Recently my networking colleague was lamenting because she normally is a very productive person; however, over the past few weeks things have been slow and she finds it difficult to get anything done! 

Does this happen to you, too?

It definitely happens to me!  I’ll be zipping through things at maximum speed, crossing things off my to-do list right and left!  Once I meet the deadlines and I have more time to breathe, poof, it’s like I don’t know how to get anything done.

When you have more time, it is much easier to put things off, especially when there isn’t a sense of urgency to get it done.  Since you aren’t busy, “storing up” things to do, can become a nasty habit.  What does that mean?  Let’s say it’s Monday and you have five things to get done over the week and you think it’s going to be a slow week.  Instead of tackling all five of these tasks, you decide to only do one task and “save” the others so you’ll have something to do later in the week.  You quickly complete the one task and then you putter around not addressing anything of any importance.  You figure you’ll do one of these tasks each day and by the end of the week you’ll be done. 

Although this sounds like a good approach, a couple of things can happen that will derail your plan.

The first can be understood through the saying adapted from a line in “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

It sounds like people in the 18th century (when Robert Burns wrote this poem), struggled with keeping their plans on track, too!  In the above example, it is quite possible that later in the week, you will no longer have the luxury of too much time.  The unforeseen family situation arises, or the big client you have been courting for months decides it’s time to work with you.  The reasons your time situation changes are endless; however, the bottom line is the same.  You still need to get these 4 additional tasks done and now you’re strapped for time!

The second way your strategy can be flawed has to do with our personal motivation. Sometimes when we spend a large amount of time puttering, it can be difficult to get back on track.  For example, have you ever noticed after you spend a large amount of time surfing the web or in social media, it can be difficult to get “restarted” on something significant? Instead of psyching yourself up to complete the next task, you decide to push it off until tomorrow.  Unfortunately, once you do this a couple of times, if feels very natural to say… “I can do that tomorrow…” Then when Friday comes, you are faced with a mess because you still must complete these outstanding tasks.  Additionally, it’s possible your time commitments have changed and now you’re under the gun to get these tasks done, as well as many unexpected tasks. 

So what can you do to be productive when you find yourself with less to do than usual?  Here are some simple ideas:

  • You continue to approach life as if it is busy; however, you don’t have to do this at the intense speed you may have been operating under during “crunch time” 
  • You tackle your top priority items first to ensure they are completed 
  • You continue to ask yourself “What is the most important thing for me to be doing right now?”
  • You create your own deadlines for these tasks. Then you work towards those completion dates with the same commitment you do for all your deadlines, even though the sense of urgency may be less intense.

One of the key benefits of these approaches is after you’ve completed your priority tasks, then you can

  • relax
  • have fun
  • spend time with your family
  • read a book
  • call a friend, or
  • anything else you would like to do with your free time!

Another BIG benefit of using these approaches is the nagging feeling that you must get something done has disappeared.  Won’t it be wonderful to ENJOY your free time guilt free?

Helen Kosinski
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