Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Procrastinating? The Time To Act Is Now!

The deadline for "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier" is Wednesday, September 1.  This workshop is a must-attend event. You can register by visiting the sidebar.

After you finish registering, let's take a minute and talk about procrastination.

Registered? OK, let's talk.

There are many reasons why people put things off. According to Dr. Linda Sapadin, author of It's About Time, there are six styles of procrastination. These styles are: "The Perfectionist," "The Crisis-Maker," "The Dreamer," "The Defier," "The Worrier," and "The Overdoer." Typically people have two styles of procrastination - a major and a minor style. Dr. Sapadin's book includes self-assessment questionnaires that will help the reader ascertain her major and minor styles. To overcome procrastination use specific strategies that address specific styles.

I won't cover all of the styles now. Instead I will focus on "The Perfectionist Procrastinator" because it is the most frequent style of procrastination that I encounter. Some of the Perfectionist Procrastinator's traits are: gets caught up in the details that no one else cares about, has difficulty initiating or completing projects because they just don't live up to her standards, is critical of her accomplishments, has a hard time delegating because the tasks have to be "done a certain way," and is upset if she doesn't do something as well as her peers.

One of my client's came up with a brilliant analogy on how the Perfectionist Procrastinator's style wastes time:  time is spent putting one's ducks in a row at the expense of getting the ducks to march! Moving the ducks is the goal, but the goal was lost by hyper-focusing on the formation of the ducks.

Some of the ways I see the Perfectionist Procrastinator style at work are:
  • Not filing papers because the client might want to change the structure of the filing system later (meanwhile the papers stack up),
  • Not using help on projects because "it's faster if I do it myself" or the help just doesn't understand how important it is to do things a certain way (meanwhile the project is stalled),
  • Spends hours setting up a project notebook which is intended to help manage tasks and projects and as a result has little time to work on the project,
  • Does not start a term paper until every little fact on the subject is known (meanwhile the due date quickly approaches and pasts).
Overcoming procrastination, regardless of the style, requires changing the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Expect to spend a minimum of six weeks of consistent effort in order to see meaningful changes. Expect a rocky road to change. Why? Mistakes will be made. Strategies will be temporarily forgotten. Giving up might seem more appealing than persevering.  But what is gained through perseverance is immense - being more accepting of one's self, being more responsive, being more flexible, being more relaxed, and being more effective.

Dr. Sapadin offers several ways to change the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Some of her suggestions are
1) Acknowledge that perfectionism is the problem and take ownership of it.
2) Focus on what's realistic rather than what's ideal and be mindful of the resources - and the amount of time is a resource - that are available.
3) Let go of the "all or nothing" thinking and explore flexibility.
4) Change your language: replace "should" with "could," "have to" with "want to," and "must" with "choose to."
5) Set up time limits for your tasks and use a timer or a buddy to help you respect the limits.
6) Focus on doing just a few important things each day rather than an endless list of things.
7) Make one deliberate mistake each day.
8) Focus on "being" instead of "doing." Live life.

Point eight is my my favorite because living life to its fullest really is the goal.

I recommend reading Dr. Sapadin's insightful book.  It is available on Amazon

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back To School Tips And Strategies So You Can Relax A Little

The school bell has rung, the temperatures are starting to cool (knock on wood), and there's a certain calm in the neighborhood during the day - school is in session. In your home the evening may be everything but calm as you juggle homework, last minute supply needs, meal preparations, chores and .... a little break to relax as a family. Here are some ideas to help you actually get to relax.

Simplify mealtime with ultra fast meals. Scrambled eggs embellished with cheese, onions, and mushrooms served with fruit. Grilled cheese and tomato soup (my favorite!). Hummus and pita with a cucumber and onion salad dressed with plain yogurt. Hot dogs with carrot and celery sticks.  These are our favorite meals that can be fixed in 15 minutes or less and with a minimum amount of heat in the kitchen (because it's still a little warm outside).

Use the secret weapon for helping kids focus on homework: music. Ask older children to create their own music playlist on their mp3 players. The rules for the music choices are: the music must be liked but not so much that the student starts singing along and it's not so engaging that the student is focused on the music rather than homework. Mozart and Bach are splendid backgrounds to homework. And yes, these composers often are the choice of my student organizing clients. It's easy to put these composers on your stereo for younger children to enjoy.

Have a set chore time for everyone. It will be much easier for the entire family to get chores done if everyone is working together.

Have a set bedtime for both you and your children. Thirty minutes before bedtime start slowing things down: turn off the TV and dim the lights.

Speaking  of TV: TV and social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc) are distractions. They absolutely must be off while focusing on homework. Texting is also a distraction - put the cell phone in a different room.  Rather than a complete prohibition of these electronic distractions consider using them only during 10 minute breaks between assignments. BUT, still no TV.  Plots on TV last longer than 10 minutes, and TV is infamous for holding people's attention so firmly that it's difficult to disengage.

Analog timers are among my favorite organizing tools. Use it to time breaks. Having a hard time getting motivated? Make a deal with yourself to work just 15 to 20 minutes on that task you dread.  Focus on the time period rather than the task.  You will be a little further along when the timer dings. By the way, an analog timer is one where you watch the time sweep. It is not a digital timer. The old KitchenAid timer is a great example of an analog timer. My favorite timer is the Time Timer.

Boost your technical skills so you can act more effectively. There are two upcoming events in St. Louis to help sharpen the saw. Acumen Consulting in Brentwood is offering Word and Excel training on August 29 and 30. Please see the flyer for more information. The second event is the time management workshop, "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier," presented by internationally renowned time management expert and author Harold Taylor.

I learned something in a recent training class that really drove home the need for this upcoming class: most people learn their time management strategies in high school. When we were in high school the world was a very different place. Personal computers and cell phones did not exist. The pressure to do more with less time did not exist to the extent it does today. Until September 1 you can register for this time management workshop for half price! It's easy to register - just see the side bar.

It's a little hectic now, but life will feel calmer as your family falls into its back to school routines.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Two Events That Will Help You Get Organized

If  you're a typical person you have an electronic item or two (or three or four...) sitting around gathering dust. Consider these statistics provided by the EPA for the year 2009:  
  • 438 million new consumer electronics were sold;
  • 5 million tons of electronics were in storage;
  • 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for end-of-life management; and
  • 25% of these tons were collected for recycling
My thoughts are 5 million TONS of electronics are sitting around gathering dust and only 25% of the disposed of electronics are recycled! We can do better than that! Luckily, there is an upcoming electronic recycling event being held in Webster Groves on Saturday, August 6 from 8 a.m. until noon at the Moss Field parking lot of Hixson School (off of S. Elm).  Please see for more information.

Certainly recycling your broken and obsolete electronic equipment will give you more space, but have you ever wished for more time? I can't wave a magic wand to provide you with an extra hour in your day, but learning how to manage your time well might have the same effect. The fact is we all get 24 hours in a day. The president of the country, the president of Google, the Supreme Court justices, J.K. Rowling and you get 24 hours. Are you accomplishing what you want to accomplish? If not then consider attending the workshop "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier" which is presented by renowned expert Harold Taylor on September 23 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Brentwood Community Center. You can get more information and register at