Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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Get more accomplished in less time

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and yet some people are simply more productive. My friend, Meridith Elliott-Powell, author of the best-selling book Thrive: Turning Uncertainty Into Competitive Advantage, is one of the most productive people on the planet. CEO of an incredible sales company, Meridith also plays golf, tennis, hikes, and bikes. Her ability to handle multiple projects and use every spare second is legendary. How does she do it?

The answer: She has conquered procrastination.
I asked her about how she manages to get so much done, when others are wasting time and being distracted.

Meridith shared these tips:
Start with smaller goals. Studies show that we procrastinate the most when we have goals that are so big, they seem impossible. When you start a large project, you can feel overwhelmed, and your initiative starts to wane.
If you start with a smaller goal, say a 10-minute task, you feel more confident that you can accomplish it, thus increasing your productivity.

Use a timer. One way to avoid procrastinating on essential tasks is setting a deadline and then using a timer to get the work done by that deadline.
Give yourself short-term deadlines. Think: “This is due at 2 PM.” Work to meet that deadline.
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and dedicate yourself to getting through the tasks. Setting a timer for a brief period like this — and shutting down all distractions for that period — forces you to stay focused while knowing that you have a deadline.

Arrange your work. If you tend to get easily distracted, try to arrange your tasks so that they interact with each other. For example, you might put tasks next to each other on a piece of paper. This activity helps you avoid wasting time going back and forth between jobs.
Arranging the things that you need to accomplish in an orderly way motivates you and makes you more likely to complete them quickly, even for those tasks you do not really want to do.

Incorporate rewards into your goals. Research has shown that rewards help motivate us to follow through on our goals. For example, Meridith might say that she will finish writing a book chapter by 5 PM so she can play tennis at 6. If she does not finish the chapter, she cannot play tennis. If you can accomplish the plan, you reward yourself with a prize — perhaps a hobby you enjoy doing.
Incorporating rewards not only motivates you but also sets you up for long-term success. It also causes your brain to associate the rewards with accomplishing the task, which helps make it more likely that you will complete a similar job in the future.

Get help. One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. But sometimes, not all the tasks on your list need you to handle them. You can enlist the help of others by talking through some of the challenges and delegating some of your tasks.
You might want to write a book, but you might feel intimidated by the writing process. We understand! My first book took me 8 years to write! Finding other people who knew how to accelerate the writing, editing, and publishing process was critical to getting the latest book created and published in less than 8 months.

Getting help does not mean you are weak. It means that you want to take action.

Procrastination is usually one of the biggest obstacles to productivity, even for the most successful people. But when you act and turn procrastination into productive work, you will find that your goals are possible and that you are able to achieve more in less time.


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