So, which one is it? Procrastination or poor time management? Sadly, it's probably a little of both. Most of us fail to plan our days properly. This week I have been struggling and it's because I didn't plan my week out in advance. Admittedly, I had a crazy weekend which was part of the problem, but that isn't a good excuse. There isn't any excuse. I just didn't plan.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go on the road with our local mountain bike club, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, to generate support for Knoxville to win a $100,000 grant from Bell Helmets to build a super awesome downhill trail. My husband has become the group's official volunteer photographer and I was along for social media support and to be a smiling face. It was a fantastic weekend as we traveled in what is referred to as the #SoKnoLimo from Knoxville to Snowshoe Mountain, WV and on to Washington, DC meeting lots of people and getting votes for our Urban Wilderness Gravity Trail. We also got to do some mountain biking and I rode the downhill trails at Snowshoe for the first time. (More on that experience later...)
Our journey started early Friday morning with some local news spots and then we drove Downtown and our city Mayor, Madeline Rogero, spraypainted the last window before we took off down the highway. I knew I should have taken my Day Designer with me, but I was trying to downsize my belongings so I left it behind in my office. That was my first mistake.

My Day Designer is what keeps me organized. It's a fabulous planner with a page for each day where I can make of list of what needs to be done, with a special section for my top 3 to-dos, and there's a place where I can put appointments or block out time for projects. Without this planner, I am lost. For real. While I was on the road, I should have taken a few minutes and planned my week rather than thinking I would figure it all out when I got to the office on Tuesday. 

Wrong! A shortened work week means you have to fit more activity into less time. It means deciding what is important and what can wait. It may mean that some tasks get crossed off the list completely. Allan and I were already behind with editing and culling images from shoots we had done over the past few weeks, so those deadlines were no longer valid when Tuesday rolled around and it caused me some unnecessary stress. 

Stress. Ain't nobody got time for that. And it often leads to more of one of the topics of this post, procrastination. In my experience, if you don't plan, you get stressed and you end up procrastinating because you haven't created a good plan, with tasks in order of priority, of what needs to get done. Note that I said in order of priority. It's important. Yes, we can all make a list of stuff we need to get done, but if you don't assign any priority (or more to the point, a deadline) you will just stare at that list and do nothing. Are you nodding your head in agreement? Can you recall a time when you felt this very same way? Was it today? Like, maybe right this second...

So, now you understand how failing to plan is one of the ways procrastination sneaks into your life and stops you from doing whatever it is you should be doing. Procrastination also sneaks in wearing the disguise of being busy. This one is my favorite!

I'm too busy. We've all said it. Some of us say it more than others. Try not saying it. Try an honest response. Here's an example so you can better understand how this is really procrastination in disguise. Your friend asks you to meet after work for a glass of wine (or a beer, whatever) and you say you can't because you're too busy. Your friend asks why and you say it's because you have to work through the night to finish a project for a client by noon the next day. Your friend asks why your client wants you to work through the night. And that's when you make up some lame excuse. You do this because the truth is that you didn't plan properly and you procrastinated and now you're stressed out AND you're "too busy" to have a drink with your bestie (or your boyfriend, whatever).

Here's a little homework assignment for you to get out of the lame "I'm too busy" rut. Every time you start to answer with "I'm too busy", stop and think about why you are "too busy". Is it because you've taken on too many projects, you didn't plan you day properly, you took a long lunch, you got up late? Start being honest with why you are "too busy" and a weight will lift from your shoulders and you will feel free of the "too busy" monster! We all have the same hours in a day, how you use them is the key to getting more done and not being roadblocked by procrastination.

So, what's stopping you? Is it procrastination or the other equally annoying culprit, poor time management. As I mentioned earlier, it may be both, but here are some ways that poor time management can be stopping you from reaching your most awesome potential.

As I mentioned above, not planning your day, week, month, year, etc. can lead to problems. Properly managing your time is critical. If I create a realistic plan there is no reason why I can't knock out a blog post, write a newsletter, do a branding photo shoot, ride my mountain bike, eat three meals, drink two beers, watch an hour of TV, respond to email, tweet some tweeps, post a few important tidbits on Facebook and pin some cool places to mountain bike on Pinterest, attend a meeting for an organization with which I volunteer and get 7 hours of sleep. Seriously. I do this almost every day. It's only possible because I manage my time. I don't schedule too many appointments and I guard my personal time like it's a baby gorilla. (We just had two baby gorillas born at the Knoxville Zoo this week, so I have gorilla babies on my brain!)

What does your productivity and time management look like? Hopefully not like a baby gorilla. I mean they are cute and all, but I doubt they can take care of themselves let alone plan their time well. Your homework assignment is to analyze your time management and productivity. Write down everything you do for one week (two is better, but one will do the job if you are "too busy") from the time you get up in the morning until you lay your head on the pillow and go to sleep. Be sure to include what you do from the time you actually wake up and get out of bed and the same when you go to bed. I don't mean anything overly personal, but we're all guilty of checking our phone or playing Words with Friends when we're supposed to be sleeping or getting up. 

Keeping track of what you do while you're awake will help you see how you are using your time- the good, the bad and the ugly. Once you've tracked your time for seven days you will be able to see some patterns. Are you going to bed really late and trying to get up early only to fail and fall back to sleep and wake up late? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you eating three (or more) meals per day and properly hydrating yourself? Are you getting the important work done or are you fooling around on Facebook and Pinterest? This is an exercise of honesty. Track everything!

The point of tracking everything is important for several reasons. One, you will see where you are spending your time and you will be able to determine if that's where you really want to be spending it. Two, you will be able to figure out where you need to make improvements either in your time management, prioritization or grouping of smiliar tasks. Three, you will discover you are wasting a lot of time on unnecessary tasks. Trust me on that last one. 

Here's what to do next to get better at time management and avoid procrastination. Take at least 10 minutes at the end of each day to plan the following day (or days, for you overachievers). Write down the tasks you need to accomplish, note the priority of these tasks. This is important if you day goes sideways and you might end up with fewer hours in your day than you planned. If you have kids, pets, parents or other obligations, you know what I am talking about. After you have planned your the day(s), take a moment to see what you actually did get accomplished on this day and determine if you could have done better, or if you need to adjust the time allocated for any recurring tasks. Example: Maybe you figured it would take 30 minutes to write that blog post, but you discovered it really took 1.5 hours. (Like this one...)

Being agile with your time management is a bonus. Very rarely will your plan work out 100% as planned. It might be close, but you will always need to be ready to make adjustments. This ability to adjust should also help you avoid procrastination. Instead of saying you don't have time to complete the task, maybe a lower priority task can be moved to another day or it doesn't need all of the allocated time. Be flexible, but know your priorities.

Procrastination and poor time management can be eradicated from your life if you do the homework assignments and follow these suggestions. It may take some time as you work through changing long-established habits and learn to be flexible, but it will happen. And you won't have so much stress. And you will feel better. And you'll get to ride your mountain bike more. Or whatever.

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

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