Egg timerProcrastination can sneak up on us when we least expect it. Certainly, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve raced against the clock to finish tasks, only to find we could have done a more thorough and complete job with more successful outcomes if we had planned and prioritized better.

But never fear there are simple yet powerful tools you can use to overcome procrastinating habits and make them a thing of the past. For any given task, using these strategies can make all the difference in achieving the real business outcomes for which you have worked so hard.

1. Set a budget for the task. You can think about this in terms of a time budget as you would for budget money items you would purchase. For time budgets, list out your tasks with the budgeted or approximate amount of time you think it will take to complete it. This places the task in perspective and may prompt you to prioritize your time differently.

2. Identify what you want to accomplish in a certain time period. Break down your task or assignment and don’t take on more than you can handle. If you define your project as “clean out your desk,” you’re certain to fail. It’s too much and takes too long. You will give up and leave it “half done,” which is almost more frustrating than unorganized. Instead, schedule a one-hour organization session and define a specific goal to achieve in that time: “Label the folders,” “Organize the first three drawers,” etc. Dividing a task into small sections like this will allow you to see progress toward your goals and feel inspired, rather than discouraged.

3. Clock yourself while doing the task. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in 30 minutes or an hour when you have a ticking deadline. Many people find that having an actual physical countdown or race against time can give a day much needed structure. What’s better is that you don’t need anything fancy to make it happen all you need is a traditional, good old-fashioned egg timer.

For those with flexible hours, using a timer helps tremendously, since there is a definite end in sight. Obviously, the timer countdown may have to be repeated many times in a day to complete a project, but it helps your mind concretely break down the tasks within a project without setting yourself up for disappointment.

4. Check your email with the same scheduling strategy, with one exception. We think it’s important to include this specific tip, as email has become one of the most common modes of communication and often the most interruptive. Email is a tough nut to crack it’s never on a schedule so we often find ourselves constantly trying to keep up with emails, which often gets us off track on our assigned tasks. Yes, schedule time at regular intervals during your day (using your timer) to tackle your email inbox. But here’s the exception: if you can address an email in under 2 minutes, do it. You can do this by ensuring that your most important thing at that moment is always at the top.

Don’t let time take over. Check out other time saving resources at the American Management Association Web site at www.amanet.org/resources.

photo credit: tanakawho

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