I sat in the bathroom with the door locked and my head in my hands. This was the last in several hours worth of the same old bad routine of trying to avoid the mammoth job ahead.
I was no longer effectively prioritising my time.
So far that morning I had completed the following:
- Got dressed
- Got my son ready for school
- Took him to school
- Checked my emails but have not answered any yet (I have things to do first)
- Made a cuppa and sat at my computer screen in a daze
- ‘Popped on Facebook’ (for 3 hours! Yikes how did that time fly so quickly)
- Made another cuppa and stared at my screen some more
- Decided that I only had an hour before the school run so there’s not much point starting now. I will never have enough work completed in just an hour. Besides, I haven’t even had any lunch yet and I’m beginning to get hungry.
- Ran to the bathroom, locked the door and had a panic attack!
I was literally shaking. So so worried. Had I taken on too much? Will I mess it all up? Will I be asked to do things that I do not know how to do and get embarrassed?
I was building a really big and complicated website, the biggest I had ever built and, to that point in time, using software and skills that were either completely new or I had little experience in. There was also a lot of money riding on this and times were indeed very tight. I could not afford to get this wrong, I could not afford to not get paid. Plus I was a single mum to a young child so time, as well as money, was tight. This new client was one of several clients I was currently working with and I needed to make sure that everything got done for everyone. Not just this huge job.
I should point out here that the client was also someone who I consider a friend. She was well aware of my skills and capabilities and was more than happy for me to use this project as a space for learning, and the fee reflected this – but in my head that made no difference at all. It was the pressure I was giving entirely to myself. It wasnt from an external source.
It’s been quite a journey for me since then and one where I have learnt a lot about the dangers of overwhelm and the reasons that we humans put off important tasks (procrastinate).
I came to the realisation that I needed to find some way to beat this crippling fear and get the job (and any other job in my life and work) done. And done on time too.
So here is my next part, in the series of tips and solutions to procrastination: prioritising
This technique is simple and can really help clear your head for getting things done (shiver).
There are several things at play here and they all are in different categories and they all seem very important for different reasons and I just didn’t know where to start.
I had a look at my to-do lists (yes I had many different lists in different places), the amount of work that seemed to need doing was mammoth and I didn’t think I would ever get it all done!
THAT WAS MISTAKE #1. Telling myself I would get it ALL done.
To-do lists by nature are an ongoing thing.
Inevitably by the time you have ticked some things off a list, there will be some new things to add to it. This is just the nature of the beast and one of the reasons they can seem so hard to achieve. One of the things I know to do is buy a day-to-a page diary and create to-do lists for the day with all my regular tasks and daily tasks in it then add to the list as needed. But even this list can get pressured if there is a lot to achieve in a day.
So the next thing to do is to look down the list and ask yourself if there are any tasks on the list that, once done, will make any others seem easier or irrelevant.
Finally, go through each to-do list (Including regular or daily tasks) you have and get a red pen (or a colour you do not have on your page) and we are going to look for tasks that need prioritising.
You are looking for very urgent jobs that absolutely must be done in the next 48 hours (preferably today) or it will cause major issues for you. So going back to my Website job task one of the first things I had to do was purchase the required domain name – otherwise, someone else may have bought it and then it would no longer be available to my client – that would be disastrous.
Next to the Urgent tasks mark a BIG letter ‘A’.
Note that the task of checking emails can be a tricky one to prioritize as you cannot tell what’s urgent or not until you have checked. I always put ONE email check per day as an A-class priority – just in case. As this becomes more of a habit you will learn to quickly prioritize each email in your head and add the urgent tasks to your A-list as you go along.
Now we are looking for the LEAST urgent tasks. These are the ones that can go n the back burner for at least a week, preferably a month or more. The jobs that may become urgent later (Like if it’s the month of May and your tax return needs to be done by January – that could wait a little while for most people but will become more urgent as time passes).
Mark the east urgent jobs with a big letter ‘D’
Now, look at all the tasks left. For each of these, you must ask yourself if will they become urgent soon, after 48 hours but within the next week. Mark all these jobs with the letter ‘B’
All the tasks that are left SHOULD match the following criteria – they will need to be completed after this week but within the next month. Mark all those with a ‘C’
Any you are really unsure about as someone else if you can or mark with a ‘B’ for now.
Remind yourself of the following:
- THESE LISTS (or this list if you are lucky enough to just have one) WILL ABSOLUTELY BE ADDED TO – They will also be taken away from you too!!
- THESE PRIORITIES MAY CHANGE – Things come up and sometimes you need to re-evaluate. Be flexible enough to change your priority status for a task – but only if absolutely necessary!! Not because you ‘like’ to do it more than another task. This is about necessity not always about fun – sorry guys.
So let’s look at our lists. You should now have a list of ‘A-class priorities. These are the jobs that you will put first and above all others.
Get a sheet of paper and call this your priority list. Write all your A-class tasks on the list and make sure that these are the ones that you complete first. EVEN (ESPECIALLY) IF THEY DON’T FEEL LIKE FUN THINGS TO DO.
And there you have it. It can seem counter-intuitive to spend time on this when you are really busy, but it really is worth it. You can give yourself a head-start to getting everything done and keeping things running on time.
Do you have any prioritising tips or ideas that help you beat the procrastination monster? I can’t wait to hear from you!