Welcome to day six of our special time-management clinic with renowned life coach and bestselling author, Wendy Jago. Wendy's brand new book, How to Manage Your Mammoth: The Procrastinators Guide to Getting Things Done, was published this month. As part of today’s clinic, Wendy addresses how you start a new way of dealing with tasks if you have always left work to the last minute.
If you've missed any of our past clinics, they are still online. New questions will be posted every working day at 4pm until Monday, 24 September. The aim is to inspire our readers to conquer their own time-management mammoths! The clinic also offers an exclusive opportunity for you to have your questions answered (for free!) by one of the most well-respected coaches in the time-management and neuro-linguistic programming field. So do please leave your own time-management questions in the comments section below and Wendy Jago will answer them for you!
First, stop blaming yourself for being so sluggish or lazy and ask what 'last minute-itis' actually achieves for you.
- If you are a perfectionist, it's likely that having to hurry at the eleventh hour stops you getting bogged down in worrying about whether you are doing the task well enough. You know you can only do what you can do in the time you have left, so you bypass one of the perfectionist's personal bogeys: over-high aims and self-doubts.
- Are you someone who relies on deadlines to do their prioritising and time-planning for them? Perhaps this allows you to bypass the difficulties of deciding whether or not to do something in preference to something else, or before it, or indeed at all!
- Do you really want to do this? Maybe you aren't able to say no, and you're showing your resentment about the task by doing it hastily, or in a slapdash way. That way, you get to make your protest but indirectly.
- How old you do you feel when you are in this kind of rush? Maybe your patterns haven't been updated, and that schoolgirl or schoolboy inside is still running them!
Answering these questions may have given you some idea about why this pattern is still running. Hopefully you will be blaming yourself less and understanding yourself better as a result. This is where grown-up tools like desktop calendars, diaries and lists can help you. Start with a relatively easy task with a deadline some time away. Always use the easy approach first!
You are going to need the following information:
- What's the task?
- When does it have to be done by?
- How much time do I realistically think it will need? (Don't try and kid yourself! It's better to over-estimate and have time left over).
If it helps, use coloured pens or post-it notes to flag up particular kinds of tasks (e.g. pratical, work-related, social, etc.).
- Put your 'finish by' marker in your calendar on the deadline date. (You might choose to give yourself a little elbow room by setting your marker a day ahead. I used to do this with weekly essay deadlines when I was a student, which gave me time to revise and polish what I had written before handing it in.)
- Use your time estimate together with your knowledge of any other tasks you have to do to identify a start day. Think back a few steps, if you can, to allow for things that might crop up. Put a 'start' marker on your likely start date.
- If your task has different steps or stages, enter them on appropiate dates in the calendar.
- When another task comes up, follow the same procedure as soon as you can, so you create a rolling process. It will soon become as habitual as your old last-minute patterning.
KEY TIP: look at your calendar at the end of every day to set your head for what's coming the next day. 'Sleeping on it' will help you organise yourself unconsciously overnight so that you are more motivated and more able to achieve what you've set out to do. If you find yourself 'forgetting' to do this, ask yourself what benefit 'forgetting' is achieving for you. There will be one and it will be a key factor in holding you back.
One useful by-product of this routine is that you will quickly see when you're going to get overloaded. That's the time to reschedule. Much better to tell your manager really early on that you can foresee timing issues than to have to apologise for a scrappy effort or for missing a deadline altogether. Even if you are self-employed, or using this method to plan your social life, it will help you look ahead.
You can find more details of the steps and methods above in chapters 2 and 11 of How to Manage Your Mammoth.
How to Manage Your Mammoth is available from all good bookshops. This title is also available as an ebook so you can add it to your Sony ereader, Kindle, Kobo or iPad.
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