How To Manage Your Time – Advice From A Tender Writer

Give yourself 5 minutes to read this. Make a cup of tea to drink whilst you read. It may be your last today.

Procrastination – What A Way To Kick Yourself In The Ass

Some kind soul invented the internet, then someone invented Twitter, and then before you can shout ‘denial’ there was simply nowhere left to hide from inspirational sayings and wisdom which, if we think about for a moment, make perfect sense and in our heart of hearts we all know we should be doing anyway.

Case in point? ‘Imagine what you could achieve if you did everything that you were capable of.’

It’s a killer isn’t it?! Whereas we can write off our teachers if we are so minded, blatantly ignore parents, and avert our eyes when we see this scrolling past us almost daily on our Twitter feed, there is simply no running away from our own creeping sense of ‘oh cr**’ as we can’t fail to entertain the very notions that this benign question invoke.

It is an idea so simple, so terrible, that at times it can lift your heart-rate in either anticipation of what we are just about to get up off the sofa to ‘go create’ or in a near panic-attack as we succumb to all those thoughts of what could have been, home truths, and unfinished symphonies.

We all know those people too – the ones who are blessed, that we envy (sometimes roll our eyes at), the ones with all the energy (like power there seems a finite supply and you either have it or someone else does). They can tantalise us and inspire us in equal measure as the sayings and pith and quotations can. But, as already alluded too, they can make us feel withdrawn, pointless, and lacking.

We can either sink lower in to the sofa, we tell ourselves, or do something about it. Behold the Google! We have so much access to information, advice, and tips – that in the very act of seeking a solution we are told that this is indeed the first step to our recovery. Well ‘fooey’ I say. Or bunkum or hogwash (how come the Americans have the vernacular that doesn’t require profanity?)

Making a list of the steps you need to take, in itself, is another method of procrastination. It is another action that you can put in between the act and action. Something tangible, concrete, something created.

Just another waste of time.

Dubious examples of tips

  1. In no particular order, and I have left out the sources so there is no reason to delay the inevitable:Write a list: I know I am repeating myself but unless it is a list of three things that you are going to do today – this will not work in the long term. Why? Because it becomes a safe place where you know the things on the list will remain. If you don’t look at it today – it will still be there tomorrow. Get my drift?
  2. Telling other people what you will do: Apart from being unspecific, and no one actually having any responsibility in this scenario for making sure it happens, this pseudo-psychological tip works primarily on the assumption that you will be too embarrassed to fail in front of your friends, relatives, or colleagues. Whereas failing in the workplace is something to be avoided, people tend to use this with friends and family most a la: “I’m stopping smoking”. The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, these are the very people that we are supposed to be safe with – that will forgive us anything, and provide solace in our failures. Secondly, if you fail with these people (who help to define us, as we define ourselves) then we can potentially become someone who fails. Major sidestep required here. There is also evidence emerging that, in an NLP-type way, if you talk or think about things too much, you can fool your brain in to thinking that you have achieved the goal already, release all your ‘achievement’ related endorphins and leave yourself with nowhere else to go.
  3. Visualisation. (See above)
  4. Treats: come on, we aren’t cats – this just makes us fat (or overdrawn).
  5. Praying: hand it over to God to get involved and make it happen. Somehow I don’t think it’s works that way.

What I have tried

Okay, having excoriated the methods above, I wouldn’t dream of admitting to any of them now. But I have also tried:

  1. Setting up tasks in Outlook
  2. Day Books, for lists of what to (try) and do today
  3. Alerts on my mobile (cell phone)
  4. Scheduling time for tasks in my calendar
  5. Hypnosis
  6. Power-naps
  7. Not putting pressure on myself

What works

Sometimes I can be the most productive human being on the face of planet. I am  sure of it. Certain, at the time of action. What happens the rest of the time?

I saw it written down somewhere, happened across is and in a flash it was in my subconscious, recognised long after the page has been clicked off, turned, or the audio ended.

The times I am most productive are when I am having fun.

Sounds simple, but this doesn’t just mean that I have to enjoy ‘the task’. I have had enough ‘enjoyable tasks’ on my list of things to do for too long and to be frank, seeing them there was the starkest reminder ever that I needed to kick procrastination out of my life forever (unless there is something great on TV, of course).

The evidence

I hope this example demonstrates my point, otherwise you’ve had a cup of tea, procrastinated by reading this, and are no better off.

Tender writing had its problems for me. Not in the sense of overshooting deadlines. I don’t think that I have ever done that. A hard deadline is a hard deadline. A soft deadline on the other hand – that is a different matter as my Masters tutor will attest to.

My problem was that I would sell my time to the tenderer (in my case professional tender writing services). No problem there you would think. I wrote excellent tenders, nailed it each time, and never let anyone down. The issues arose as a direct result of what other people expected. If I sold 5 days writing at 8 hours a day – this is what I would give.

Many, many other writers don’t. They stay up all night, working 18 hours days, and let the clients know this. The whole ‘burning the midnight oil’ as a concept seems embedded like canker in the whole sector.

The stressed, harassed, ‘I’m working myself to death for you’ badge of honour that a lot of writers display is so pervasive that, in contrast my calm ‘I know I have 8 hours writing to do and, in that time I will get the sections that I have identified done’ was a complete anathema and made it seem that I was uncommitted as I wasn’t prepared to ‘come in to the office’ and make last minute revisions and uploads’. Because I didn’t need to.

For me, the competition with myself was where the fun was at. The ‘can I get this done in the timeframe?’ competition.

To have the life and the freedom to watch what I wanted on TV, and apply myself whenever I wanted to throughout the day – was inextricably linked to getting the job done on time. Getting the job done in time was where the contest was at. And from the contest came the enjoyment – and enjoyment led to success!

I tested this the other day as I realised the pattern. I wanted to see how much housework I could do in the 35 minutes before a programme I wanted to watch started on TV.

In the task, I surprised myself. Because I was competing with myself.

I tested it again, this time a scaled up version of ‘the test’. I set myself a list of three tasks to do before I was out of the office on my next contract, and told myself I couldn’t start another until the previous one was complete. I subsequently added more, and in the space of a week I had finished some major projects including my new website, and starting to write new blogs (ta da!)

The Downside

As I have already mentioned, others may not work like this – and it is exceptionally successful. If those who are evaluating you, clients or managers, don’t realise that they are trying to compare apples and oranges, then you may come out with the awkward end of the stick.

Unbelievable isn’t it – that most of us want the comfort of ‘chaotic average’ rather than calm capability. That is a subject for another blog.

But at least you now you know that you could be more likely to achieve some of those things that you are capable of – and isn’t THAT exciting?!

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