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Get into the Habit of Getting Things Done

You know what you need to do. You know why you need to do it. You even know what steps you must take to get it done. But there’s one small problem—you can’t seem to get moving. It’s a common problem. Maybe it’s chronic procrastination or you’re overwhelmed into paralysis. Either way, your task is just sitting there, gathering metaphorical (or literal) dust and growing more ominous by the day. 

Good news! You can motivate yourself by developing three habits:

Habit #1: Chunking Down—Focus on the Trees, Not the Forest.
Chunking your projects and goals down into smaller pieces will help you take action more quickly and easily, while at the same time helping to combat the feeling of too much to do. If your goal is to publish a book, for instance, you might break your process down into milestones (1. Write the book proposal; 2. Submit it to agents; 3. Follow up with agents; 4. Sign with an agent) and then into “micro-milestones” (1. Write a two-page overview of the book; 2. Write one-page author’s biography; 3. Research on Amazon to find similar books already in print … and so forth). The point of micro-milestones is to create steps small enough that they seem doable—physically, mentally, and emotionally. This frees you to take action. 

Habit #2: Take Energetic Credit for Completion.
Often, even though we’re achieving pieces of our projects and goals all the time, we don’t fully acknowledge them. Smart people are in the habit of enthusiastically taking credit for any action they complete, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. Smart people know not to wait until the big item is 100 percent done before experiencing closure. Rather, smart people generate energy all along the way by recognizing each item they complete. 

Habit #3: Time-Planning—Put a Stop to Putting It Off.
Smart people are in the habit of using a time-plan to get beyond procrastination. A time-plan is a method of assigning blocks of time to those items you want to get done (but not a minute-by-minute description of your day). Here are two easy steps to creating your own time-plan: 

  • Step 1: Identify your power times for different types of activities. Everyone has high and low periods of energy, attention, and focus. Do you like to plan for the next day on the morning of the day or the night before? What is your most creative time during the day? Use your power times to take on your most difficult items. Use your down time for more routine items and errands.
  • Step 2: Set aside blocks of time for getting certain things done. Keeping in mind your power times, go through your calendar and schedule a specific day and period of time when you will work on an item. Time periods ranging from fifteen minutes to two hours are the most effective. Every hour or so, schedule a ten-minute break from your task. Don’t just plan your time in your head—write it down! Keeping a record of your time-plan is key.

By Karen Leland and Keith Bailey. From Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper in the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change (New Harbinger Publications, 2006).