Getting things done often involves a lot of waiting. You send an email and wait for a reply. You request documentation and wait for delivery. Then there is the worst, most time-consuming waiting of all – getting yourself to do those things. We often tell ourselves we can’t act right now because we need more information, or we need to think about it more clearly, or we need to wait for the right moment to arrive. This postponing is a slippery slope towards never getting started.
A good way to fight procrastination is to have daily priorities and routines that eventually become habit. Which habits are the easiest to cultivate? The ones we don’t have time to think about and the ones we love to do. Here are a few tried and tested daily routines that, if transformed into habit, could free up hours of time and rid you of guilt over not getting things done.
- Start early
Although this is a cliché, it is absolutely true. Getting up at 5am instead of 7am means you get a two-hour head start. It means getting to the office before anyone else and getting work done without having to make small talk with everyone you meet. It means the world is a quiet place where you can sit and plan your day.
- Don’t stay up too late
Some people work better late at night, that’s true. The kids are finally in bed and the house is quiet. Opening the laptop at 9pm however, is not always the best decision. If you must, make a few to-do notes for the next day but get in bed before 10pm. You may feel like you’re doing your best work at midnight, but you are not doing your body and mind any favours.
“The idea that action should only be taken after having all the answers and all the resources are a sure recipe for paralysis.”
– Jaimie Lerner, Architect and urban planner
- Don’t do everything today
Working for yourself means you probably do all the admin, all the finance as well as the actual work that you are getting paid to do. When you start early and plan your day carefully, you can get a tremendous amount of work done before your mid-morning tea break. That doesn’t mean you should push yourself to the limit and try to get everything done by the time you leave. If you structure your day and week carefully, you will get through your to-do list. Structuring carefully means not trying to do everything today.
- Go home when the work is done
Efficient planning means you know what needs to be done today and what can wait till tomorrow. If you, like most women, have a husband or a family to care for, you need to factor that into your daily planning. Starting early means you can pick up the kids at 2pm or be home at 3pm in time to start dinner and tidy up the house. It also means you have some quiet time to gather your thoughts before family-time at dinner.
- Secure some productive after-dinner time
Make sure to listen and partake in family-time during and after dinner, but also make sure your husband and kids know that you want an hour or two for yourself in the evenings. Use this time to continue that online course or plan your speech for the Lady’s event. Prioritizing your private life is just as important as prioritizing your professional life. That nagging feeling that you are neglecting someone, or even yourself, will quickly fade away once you start allocating time the right way.
I am a graphic designer and illustrator from Johannesburg, South Africa. Having first studied Visual Communication at The Open Window Institute in 2006, I went on to work for various publishing companies before starting my own design studio in 2016. Currently I live with my husband in Randburg.