One rather easy way to increase your ability to plan in advance in your work is to every week do a run-through of your to-do-list, the overview of more extensive tasks and projects, and the next few weeks in the calendar. If we do this, we will become alerted if there is a task that needs to be prioritized for the next week so that we do not have to work over-time as the deadline approaches.
If you are familiar with the ”Getting Things Done”-method, you know very well what I am talking about. And you will most likely have experienced that it is easy to repeatedly postpone doing the run-through. It might be easy to consider the run-through as not being very important, and that it is better to ”just do” things instead of pausing for a moment and get a better grip on our situation. Doing the run-through can easily turn into a ”sourdough” - a task we procrastinate over and over again.
Avoid the anxiety and get going
But after a while we will suffer the consequences of our procrastination. We might realize that the important meeting which we should have begun compiling material for is ”on Monday already!?”.
A client calls and asks why we have not gotten back to them as promised, and it turns out that since you did not set a deadline for the task regarding calling her back, it fell into oblivion and fell to the bottom of the to-do-list. When our colleague asks us to summarize what progress you have made in that side-project you are working on since you last spoke about it, it occurs to us that we have completely forgotten about it since the last meeting. It hurts to tell them the truth, and we swear to ourselves that never again will we postpone doing the run-through, but next Friday we have a few more things which really need to be completed before the weekend and we end up postponing it once again.
So how do we get the weekly run-through done every week?
Here are six strategies to make you stop postponing it. Just pick and choose.
- Make the run-through more enjoyable to do. Sit down in a place where you are left undisturbed, where you sit comfortably and where you simply enjoy sitting.
- Add a little sugar to it. Reward yourself with something you like after checking off every item on the checklist, and going through it will simply ”taste better”.
- Increase your willingness to do it by clearly illustrating what the potential scenario after not having done the run-through will be. What consequences will your neglecting the run-through have? What do you risk missing and how would you feel if you did? Paint a vivid picture which illustrates the potentially awful situation and hang it where you will be sitting on Friday afternoon and see it as you are considering if you should do the run-through or not. Describe in present tense how the situation is unfolding as if it was happening right now, and thereby give yourself an indication of how it would be to experience the terrible consequences of skipping the weekly run-through.
- Lower your ambitions. Even if it is great that you were ambitious and eager to do it wholeheartedly to begin with, ask yourself if you really need to do all the steps on the checklist every week? Could you choose to do a few of the steps on a monthly basis instead?
- Start with the smallest steps first. Change the order in which you do the run-through so that you start with the easiest steps first, and thereby lower the threshold for getting started when you do not feel like doing it.
- Establish the habit. Set the goal to carry out the weekly run-through every Friday for five consecutive weeks. Think of a way to depict your gradual process. You might for instance tear off a strip from something, draw a line, crumple up a paper, fill out a circle. Also think of a reward to give yourself when you have managed to do the run-through five weeks in a row. Book a massage, buy the expensive bottle of wine, have a really tasty lunch, or make the reward something else that would motivate you.
Be relieved of last-minute-stress
If you previously tended to skip doing the weekly run-through but from now on get it done, you can be sure that you will increase the ability to plan further ahead in your work. You will not have to do things last minute to the same extent as before, you will not have to sit up late the night before deadlines, and will have plenty of time to refine and go over your material before that big presentation. Believe me, it is worth the effort.
How do you get better foresight?
How do you get yourself to do the weekly run-through with ease every week? A penny for your thoughts... Share in a comment.