Say It Ain't So

Get With It

Nip your procrastination right in the bud.

If you tend to procrastinate or find yourself overwhelmed by your workload, there are steps you can take to get the situation under control. Shale Paul, a personal effectiveness coach in Tallahassee, Florida, offers these tips for taking action:

  • Take time to get organized. A cluttered workspace can be tremendously distracting. "Get rid of everything that is extraneous in your workplace or office, and have an assigned place for everything else," says Paul. "It takes time to get organized, but it pays off in less time wasted."
  • Begin the night before. Don't wait until Monday morning to plan your day or week. Paul recommends setting aside time on Sunday, when you're relaxed, to decide what you want to accomplish during the week and to plan your schedule for the next day. Then each evening, plan the following day so you start each morning knowing what you're going to do.
  • Prioritize your plans. Not all tasks are of equal importance, effort or duration, so keep your priorities in mind as you schedule your time.
  • Honor your personal work style. Paul believes each person has his or her own individual work style. "When are you most creative? When is the best time for you to do routine chores, exercise, study, communicate, even nap?" Paul asks. "Understand and honor your style, and you'll be more effective. Ignore it, and you'll work at less than optimum capacity."
  • Make the first touch a decisive one. The first time you touch a document, you need to put it where it can be dealt with. "Pick it up and make a disposition," Paul says. That could mean taking immediate action, forwarding it to someone else, or putting it in a "to be handled later" file.
  • Follow the WIFO principle. WIFO stands for worst in, first out, which is Paul's technique for dealing with those unpleasant tasks you'd rather avoid. Once you finally get the task done, Paul says, "Chances are, you'll find that you spent nearly as much time worrying and rescheduling it as you did actually doing it." So assuming the task meets your priority requirements, simply get it done and out of the way.
  • Schedule a weekly cleanup time. No matter how skilled you become at scheduling, prioritizing and delegating, there will always be times when you feel overwhelmed by too much work. "You may find it helpful to pick a time each week as a cleanup period," Paul advises. "This is the time you'll mentally review your priorities and dispose of all those little things that have built up during the week."

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Say It Ain't So.

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