Although January represents a new opportunity for planning and evolution, it also is a reminder of taking time for self-improvement and tackling items that we have been putting off for months (or years). I personally have been noticing drawers, closets, and garages in desperate need of cleansing, but tend to only sigh when looking at them and then slowly walk away.

A work environment is no different. There are projects that we know we need to tackle, but it is easier to just slowly walk away or take the approach of “I’ll try to get to that next month.”

So how can you break out of the cycle?

The good news is that the same logic that can help me tackle that garage or basement can apply to your business project list as well. Simply follow these five steps:

STEP ONE: Make a Short List of Tasks

One of the big steps to tackling a project is writing it down and acknowledging it. Seriously!! We suggest that you take no more than 20-30 minutes to think of all of those pesky business projects that you know you have to attack this year, and write all of them down. Next, take a few additional minutes to write them down in a priority order. Easy enough, right?

STEP TWO: Set a Simple Plan to Tackle Top Priorities

We suggest that you choose no more than 2-3 priorities from your original list as a starting point. For each of those priority items, take a moment to determine the sub tasks that are needed to accomplish the priority. In some cases, there may be 6 or 7 sub tasks…and that’s 100% OK. By identifying sub tasks, it makes it easier for you to break up the work to better see how to accomplish the priority – and not put it off any longer.

STEP THREE: Enlist Help

What is one of the biggest reasons that we don’t get something accomplished? We try to do it all alone, and don’t pull others in to help take action and keep us accountable. For all of the sub tasks on your list, determine those that can utilize help – even if help only means bouncing an idea off of someone for solution possibilities.

STEP FOUR: Set a Realistic Timeframe and a Time Limit

One of my biggest lessons learned for tackling personal/home projects is to set up both a timeframe and a time limit. For example, if tackling a sub task of a basement shelf, I allocate a specific timeframe (like Saturday morning) and a time limit (like 45 minutes). For the latter, set an alarm on your phone and stick to that timeframe, even if you aren’t quite completed. This helps you to understand the time allocated to a sub task and assess the personal reward of what you accomplished in a specific period of time.

STEP FIVE: Build in Rewards for Completion

Using the prior example above for STEP FOUR, when finishing the 45 minutes of basement work, reward yourself (and your helpers) with a 30-minute break, a specialty coffee, a lunch break, etc. These small rewards are perfect for the completion of sub tasks. Once you have finished a larger priority (with all sub tasks completed), reward yourself and the team with something bigger, like a team lunch. Although this might seem trivial, you’ll be surprised how motivating these rewards are, and how they can gear you up to tackle the next task on your list.

So while the procrastination paradox is real, there is a simple way to combat it. Don’t let those nagging priorities keep you with a guilty conscious, and no way out. Apply these steps now and watch your looming priorities melt away!!

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