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Do the Worst First

How many of us avoid whatever we perceive to be the pointless, time consuming everyday tasks that need to be addressed? It might be the difficult conversation that has provided sleepless nights and continues to grow in importance while preventing you from focusing your full attention elsewhere.

Dozens of books have been written with strategies that are frequently designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution. You may have tried every way imaginable to change your behavior, but you’re still stuck looking at the same Post-It notes, a reminder of the “things” that still take up mental space.

A recent client was frustrated by her inability to transfer her high level of completion in her professional life to her personal world which looked very different. As the CEO of a manufacturing company, she had to be timely and accurate, delegating and operating at a very high level of urgency. In her other life, things were out of control. She was discouraged and irritable with her struggle to be as competent and organized as she was in business; relaxed at work when under pressure and stymied and tense at home.

  1. Start somewhere!

  2. What task do you most dread?

  3. Is it a daily issue that could be better managed?

  4. Identify your “worst”

  5. Commit to 15-minutes of planned action

  6. Make your bed

  7. Leave countertops and sink clean

  8. When you return at the end of the day to a calmer space, take another 15-minutes to tackle a short, but doable action

At work you glance at your to-do list and it’s overwhelming. Your initial thought might well be to run through the easiest, yet time consuming actions first. These may feel like many small annoyances; the call you need to return or the quick review of a client project. Yes, we all know how good it feels to check off multiple tasks, send those e-mails out and lo and behold, your morning is gone.

Instant gratification is seductive and the busyness feels like you are engaged in a series of worthy accomplishments. After all, these things need to be addressed and you are fresh in the A.M. However, according to Piers Steel, PhD, Professor at the University of Calgary and an expert on motivation and procrastination, this approach wastes your prime performance hours. “People have more attention and focus in the morning, so tackle the hard stuff first, while you have the most energy to do it.”  As the day continues our energy is depleted, there are other demands on our time and so the list gets carried along with new additions.

Let’s try another perspective on your typical plan of action. Getting started is key and tweaking your approach helps. Begin with a challenging chore that can be handled quickly. Like suiting up for a run or diving into cold water, the first few moments feel awful but your body quickly adjusts and you are on your way, invigorated as you move. The same can be said for your to-do list actions. As momentum takes over it helps you make more progress. How satisfying is it to cross things off your list, both major and minor and relax, if only for a moment of reflection.

  1. What’s your favorite approach?

  2. How successful has that been?

  3. What are you willing to change?

  4. Renumber your list for tomorrow, adding a challenging action first

However comfortable you assumed you were with time management, it may morph into overwhelming anxiety that was never anticipated. This might be the ideal time to engage the support of a career coach with experience in helping professionals achieve better, faster, results. At KICKSTART Your Transition we offer a broad range of services to fit your needs.


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