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5 Tips For Getting Stuff Done and Taking Action

Procrastination. We've all done it. You might even be doing it right now. (If so, then you really need to keep reading). Psychologists and scientists have done countless studies to try and figure out why we hesitate to take action when something needs to be done, and some of the results from these studies are nothing short of mind-blowing. The general consensus is that procrastination is an instinctive reaction to avoid pain ('pain' used as a broad term here for feelings like fear, shame, displeasure and so on). Now, fighting against biology might not sound like the easiest task, but I have come up with five ways to help push you through your day. Failing all of this, you might want to just call us. After all, we've made it our business to do the things in your business that you don't want to!

1. Calendar Blocking – Warning: This can dramatically increase productivity. Especially for creative types who tend to flit from one thing to the next and can have trouble finishing tasks. After teaching a team member how to calendar block, her productivity has increased a whopping 200%! Blocking out time in your calendar for the chunky tasks you need to get through will improve the amount you can get through in a day. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you will start to notice that as the day wears on and things you had blocked out don't get done, you are forced to move them to later in the day and suddenly become an efficiency machine. The other reason it works is because we're all naturally far less productive in the afternoon, so it keeps you on task through the worst time. Try it, it really works. Here's a glimpse of my calendar:

2. Keep a running to-do list - Some people are better with using physical paper-based lists, whereas others like to use apps or their phone's note taking app to keep track of their daily tasks. I like to chop and change the way I manage my to-do list because I get bored with the same thing. Some of the apps I have had success with include: Nozbe, Sortd, Evernote, Outlook tasks, To-doist, Trello, Momentum, and Wunderlist. They all have great free versions so try a few out and see what works best for you. If you're a visual person check out Trello, if you're a natural list maker you might like Nozbe (our client Bruce Stormer from Moore Stephens Markhams is an 'extreme' user – check him out if you need a great accountant).

If you're not very tech-savvy or shy away from technology, then stick with the good old pen and paper method. Whatever you choose, you need to be diligent about it. Keep your list in sight and look at it often, remembering to check off items as you go for that real sense of achievement.

3. Be accountable to someone – Whether it's your business partner, personal assistant, virtual assistant, manager, business coach, mentor, or partner, you need to be accountable to someone. It keeps you focused and drives you to take action. Nobody wants to have to keep saying 'no I didn't do that, or that, or that.' If the person you have chosen to hold you accountable, isn't – then find someone else! You will know when you have found the right person, as you'll see a noticeable difference in what you are achieving in your workday. My Assistant, Sophie Owen, keeps me accountable for all my internal tasks by following me up and asking me how I'm going with my projects. I definitely don't like saying 'Errr...umm...I haven't done anything about that yet', especially because I'm meant to be her role model!
4. Look at your to-do list in another way - I learnt this one from the amazing Brenda Ratcliff, of MindMeld Coaching (check out her website here). She runs workshops and training for teams and individuals and taught us a technique for managing overwhelm that she learned from Steph Philp - those trainers sure get around!

If you ever find yourself in complete overwhelm, tell someone and get them to work through this with you. List out the projects/tasks you have swirling around in your head. On a separate piece of paper draw yourself in the middle and then draw a circle and write down the first project/task, then draw another circle with the next project/task and so on until all of the projects/tasks are inside circles. Draw between five to seven circles - that's all our brains can cope with at once!

Then step back and take a look at all of the circles together. Now draw a line between related tasks – so if you did this task, you could then do this task or this task would be easier. Once you have done that, notice which task has the most lines coming from it - this is the task that once completed, will have the most positive benefit on all the others. However, you might want to start with a different one simply because you have more energy for it. That's OK because it will positively impact the others it is connected to. You will end up feeling far less overwhelmed because you can see the connection between projects/tasks and it shows you that often if you complete something, then others are completed more easily.

5. Break it down - I believe the number one reason for procrastination is that you don't know where to start and the task seems too hard, so you just keep leaving it and saying you'll tackle it tomorrow. Well, tomorrow never comes, as we all know. A client I've worked with for a number of years had a tendency to procrastinate. More often than not, after he had tackled the task he had been putting off, he said, "Why did I leave it for so long - it didn't actually take that long and it wasn't that hard after all! Why do I keep doing that?"

This got me thinking, and I realised that when I forced him to start the task, I would naturally say, 'right so what do you need to do to get this started? Who do you need to talk to? What information to you need?' By doing that he could then break the task down into smaller bits that weren't so daunting and we would just start. One chunk at a time.

So the moral of the procrastination story is: Start something, right now. No matter what it is, just start moving forward and the rest will start to follow.

I dare you to look at your list right now. What should you do that you have been putting off? Now here's something that you could all do (and I bet none of you will). Prove me wrong! Call me right now and share with me the task you have been procrastinating on. I'll talk you through it, we'll get you started, and you'll have a plan. I'll keep you accountable and you'll get it done, and I won't charge you a cent! So what are you waiting for?

I'll let you in on a little secret...You know what I procrastinate about most?... Making calls to clients to check in and ask how they like our service. Why, you say? Because I fear the rejection and them saying that they aren't happy. And why? I don't know –and isn't it better that I find out so that I can fix it?... Yes.

Right, I'm off to call some clients!