My name is Tabitha Thomas, and I am a procrastinator. Well, I am a former procrastinator. At least I can admit it, right? How many of you know you are a procrastinator, but refuse to admit it?
Looking back on it, I realize I had been a procrastinator for a very long time. I can recall many late college nights spent in the library, pounding out a paper, producing nothing more than a lackluster effort because I didn’t have more time. It left me tired, and stressed out that my grades would reflect my poor decision of choosing a party over the library the night before.
It wasn’t until my second job after college that I learned how to embrace a deadline. I was working for a national loan company that solicited customers by cold calling to discuss how to reduce their monthly debt through consolidation. Yes, it was as horrible as it sounds, but their process instilled in me what I now use to get shit done.
Imagine this, you get to work and the clock hits 9:00 and your boss says “go.” You pick up the phone and make as many calls as you possibly can, hoping to talk to at least one or two people. At 9:50 you take a ten minute break, and then at 10:00 you do it all again. This goes on and on throughout your day.
Finally, your day is over and your boss asks you how many appointments you scheduled for the following day. This is the process of sales cold calling. You make the calls, set the appointments, and aim to close X number of loans for the month. And then the month resets and you start all over again.
I have to admit, I hated this job. Mostly because of the people I worked with, but also because it was mind numbing for me, and I didn’t feel like I was really helping anyone. So I quickly moved on. But the process of having a scheduled day, geared toward a specific goal, stuck with me for years to come.
I’m going to show you the 4 Phases I went through to take me from being a procrastinator to leading a weekly webinar that helps people hit their own deadlines.
Together, we will go through the 4 Phases I went through to mastering deadlines. Some things we will discuss are:
- How to recognize the signs that you are a procrastinator
- How to break down goals into actionable steps
- How to organize your day and your desktop for successful productivity
- How to have balance between work and family life
No more procrastinating. Let’s get started.
Phase 1: How to realize you have a Procrasination Problem
It wasn’t until I was working all alone in a building, setting my own daily goals, I realized I was a procrastinator. I was working for a small video production company as a project manager in my early twenties. It was a fantastic job. I was able to leave the office and talk with clients. It fit me to a T.
But while in the office, I began to notice, in lieu of a filing system, I was starting to have more of a ‘piling’ system going on. Not just on my desk, but on my computer, too. It was taking me forever to find items I had worked on just the week before. I was putting off something simple—basic—but hated to do. It was affecting my work. I was a procrastinator.
It wasn’t just with filing. I began to notice I would also put off other tasks I didn’t want to do. It not only affected my work, it affected my perception of work. Every day, I would wake up dreading going in more and more, because I knew I needed to get that certain task done, and every day I would put it off. This was a vicious cycle.
One day, I realized what I had been doing was not working for me. I was no longer happy. I had a lack of focus and a fear of failure. Since I was not setting goals for myself, I had no target I was working toward. I was aimlessly working on random things, with no specific outlook on what success for myself looked like. This lack of focus caused me to piddle my days away, most certainly leading toward failure.
It was time for a change. It was time to take what I had learned about the life of a salesman and apply it to my life in general. It was time to start setting goals for myself. After a full day of organizing all of my files, I started myself on a new path, the path to an organized—and much happier—life.
You may ask, how did a piling system lead me to believe I was a procrastinator? There were other signs I discovered I possessed, which people who suffer with procrastination also had.
Do you find that:
- you have difficulty with change?
- you become overwhelmed when a new project starts?
- you put off starting work until everything is perfect?
- you are great at making lists, but not good at checking things off of that list?
- you focus on busy work, instead of the important work?
If you find yourself in the exact same shoes as I did a decade ago, don’t fret. Things will start looking up if you learn how to set goals!
Phase 2: How to Break a Goal Down into Actionable Steps that Make You Accountable
It wasn’t until I learned to set goals, not only for work, but for my personal life as well, that I was able to overcome my procrastinating habits and achieve more with my life.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a goal is:
“…a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve; a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.”
So, in laymen terms, whatever you plan to do is a goal, and if you set a due date, it is a deadline! Goals are just plans, and deadlines are just dates. Not so scary now, huh?
My favorite Zig Ziggler quote is, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” No other words ring truer than those, especially for me. Without a goal, you have no focus. And without focus you are not working toward anything. If you are not working toward anything, you are not making yourself a better person.
These days, I set lots of goals. I set yearly, weekly, and daily goals. The first step for setting any of my goals is to first to ask myself if it is consistent with my purpose in life. If it does not move me forward, toward my purpose, then it’s not worth doing and I move on to one that does. I challenge you to ask yourself if your goals and deadlines line up with your purpose in life.
The first step in goal setting is to make sure it is a SMART Goal.
A SMART Goal is:
In order to set a SMART goal, start by asking yourself questions. Ask yourself what, where, when, and how will I obtain my goal? When will I complete this deadline? Why is this deadline important to me? Is it within my capabilities?
Once I have answered all of these questions, I write down my goal. In a study from a Harvard MBA class, it was found that the 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% of the class who had no set goals. The 3% of the class who had clear, written goals were earning an average of ten times more than the other 97% combined.
Break It Down
After writing out my goal, I break it down into smaller, actionable steps are much more achievable. Every day, my goal is to complete three small tasks that move me toward achieving my main goal. It is these tiny wins that motivate me to keep going. I run a group called The Syndicate Momentum that helps keep our members focused on one thing at a time. I write out my main goal I am working on, and the date I will complete my deadline. Then I break down my main goal into daily tasks. Every day I aim to complete three tasks that move me forward.
I write out my main goal I am working on, and the date I will complete my deadline. Then I break down my main goal into daily tasks. Every day I aim to complete three tasks that move me forward.
But what makes The Syndicate Momentum so great is our community. All of the members are able to see your daily progress and cheer you on as you go. This motivation is sometimes all you need to keep you pushing forward. And if that doesn’t do the trick, we also have a weekly ‘fire starter’ call each Monday to help motivate our crew, and to give additional tips.
Once I write down my goals, I make it a point to review them daily. I have a sheet that I write on that has an area for my weekly goals and my to-dos. This list sits on the edge of my desk, and I review it to maintain focus throughout my week. At Fearless Social we also have two weekly meetings to help keep us accountable.
Make Yourself Accountable
On Mondays, we discuss what our short-term goals and long-term goals are, and what tasks we will complete for the week. On Friday, we meet again to discuss how we did. Having accountability is crucial to our team’s success. It forces us to stick to what we said we were going to complete for the week. If you do not have anyone to help keep you accountable, find someone!
Having a goal in writing is just one step toward becoming more successful. Writing your goals down does you no good if you are not organized and prepared for success.
Phase 3: How to Become Organized and Increase Productivity
A cluttered workspace equals a cluttered mind. To be the most productive, clean your work area of all clutter.
I started by cleaning my desk. At the urging of a friend, I have recently started using a standing desk, which I am learning to love. I have an area I can stand to do my work, and then an area where I can sit to work once my legs have given up for the day.
Both of these areas are clear of clutter, with only the essentials on my desks. I have my extra screen at eye level, with my laptop on a stand next to it. You will find a printer, a few photos in frames, and a few notebooks. Other than those items, you will not find my desk with much more on it at any given time.
I embrace the white space. I fully believe clutter causes stress, and I have enough of that, so keep your office clear of clutter.
Organize your Desktop
This includes your desktop. I had a horrible habit of putting everything on my desktop, resulting in a jumbled up mess where I couldn’t find anything I needed. I had the best intentions of filing everything from my desktop later. Later turned into weeks. I had to change this habit.
I started by finding a designer that had a free desktop background I could use that emphasizes organization.
The first step to install this organized background is to find the size of your computer screen, so that you know what size background to download.
Go to System Preferences. Choose Display. Under resolution, choose Scaled. It will show you what size screen you are working in.
From there, I downloaded the correct background for the size of my screen and then put that image into Canva. I added my labels as they worked for me. On my screen, I include an area for Webinars, Social Media, Blog Posts, Screenshots, To File, and Waiting On Response (WOR) files. If I am waiting on anything from anyone before I can move it forward, I place it in the WOR file. I review this file at least twice a week to make sure I don’t miss anything.
You can use whatever tabs work for you. Using a background like this allows me to keep my desktop organized, which in turn makes me happy and stress-free. And I always know where to quickly find anything that I am looking for.
Schedule Your Day
Now that my work area is clean and clear, it’s time to schedule my day. Scheduling your day gives you the confidence to know what tasks are the highest priority. It also helps you measure your productivity throughout the day. I know my most productive part of my day is in the afternoon, around 2 o’clock. That is why it is 3:46 when I am writing this post. Knowing that about myself helps me to do my best and most important work during my most productive time.
I also know I like to cross the easy stuff off of my list first thing in the morning so that I get my momentum going. This is why I schedule the daily task list stuff for first thing in the morning. That momentum helps push me forward.
In the mornings, and right after lunch, my brain needs a pick-me-up, so I tend to enjoy checking the social media accounts at that time. I schedule my emails for three times a day. I give myself twenty minutes to get all of my emails done at that time. If there is one email that will take longer, because it calls for more attention, I schedule the time to focus on it.
Scheduling my days like this has helped me stay focused on my goals and deadlines. At the end of every day, I write out my schedule for the next day. When I get to my desk the next day, I don’t have to wonder what I need to get done because my day is already planned and scheduled. All I have to do is start.
Set the Mood for Creativity
Setting yourself up for clarity means turning off distractions. Turn off your cell phone, social media, and email alerts. Turn off the television in the room. Set yourself up for a successful period of focus time. I turn off anything that may be a distraction to me, and then I take it one step further by putting on focus music.
I believe music can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to focus time. I have the free version of Spotify. Inside Spotify, they have stations for genres and moods. One of those moods is ‘focus.’ This was the best discovery, and contributes to my most productive days. I turn music on and my mind becomes laser focused. There is a variety of focus music, but the one that I love the most is the Soft Jazz Backdrop. I challenge you to try one of those stations the next time you have a deadline looming and you need to focus.
By becoming more organized, I have set myself up for a successful work day to focus on the tasks on my list. Becoming organized is not something I accomplished overnight. It has taken me several months to get to where I am today. Honestly, it is something I will continually work on, but everything I have done has helped me become a better employee, and a happier, healthier person. I can honestly say I love my job and what I do.
Phase 4: Have Time for Yourself and Your Family
Making deadlines for myself has not only made me a better employee, it has made me a better person, and a better wife and mother. The old me would be constantly worrying about what I needed to get done. I was never present in a moment, I was continually in a check list in my head.
My weekends should have been spent focused on my husband and my children, and enjoying my time with them. It was, for part of the weekend, but then Sunday night would roll around and the stress of my never-ending task list would creep up on me. I turned into an insomniac, and it was starting to affect my health. The life of a procrastinator is not one I would recommend.
I started to see a change in me when I made the decision to no longer be a procrastinator, and to start setting personal goals. I no longer stress about the amount of hours in the day because I have scheduled my time wisely. I know I won’t get distracted, and I will get shit done!
I went from working 80+ hours a week to working a normal 40 or less. But the amazing thing is that I get double the amount of work done in the same amount of time. This means I can leave work at a normal hour and go spend time with my kids. When I leave my home office and walk up the stairs of my home, I leave all of the work stuff downstairs on a check list, waiting for me to start the following day.
At the end of every day, I know what I have accomplished for the day, what my next day will look like, what the entire week and month will look like, and what I want my year to look like as well. I have a vision and a plan for myself and my work.
Now, I am not saying I am perfect. I am far from it. I still struggle with procrastination from time to time. But I am a better—quicker—at recognizing it now. Even as I was writing this, I realized the television was on in the background and it was distracting me, not to mention the noise of the washing machine behind that. The moment I realized that, I turned everything off and turned on my ‘focus’ tunes and finished this post in no time.
When you take the time to learn to set goals and deadlines for yourself, you set yourself up for a life geared towards getting the most out of every moment. There’s so much we can experience and achieve, but you will have to work for it. Goals will give you the inspiration to aim for things you never thought possible. Deadlines will make sure you get there!
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