In this title I’m referring to the awful word procrastination. Whether we’re trying to get a first draft finished, editing and proofing a novel, on a work project or doing jobs around the house there are plenty of ways to put off starting the task.
I don’t pretend to be anywhere close to perfect when it comes to this, even when I want to write and I don’t have much time I suddenly find myself skimming the online news headlines.
This week I read an article with some tips on reducing procrastination, so with a mixture of thoughts from that and things I find that work for me, let’s have a look at how we can waste less time and get more done.
De-cluttering seems to be the buzzword of the moment, but I’m not going to get into the hot subject of decluttering your house or flat. Whether or not you do that is up to you, but organising your desk and workspace or office is a great way to help be more effective, as well as not wasting time looking for things. Set up a filing system that works for you, both electronic as well as physical. We hot-desk at work and whether you like or loath it, hot-desking certainly helps with not collecting too much unnecessary paperwork.
To-Do lists are great favourites, but to make them work you need to take your list to the next level. This includes prioritising the tasks and actually scheduling time for them in an online or paper calendar. This is important whether you work on your own or in an office. Actually estimating how long a task will take and setting aside time gives a sense of how much we can actually achieve in a given time period.
Pareto’s Principle says that roughly 80% of our results come from 20% of the activities. If this is so, then we need to ensure we’re spending our time on the right things. Life is full enough when I just factor in writing and writing-related activities, but that together with a full-time job and a family means that not everything can be done. With this in mind we certainly need to make sure we prioritise the tasks and the time we have. In the final couple of weeks before Writing the Stars was published I put it on pre-order. I chose a date that gave me a little time after it was finished and before it was ‘live’ and I spent that time doing some marketing. After it was live I also factored in more time for some marketing activities before I started on my next project. Now, several months down the track, these marketing activities take up a small amount of my time compared to the time I schedule for writing. Our priorities aren’t always going to be the same and we need to work out what’s important for us right now and schedule time for those activities.
There is heaps on the internet and in books about how to set goals. All I’ll say here is that there is value in writing down your goals and putting them somewhere you will see them often. When prioritising tasks and activities and scheduling time in your calendar, make sure the tasks are taking you in the direction of your goals.
Starting your day
When I sit down to write, the very worst thing I can do is look at emails (or the online newspaper, social media etc.). These things eat into my available (and creative) time. Starting with my writing means I’m working towards my goal(s) and priorities and not someone else’s.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler