What comes up to interfere with your effective use of your time? Perhaps you have heard yourself think the following thoughts:
“I can’t say no to this person.” so you commit yourself to an activity even though you do not have the time to do it.
“I hate this task and don’t want to do it and I feel overwhelmed.” and then you put off doing the task, only to find yourself rushing to get things done in the last minute.
“I have to do it perfectly or else….” and then you worry and perhaps procrastinate or spend incredible amounts of time getting something done.
These thoughts represent the inability to set boundaries, procrastination and perfectionism. Inevitably, they will lead you to lose countless hours that could be better spent on the things that you want to accomplish. By tackling these three inner blocks, you can achieve a much greater sense of mastery over yourself and your time. Let’s take a closer look.
Just Say No
One reason that you may not have a lot of time to do things that you really want to do is that you are saying yes to other people and their activities. In fact,”Just Say No” is quite challenging because we do not want to disappoint people whom we like or miss out on “all that cool stuff” that is out there. So what can we do about this?
First, if your priorities are compelling and fit your values and represent genuine heart-felt choices, it is easier to say no. Moreover, knowing that you are in charge of your priorities and can shift them at the appropriate time is also helping in turning down another commitment.
And when you say no, do so without apology because you are honoring your choices! Just remember that saying yes to “them” is saying no to you.
I have heard many high-achieving people say that they are “lazy” because they procrastinate. In my experience, these “lazy” folks are procrastinating for a reason. By examining why you procrastinate, you can tackle the obstacle head-on and save many hours that you would otherwise spend putting off those very tasks that you are avoiding!
The next time you find yourself avoiding a task, look for the reason behind your procrastination.
1. I hate the task.
Does this task fit into my short-term or long-term goals? If the answer is no, no wonder you are avoiding the task! Honor your commitment this time and say no next time.
2. I feel overwhelmed. Where do I even start?
Break down the project into discreet parts. Think of the first step in the project. Usually that is enough to jump-start your activity.
3. I don’t know how to do this.
High-achievers do not like not knowing how to do something! That’s okay. Use the occasion to learn how to tackle something that you do not know. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need to learn a new skill?
- Do you need additional information and/or more research?
- Do you need to consult someone for advice or input?
- Do you need some quiet thinking time to remember how you solved a similar challenge in the past?
4. I can’t decide.
This is another area where knowing your values and goals comes in. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my big-picture goal and where does this task fit in?
- What values am I honoring? What values am I ignoring?
A third reason that high-achievers lose control over their time comes from perfectionism. On the one hand, some people spend countless hours on a project thinking that if only they work hard enough, it will be perfect. On the other hand, there are those who avoid doing things out of the fear that it will never be perfect. Either way, you lose a lot of time.
The next time you find yourself in the downward spiral of perfectionism, here are some things that you can do:
1. Ask yourself what is at stake and how important is it for a particular task to be perfect. Not all tasks are equal!
2. How well is being a perfectionist working for you? If you find yourself losing sleep, losing friends, feeling stressed because you are devoting yourself to the illusion of perfection, maybe it is time to stop.
3. Set a time limit for a project. Once you have hit the deadline, STOP.
4. Reframe your thoughts: instead of thinking that something has to be perfect, think “excellence” or “be my best” or “share my gift”. That will reduce the pressure and help you to feel less stress around the task.
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By tackling these three big areas head-on, you will begin to experience a greater sense of mastery over time and see what it is like to manage yourself effectively and effortlessly around time!
© Astrid Baumgardner 2011
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.