Embracing procrastination and other ways I’m tackling my New Year’s resolution
This year instead of traditional New Year resolutions, everyone at INK picked one-word themes to guide our thoughts and development for the year. Mine is order. I will readily admit that I am not an orderly person. One of the things I like best about my job is that it’s different every day and predictably chaotic. I don’t like routine, my closet is disorganized, and I will forever be trying to get my inbox under control. I embrace these things about myself but I finally realized that my life has reached a point where I cannot afford the luxury of disarray. I needed order to make the most of my time and energy, to make things easier on myself, and to avoid everyday annoyances (where are my keys!?).
A very big part of my interpretation of order is a desire to better control my time. Gretchen Rubin, in her NYT’s bestseller Happier at Home, says, “A feeling of control is a very important aspect of happiness. People who feel in control of their lives, which is powerfully bolstered by feeling in control of time, are more likely to feel happy.” I was definitely not feeling in control of my time in January and I felt that changing this would improve my work satisfaction and product, and overall happiness. Then I proceeded to remain busy, stressed and completely out of order for the first half of the year. So unlike 64% of people who ditch their resolution by the six-month mark, I decided to pick back up at that point.
Remember we made these resolutions at work, so much of what I’ve done to create order and better use my time involves my work at INK. (I promise, Dave, I am going to clean out Tessa’s closet this week!) Here are a few of my shifts in mindset and other tips so far.
• Manage energy, not time – Ironically, my first tip for taking control of time is in a sense letting go of control. I cannot live by my to-do list, tick tick ticking off action items – and I would give that advice to anyone in PR. To-do list mentality can kill creativity and new ideas. If you’re focused on your list alone, you are not thinking about what else could really move the needle for your client. To be more efficient and creative, I am trying to listen to myself and my motivation and, without missing deadlines certainly, go with what feels good. By harnessing my excitement and energy about a particular project when I feel it, it makes the work easier, more fun, more inspired. In the mood to to create? Write a plan or a blog or a pitch. Feel like communicating? Set up a lunch, stop into someone’s office for a chat, or start pitching. Feel like really focusing on one thing? Dig into some research. I have found this concept of managing energy, not time, helps me get through the to do list more effortlessly and with better results.
• Embrace procrastination – The concept of managing your energy is true on the flip side – some times there are projects you never get motivated to tackle. Instead of beating yourself up for being a procrastinator, and letting that project stress you out or paralyze you on other work, what if instead you looked at the reasons why you aren’t ready to do that assignment yet? Maybe you don’t have all the information you need. Maybe you have a feeling things will change and affect the perimeters of the project. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that you’re never going to do until you’re on deadline. And what if you just accepted that and just rest assured that you’ll get it done by deadline? Embrace procrastination.
• Use good tools – Thank you to Starr Million Baker, the queen of finding the right tools for the job, for our software overhaul at INK. She wrote a beautiful post last month about the tools we use, discussing the benefits of Basecamp, Harvest, Highrise and InDinero, among others. These tools are saving me time and energy when it comes to project management, time sheets, budget checks, financial analysis and new business. I’ve also started using an app called Clear on my iPhone for my personal to do’s (don’t get me wrong above, I still have to-do lists). That seems to help me remember my personal responsibilities and there’s a thrill to the way you check off and organize your list. But the biggest life changer has come from sorting my Outlook inbox by conversation. Holy cow, why haven’t I been doing this forever?
• Live with a broad margin – When Henry Thoreau wrote, “I love a broad margin in my life,” he was talking about the joy of leisure time. With two young children and a business, I will have to save leisure time for another year. But I can add order to my life by being more realistic about how long things will take and allowing for it. Along with most people, I tend to underestimate how long everything will take. After a year in our new offices, I still continued to think I could get downtown in 15 minutes when this was never, ever the case. I booked meetings back-to-back with no wiggle room. I wrote plans and budgets that were best-case scenario. Shocker, I was always running late. This habit just added to my stress and rush, for me and those around me. Unnecessary. So some realistic planning – small things like allowing 30 minutes to get to a meeting – are helping me live with a broader margin and a little more order.