Work

I know many of you say you do your best work at the last minute. Speaking from personal experience, that is not true.  You may be more energized because you have the pressure of time.  You may even be creative.  But, you cannot do your best work since you will eventually run out of time.  You will not have a chance to ask for other’s input or test your assumptions. Not to mention, you will eventually drive all the people who like to work in a measured, planned approach in your office crazy.

Tip #5:  Know How Your Behavioral Style Drives Your Interests

Take a DISC Survey to find out more about your natural tendencies. Certain tasks are aligned with your natural behavior style and will most likely be the items that you prioritize and are excited to tackle first. On the opposite spectrum, the tasks that fall outside of your natural behavior style could be the work that you procrastinate because it takes more energy from you.  We recommend taking an Everything DiSC® Workplace Profile to help you gain more insight on some of your natural tendencies.  The Everything DiSC® Workplace Profile will help provide you insight on stressors and motivators at work, which can be connected to why you procrastinate some things and others you cannot wait to get started.  If you want to get started with taking an Everything DiSC® profile, you can buy one from our TH!NK store.

This article has required me to use all of my procrastination strategies.  We have struggled with blogging consistently for our business.  In fact, it was my desire to do tip #3, kick the can,  on this article that made me write an article on procrastination.  I must admit that I am stoked to tell you that the goal was to publish this by August 16th and I am putting the final touches to it on August 13.  Whoot whooo!!!    I hope these tips help you, too!

If you have any questions about these tips, drop me an email at info@think-training.com.

3 Lessons From Mindful Meditation

So often in business, we are looking for ways to do more and achieve more.  As a business owner, it is all too easy for me to get caught up in the urgency of life and business.  Recently, I did exactly the opposite.  I spent my evening, with five powerful Social Wahines, doing less and it turned out to be the most productive night.

On July 12th, I went to my first class to learn the basics of how to meditate.  It was a balmy evening at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I arrived at the park around 5:30p and the beach was all a buzz with families playing in the water, people fishing, and all forms of fitness in high gear around us.   I was not scheduled to do any of those activities.  I was on my way to learn how to meditate.   Lia Catanzaro, an amazing yoga and meditation instructor, led our group of Social Wahines through the meditation practice.  Lia found the perfect spot for us amidst the beach goers, yogis and fitness groups.  We were positioned beneath a large shade tree, facing the ocean, perfectly poised to see a Hawaii sunset similar to the one you may find on a post card.

I signed up for this workshop seeking strategies to relax and calm my action oriented mind.  As with anything in life, I went for one thing and gained three stunning pieces of wisdom.

Lesson #1: Meditation Only Takes a Few Minutes

I learned that meditating just 2-3 minutes a day can improve your creativity, intellect and overall health.  I used to think that meditation took hours.  I was wrong!  Lia taught us that it takes just a few minutes of meditation a day to be more creative, smarter, and healthier.  Meditation does not need to be complicated.  It can be as simple as focusing on your breath and reaming calm while driving in traffic, spending a few minutes journaling each day or simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breathe in a measured fashion.  I was a big fan of breathing with a simple mantra.  I sat for 5 minutes breathing in through my nose and saying (in my mind) “in with love.”  Then, breathing out through my mouth saying, “out with fear.”  This meditation is powerful because fear and love cannot exist in the same space.  I had never thought of that before, and as I pondered the idea, I realized that fear frequently hijacks my emotions and I kick into action, which is usually not handled delicately,

Lesson #2:  Enjoy the Moment

I was able to truly sit and enjoy the place that I am at and not just let the day fly by me.  When was the last time you just enjoyed where you were and chose to live in the moment?  For me, it had been a long time.  I am usually hectically picking up kids, finishing work and trying to figure out what to eat for dinner from 5:30p – 7:00p.  This workshop reminded me to stop, slow down and enjoy this life given to me.

Lesson #3:  Enjoy My Friends and Have Unique Experiences

I am reminded how much I like spending time with my friends while having unique experiences.  These women were amazing. We were all in the same boat.  Nervous that we could not slow down to meditate well (apparently all over achievers since we were afraid of being successful meditators), not sure if it was something we could enjoy, but knew we needed meditation in our life.  Each one of us walked away with a different epiphany and felt closer as a result of the shared experience. By the end, we found our favorite form of meditation and enjoyed ourselves.  One woman committed to starting her day at 6:00an and begin with journaling, another was heading out to purchase essential oils to diffuse in her house every night before bed.  Me, I committed to going into yoga class 10 minutes early to meditate before yoga.

If you have not meditated before, I encourage you to find a guide to take you through the process.   To my friends in Hawaii, reach out to Lia Catanzaro directly @ lia@liacat.com Lia makes meditating an accessible experience that is not overwhelming.  With my limited experience, I can say with confidence that practicing meditation will help me improve my emotional stability and intellectual clarity, both essential to be my best at home and work.  I used to see slowing down as wasted time and being unproductive.   Now, I see it as an investment in myself that will allow me to give more and do more for others.

Looking for a Great Book

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When I was growing up, my mom would always give me my next book to read, and all of them were fantastic!

When I went off to college, I would go to the library to pick out a book and they all seemed to be mediocre at best. I was sharing this with my mom one day (while standing at a pay phone and using a calling card) and she said, “Sarah, I only give you the ‘A’ books”.

Confused, I asked her, “What is an ‘A’ book?”

She went on to share that she read loads of books and gave them a letter grade of A – F. She would only pass the books on to her friends and family that received an “A”. You can see a copy of her list in the picture above. My mom is a tough grader – no one got an A on this list.

I recently went to a meeting of 40 business leaders in Hawaii and they were all asked to write down their 3 favorite books – their “A” list. I am sharing this list with you just in case you are in the need of a new good book.

Great Book Recommendations

  • Dances with Wolves
  • Growth Mindset
  • The Tipping Point
  • The 5 People You Meet in Heaven
  • The Secret
  • Lean In
  • Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • Failing Forward
  • The Talisman
  • The Stand
  • Pillars of the Earth
  • Don Quixote
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Big Magic
  • Tess of the D’urbervilles
  • Girl Boss
  • The Miracle Morning
  • Essentialism
  • Lightless Sky
  • Kite Runner
  • The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Life on the Line
  • Starting Real Estate Conversations
  • The Stand
  • Grand Weaver
  • Not A Fan
  • Destiny
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • The Life Intended
  • Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business
  • Essence of Inspiration
  • A Woman After God’s Heart
  • Think and Grow Rich
  • Last Lecture
  • First Light
  • The Purpose Driven Life
  • 8 Dimensions of Leadership
  • 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
  • Stop Juggling Elephants
  • Death of a Salesmen
  • School of Prophets
  • Fasting by Jentzin Franklin
  • 5 Love Languages

How about you?  Are there any books you think should be added to this list?  Share your “A” books in the comments below!

Lessons from a Newbie

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Today, was my last day of an online certification training and my assignment was to prepare for an upcoming client and share my approach with two colleagues.

I’ve been in the training business for a while so the exercise itself was a good one. I had to think through my approach and put it in another person’s format.

That assignment made me think differently about my content. I started to see where my experienced self missed some steps and it inspired me to challenge my old process with new ideas.

The Most Powerful Lesson

But, the most powerful lesson came from my colleague who said, “I’ll go first. I am brand new with this content and I really want to get some feedback on my approach. If it is okay with you, I am going to show you all of my prepared documents and handouts so you can give me feedback.”

I thought ‘My goodness! I don’t have that many prepared documents to show‘.

And, as she walked through each one, I realized how much care and attention that client was going to receive. They were her first client and she was going to make sure to be perfect for them.

Then it hit me: we are always best for our firsts and when we are new. Our first day on the job, our first date, our first customer.

The challenge is not being the best for our first, but being best for our 31st, 131st, etc.

Thank you to my newbie who reminded me of what my parents taught me, “Always be your best.”