Everyone procrastinates at some time or another. What makes procrastination a real problem rather than a simple excuse is the next step taken to overcome the issue. To prevent the excuse from turning into a time management problem, consider the suggestions listed below for three of the most common excuses people use for procrastinating.
“I get so much mail that it keeps me from getting other tasks done.”
Mail comes in many forms. There is postal mail, interoffice memos, electronic mail, and internet chat/instant messaging. Elimination of the unnecessary communications is the best way to handle this excuse. For advertisements and catalogs via postal mail or email, the solution is as simple as requesting name and address be removed from mailing lists by calling a toll-free number or going to a website to choose an opt-out option. For interoffice memos and company emails, first check to see if an action is required or if copy is informational to try to get off information-only lists. To get away from internet conversations, turn it off completely or let others know the times this option is appropriate during a planned work day. Most mail items are not urgent, so don’t worry about immediate response but do plan a certain time each day for reading. For urgent items, people will usually pick-up the phone in order to get a more immediate and reliable response. Unless a “need by” date and time is given, the rule of thumb for most business related communications is to respond within 24 hours (preferred is one business day for paper and by the end of business on same day for electronic).
“This project is so big; I just don’t have time to get started.”
While some projects are short-term and can quickly be handled, there are also worthwhile projects that will take many hours to complete. Instead of worry about how much time the project may take, determine the due date for the project and divide the major project into multiple mini-projects or daily tasks. Do this by listing every step and/or task required to successfully complete the main project. Then put the task list in order of the steps necessary to complete each mini-project. After the order has been established, start scheduling tasks to do each day on personal calendar or to-do list going backwards from two days before the final project due date. This method makes the job not seem as large since a little work will get done on the project each day. The extra time padding prior to due date also allows for handling problems that may come up while still keeping the final completion date on-schedule.
“Every time I start a job or go to a meeting my phone rings and disrupts my flow.”
Phone interruptions are more frequent because most people have a phone in their work area and many have cell phones for calls, paging, and text messaging as well. Consider turning the phone off or ignoring it at certain times of the day in order to fully concentrate on high-priority tasks or fully participate in a meeting. Be sure to let key others in the workplace know when unavailable by phone. Or ask someone to be an alternate call handler during the times the phone must be ignored and return that favor for them later. If department rules exist against turning off phones because it is used similar to a pager, consider turning off ringer and using vibrate or text messaging only during the times in meetings. To get back in the flow after a call, have a piece of paper handy to write down current thought or action at time of the call so it is easier to get back on track once call is over. Also use the other side of paper to capture notes during the call to make sure no actions from call get forgotten since forgetting could result in a reminder call later.
To prevent future time management problems, stop or reduce procrastination excuses before they grow out of proportion and become a bigger issue. Use the ideas suggested above for overcoming common procrastinating excuses in order to improve time management. Remember, although many procrastinate from time to time, it is how those typical thoughts are handled that changes them from a potential problem to an easy-to-overcome excuse.
*NOTE: Suggestions in the article are adapted from ideas in the book “T.A.P.P. Steps in Time Management.”