I have always been a procrastinator, and when I started my business that habit didn't change. I have the best of intentions, jot down a few notes, then move on to something else. Or nothing else. I work at home, online mostly, and my schedule is very flexible. I tend to work on the couch, with my computer on my lap, often with the TV on. Add to the mix my semi-retired husband and guess who doesn't get too much work done? Not because my husband is right here chatting to me, but because I am a procrastinator.
I want to get down to business, accomplish all that needs to be done in a day, and feel good about it. But wait… how??? Reality and past work experience has taught me that rarely can I – or anyone else for that matter – reach this goal on a daily basis. Some things will inevitably be put on the “back burner”. Sometimes due to reasons out of our control. Sometimes because the task at hand is too difficult… or unpleasant… or the timing just isn't right…
So, to head off any further thoughts of “putting-off”, I thought I would compile a list of ways I have learned to work steadily and actually get some work done.
1. Lists: My Friend and Confidant
I love lists. In fact, I have a few going right now (work related, things to do in the barn, upcoming appointments). As far as work is concerned, I write down what I need to do within the next few days, ordered most important to least important. As I complete a task I cross it off my list. Often there are less important tasks that get done before the more important ones, but that's mainly because of timing or ease. I keep my list next to me, on the couch, all the time. I refer to it often, occasionally adding to it if something comes up. Believe it or not, my work list is shrinking, even as I write this article.
2. Organization is the Key
Have you ever walked into your office and immediately turned around? Why? Because of the clutter of papers just waiting for you to shuffle through? Clean it all up, organize your files, and you'll see how easy it is to be efficient and get something done. Don't fear the mess. Organize it.
3. My Phone is My Reminder
I don't spend every waking moment working at home. I am on the road, at appointments, shopping. You get the idea. I can't always work when the mood hits me, but I do always have my phone with me. I have it set up to send me subtle reminders when certain things need to be done. When I know I won't be able to sit at my favorite spot (aka, couch) with my computer, I transfer some of my important list items (#1) to the task list on my phone. Very convenient! There is a drawback to this, however: The ease of ignoring the reminder. I am extremely guilty of re-setting the due date to the next day.
My solution to this act of laziness is to set up two reminders for one task. For example, if I have a task that doesn’t require immediate action, it gets done whenever I find the time. The reminder continues to pop up on my phone unless I delete it. So, a second reminder, set to appear a week after the first one, gives me that extra push to acknowledge the work that needs to be done. A bit redundant perhaps, but the nagging works.
4. Face Reality With Eyes Wide Open
I know there are times when the job to be done simply will not get done. I have learned to set realistic time frames to account for delays, interruptions, and everyday occurrences. That's just the reality, whether I'm working on an online project, or doing a project around the home.
5. Break it Down Into Smaller Pieces
If I know a job will take forever to complete, I try to break it down into smaller pieces and spread it out over several hours or a few days. I have found that, while working on a lengthy project, a break and re-visit with “fresh eyes” allows for a better outcome. I go out for a walk, do some housework, have a snack, and occasionally work out.
I am trying to change my ways – be less of a procrastinator and more of a doer. It’ll be tough, but I think I can do it. Try these ideas, and if you have any to add to the list I would love to hear of them.
Kathleen Lewis is the founder and owner of EWomanWeb.com, a trusted resource dedicated to providing online jobs from home. She understands the trials and tribulations of working from home, and encourages others to act upon their desire to be their own boss.