Strategic plans, accreditation reports, reports to the Board, grant year-end reports, announcements to the campus community… sigh… there is too much report-writing in the life of a higher ed. administrator!!!
To make matters worse, you seldom get time to focus on writing. With constant interruptions and unexpected fires to put out, your work days go by so fast it can make your head spin.
As days and weeks pass, getting closer and closer to the deadline gives you anxiety. This pesky report pops up in your thoughts constantly like annoying mosquitos in humid lands. Even though you know this report serves an important purpose, you start to resent it. It has become a heavy burden. You wish you could make it go away.
You might even beat yourself up for not having written it by now. Or perhaps your frustration turns to blame and you start resenting people who directly or indirectly contributed to you getting behind schedule.
No matter what story plays in your head, one thing is sure: it doesn’t feel good! There is a certain heaviness that comes with thinking about what you have to do while not finding time to do it.
At that point, you feel so much resistance that even when you do have a block of time to write, you choose to answer e-mails instead. You rationalize that e-mails are time sensitive and are a valid excuse to postpone writing once again. So… you decide you’ll do better tomorrow. The next day, nothing changes.
Then comes Friday afternoon. You still haven’t begun. You feel emotionally exhausted because this report has been on your mind all week. You feel you don’t have the energy and creativity to do quality work, so you decide to take your files home and write the report over the weekend.
The weekend feels like an abundant amount of time, uninterrupted, to get this done. You feel some relief while also regretting imposing this punishment onto yourself.
Saturday morning comes. You think you’ll do a better job if you exercise first, so you get moving (far away from your computer!). Hours go by and you keep finding reasons to delay your start time. After all, you have two full days ahead of you and the report should only take two to three hours.
Your entire weekend is ruined because you carry with you the weight of guilt and procrastination. You could have dedicated two hours last Monday and enjoyed your week, but instead, you put yourself through emotional torture an entire week, draining your life force, and you still don’t have one word written!!!
Can you relate? Have you ever put yourself through someone like this? If yes, keep reading! I am going to share with you five strategies to make sure this never happens again.
1. Block off “non-negotiable” time.
When you first become aware of the project and deadline, choose a block of time to work on it, several weeks before it is due, but not right now. Allow yourself to focus on what is already on your plate and feel at peace knowing that you’ll have adequate time to do this project in, let’s say, two weeks for example. You are on top of things. You are in control.
2. Do not think about the report when you don’t have time to work on it.
To avoid making the task emotionally charged, it is of the utmost importance that you give it no thoughts while you are busy doing something else. I mean it! Don’t start writing it in your head while you are sitting in a boring meeting or having dinner with distant relatives. Your thoughts about the task can make or break your motivation so compartmentalize!
3. Do not change your plan.
Remember that when you decided what block of time to allocate to the report, you made a well-informed strategic decision. Do not second-guess yourself now. Stick to your plan! In fact, consider yourself forbidden to start early. That way, you won’t be debating with yourself whether you should work on it when you aren’t scheduled to do so. You won’t feel any heaviness, or guilt, or doubt, or pressure of any kind.
4. Set yourself up for success
Set boundaries to make sure nobody will get in the way of you fulfilling the promise you made to yourself. Think for a second, what would you do if you had to pick up from the airport the person you love the most in the entire world, after a long absence? You would ask people to get organized and not expect you to be available for a couple of hours. You would never consider making your loved one wait at the terminal for hours because you’re answering e-mails or because someone stopped by your office to chat, right? Well, you have to handle the promise you made to yourself the same way you would handle a promise made to someone else. Short of a true emergency don’t let people get in the way.
5. Do not rationalize
When the time comes to write, do not rationalize why it is ok to postpone. Do not make any excuses. In fact, you should not have any thoughts about whether or not you are going to write this report today. You’re doing it. Period. Put your phone on airplane mode, log off your email, and close your door. Do it now and you’ll feel on top of the world in a couple of hours. Do it. Now!
If you think self-discipline is painful, just look at the pain that procrastination, guilt, and self-judgment bring! Trust me, if you implement all five strategies, you will feel light, empowered, and in control.
Obviously, some situations may cause you to re-prioritize. If your college President wants you to come to a meeting, it wouldn’t be wise to say no. There are genuine cases when you need to reprioritize, but please, let’s be honest in assessing what genuinely constitutes an emergency.
“Not feeling it” is not an emergency.
Getting lost in e-mails or losing track of time on social media is not an excuse.
Letting someone overstay their welcome in your office is not acceptable. Take back control.
If you look at your own patterns, you will see how you tend to procrastinate on tasks that seem non-urgent, or intimidating, or tedious, or those that require too much effort. What I am asking you is to face reality and choose to take responsibility for your choices.
You will feel liberated!
If you are ready to improve your organization, follow-through, and time management, don’t hesitate to click here to book a time to speak with me. There is nothing more liberating than to feel in control and at peace with your work flow and work load. Let me show you how. Let’s talk soon!
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.