How to overcome procrastination and make progress towards your goals

procrastination

“Caroline, I’m scared of what will happen when we complete my coaching program. I know we’ve worked a lot on self-sabotage and fear, but I don’t know how I will keep myself in check after our program is over. What other checks and balances can I have in the future to prevent self-sabotage and procrastination from creeping back in?”

This was a genuine concern for my client in one of our coaching sessions. It’s easy for someone to have momentum when working with a coach, as this provides regular accountability.

During this coaching session, we came up with a process that my client could use to manage procrastination and get things done.

My client was not the only person with this challenge. About a year ago, I sent out an SMS asking my contacts for the 3 main challenges they were facing at that time. Procrastination emerged a winner across the board.

In the words of one respondent, “A big one for me is procrastination. I lay off things and can be quite inconsistent. I don’t manage to follow through on anything. This is a challenge because I need to complete tasks (in order) to see progress. Any tips on these two?”

I too have battled procrastination in my personal and professional lives. I’ve had to come up with strategies to overcome procrastination and take action, even when I don’t want to.

Today’s article continues with the series on how to reduce your chances of being overwhelmed and overworked. The first two articles in the series explored 5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed and overworked, and gave 10 ways to manage your time more effectively.

What is procrastination?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Simply put, procrastination is the art of putting things off until later.

However, the more you put things aside, the harder it gets for you to get back on track. Eventually, most of the work that is procrastinated on is never done, or it gets done shoddily.

Procrastination has been termed the thief of time and profit. It’s one of the main causes why people don’t achieve their most desired goals. It’s also a major cause of overwhelm, self-sabotage and failure.

All clients I’ve worked with have identified procrastination as the reason why they’re stuck on their goals. We’re all victims of procrastination at one time or another. The main challenge is finding out ways to work yourself into action.

Successful procrastinators are experts at not taking action, even when they have all the resources needed to succeed in a goal they have set for themselves. And it’s no wonder then that procrastination generally leads to self-sabotage.

Today, I’d like to share with you the process I created for my client. It’s a 3-step process you can use anytime you notice that you’re putting things off.

How to overcome procrastination and get things done

Step 1: Get Clear

Write down all the things that you’ve been procrastinating on and then rank them using the 4D criteria:

  • DO: These are the things that you will do. This list is made up of things that will make the biggest positive difference in your life when you achieve them, or will have the biggest negative impact in your life if you don’t achieve them. For example, constant exercise will lead to increased energy and optimal health, while lack of exercise will have negative health implications in the future.
  • DELEGATE: These are things that you can hand over to someone else or hire someone to do for you. For example, delegating housework to your househelp or hiring someone to clean your home twice a week.
  • DEFER: These are things that you want to do but they are neither here nor there. They may have seemed important when you set them as goals, but you now realize that they aren’t so important. The list also includes things that you can do at a later date – you’re not procrastinating on them, but they’re not high on your priority scale.
  • DUMP: Put everything else on this list. Throw away or tear up this list so that you don’t get tempted to reclaim the items. Items in this list include:
    • goals that have been overtaken by time, events, or circumstances;
    • things that you know will not make a difference in your life;
    • and goals set for you by other people (including spouse, relatives, friends).

“Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.” — Mark Twain

Step 2: Prioritize

Taking the things on your DO list and prioritize them in terms of importance (priority), sequence  (what needs to be done first), and time (when it needs to be done).

This means that #1 in your list is the most important task that also needs to be done first and to be done now.

Take numbers 1-6 in your prioritized list and write them on a clean sheet of paper. These are the tasks you will complete before picking up new tasks or goals.

Finally, break down each of these tasks/goals into smaller, more manageable bits that you can work on each month, week, or day.

Step 3: Implement the Rule of 6

I talk about this rule a lot because it’s a very simple and easy to use strategy for taking action on a daily basis. This rule will also eliminate procrastination forever and you can also use it effectively during your yearly goal setting.

It changed my life for the better and I’ve been using it and teaching it to my clients for over 4 years now.  For today, you’ll simply use it to clear your pending tasks – the ones you procrastinate on.

The Rule of 6 means that you never work on more than 6 things at a time. When you have a lot of items to work on, you use Steps 1 and 2 above to prioritize your tasks and then apply the Rule of 6 to the prioritized list.

Here’s how it works:

  • Take a 3×5 index card and write down the tasks you will do today (or tomorrow if you’re doing this exercise in the evening). These include your personal and work/business tasks. Be careful to only include things that you will do and not things that you want other people to do for you. Ensure that you include tasks from your prioritized list in Step 2 above.
  • During the day, work on task #1 until you complete it. If it’s a task that requires being worked on over a period of time, break it down into smaller bits and put some effort in one bit each day. At the very least, give it a specific time limit each day (preferably first thing in the morning) so that you work on completing it progressively.
  • Cross off each task as you complete it and then move on to task #2. If you’re working on your tasks with a time limit, set a clock or timer for the specified time and focus 100% of your attention on that task. Cross it from the list when you complete the allocated time.

To make the most of your time, use the Pomodoro technique to manage your time when working on tasks that require large chunks of time. This article on my blog will show you how to use the Pomodoro technique.

One of my clients, who had lost a lot of opportunities due to poor time management, had this to say about the power of the Rule of 6:

“Today, I have completely transformed, Caroline taught me the ‘Rule of 6’ which is a fantastic tool for helping me to keep time. I plan ahead, not just for a day, but for a month. In my business, we are right now in November planning for the next year.”
Edna Thiong’o, CEO Breakthrough Consulting
(Click here to read Edna’s complete testimonial)

A word of caution

Sometimes people set goals that conflict with each other or with some deeply held personal values. This can easily lead to self-sabotage on the lesser goal.

For example, say you want to get married and have set meeting the man of your dreams as a goal for this year. At the same time, you value your independence and have vowed to never allow a man to be in control of your life. You’re also a strong Christian and uphold Christian values such as the man being the head of the household.

You may not consciously realize the conflict inherent in your goals and values, but at a deeper level there is a fight going on in your mind.

As the year moves on, you may meet men who fit your ideal husband criteria, but your personal value (independence) and religious value (who is the head of the household) clash with your desire to meet and marry the man of your dreams. And so you end up dismissing potential prospects as they get ruled out by your inner conflict.

Here’s another example: Maybe you want to start a business while still employed. At the same time you value time spent with your family and want to spend all evenings and weekends with them.

Starting the business will immediately conflict with your family values and possibly take you away from your job. This clash may lead to sabotaging yourself at work, never starting the business, or starting the business and then giving up.

So as you work on prioritizing your goals and tasks, check in with yourself and identify whether there could be a clash between goals and values. When such a clash happens, your values or the goals that you’ve placed a higher emotional value on will always win.

Also note that the mind doesn’t care much about what you say you want because it works with your emotions and feelings.

This means that anytime you want something but don’t believe that you can get it, you will not get it no matter how many times you tell yourself you want it. Or if you want something but you have a stronger inner conviction that goes against your goals, you will not be able to achieve the goal you’re consciously thinking of.

Conclusion

When someone procrastinates, they give preference to tasks that are less urgent or do more pleasurable things before important ones. They keep putting off urgent and important tasks until a later time and end up rushing to complete them at the last minute.

Consistent use of this 3-step process will help you overcome procrastination and make progress towards your goals.

Use these 3 steps this week and get out of procrastination and into action-taking.

Recommended reading and resources

Get Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog and use it consistently. It will help you plan your work and manage your time well. And it will cure procrastination too.

You can get the book from bookstores in all major towns in Kenya or online from Amazon.com (click on the links to be redirected to the Amazon webstore).

That’s it for now. In the next article, I’ll give more strategies on how to reduce overwhelm and lighten your workload.

Over to you now…

Which of these 10 strategies appeals to you the most?

What action will you take within the next week?

Please leave a comment below and share with us.

(Image credit: jesadaphorn at Free Digital Photos)

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that when you click on the links and buy from the vendor, I will receive an affiliate commission. However, I only recommend resources that I have used and that I believe will benefit you.

 

goal setting

 

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at New Dawn Solutions. She helps brilliant professional and business women become more successful while working less. Her clients are able to reduce stress, overwhelm, and burnout and achieve goals they had given up on. You can contact Caroline to request for a complimentary Strategy Session and find out how she can help you achieve better personal, professional, or business results .

How to manage your time more effectively

manage your time

As a working woman, I’m sure you’ve had challenges when trying to manage your time. Managing your time effectively becomes a bigger priority if you’re a working mum, and more so for mums in leadership positions.

As mentioned in the last post, poor time management is one of the main causes of overwhelm and burnout. Today’s post is part of a series on how to overcome overwhelm and overwork. Other articles in this series are:

How to manage your time effectively

It’s easy to get tempted to look for a program that will help you manage your time. The reality is that time management is not so much about managing time as it is about managing yourself.

Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. What matters is what you do with your 24 hours. Below are 10 tips to help you manage your time better.

1. Stop taking on more work

It may seem obvious that this is the first thing you should do. However, this is not so easy to do especially if you’re not in control of your work and schedule.

If you’ve overcommitted and your schedule is crazy, then it’s time to stop taking on more work. Do whatever it takes to cut down the extra work you’ve already taken.

If you have a boss who keeps heaping extra work on you, then you need to manage your boss. An easy way to do this is to ask, “You already gave me this work and said it was important. Which of these two is more important so that I give it a higher priority?”

With time, you’ll find your boss thinking things through before s/he gives you more work.

Other things you can drop or reduce include:

  • the number of social responsibilities you have,
  • your children’s extra-curricular activities that need your attention and presence,
  • the roles you take on in the home, especially if you’re always taking up work that belong to your partner or spouse (give it back or let it drop).

I can hear women complaining that if you don’t do some things in the home, then they won’t get done…and I’ll address that in an article on boundaries.

Next, take a look at your to-do list for the next month (you do have one, don’t you?) and find what’s really your work and what is not:

  • Are there some tasks or responsibilities you can get out of completely?
  • Are there others you need to hand over to other people?
  • Which ones can you delegate and to whom?

Prune your to-do list and hand over people’s work back to them.

Related article: How to Create Time for Yourself

2. Create some white space in your calendar

When your calendar is full, you’ll feel overwhelmed because you have no time and space to breathe. You’ll find yourself rushing from one thing to another with no breaks.

Now that you’ve reduced your to-do list, it’s time to create pockets in your calendar when you have nothing planned. This is especially handy if you create space to relax after travel or after completing a heavy project.

Having space to think leads to making wiser decisions. You’ll respond better to crises and be more calm and relaxed when managing your work and home. Finally, you’ll manage your time better because you’ve placed a high priority on it.

Looking through your calendar, when can you create white space?

For example, when I had a full schedule I’d get tired and wind down by 3:00pm. I’d wake up at 5:00am and go to bed past midnight. I spent most of the time between 9:00pm and midnight working. During the day, I’d take a 30-minute lunch break and rush back to work.

To combat this, I now stop working at 5:00pm daily. I have a 25-minute nap after lunch, then have a coffee or herbal tea and I’m good to go. This post-lunch nap is white space in my daily calendar and it has saved my day.

Similarly, I’ve now reduced my working week to 5 days. I only work a few Saturday mornings when I have a weekend class, or when a client requests for a Saturday session because they’re unable to make it during the week. And when I do work on Saturdays, I’m through by 10:30am and spend the rest of the day relaxing.

It takes time to create white space on your schedule, but the results are worth it.

3. Use a plan

It’s amazing how easy it is to breeze through life with no plans. Start by planning your goals for the year and then narrow them down to monthly goals. Stick to 6 items on your yearly and monthly goals’ lists so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

Create your weekly schedule from your monthly goals and your daily to-do list from your weekly schedule. As you plan your day, keep in mind the Rule of 6 whereby you only have 6 main things to do each day. You can add other tasks to your list after you complete these 6 important tasks.

Reduce overwhelm by doing your most important tasks first thing in the morning. These are the tasks that will have the biggest positive impact in your life and/or business or job.

Related article: A 5-Step Process for Achieving Your Big Goals

4. Prepare in the evening

Having a live-in househelp does not reduce morning madness, especially if you have children. Limit the tasks you have to do in the morning by preparing the night before.

I’ve found it useful to have my children pack their bags, lay out their school uniforms, and polish their shoes before going to bed. This limits confusion and distractions in the morning when there’s little or no time to run around looking for things.

At the end of my workday, I wrap up any pending work, update my weekly plan, plan for the next day, and shut down my computer. This helps me start the next day fast because I don’t have to think of what to do – it’s already laid out.

Since I don’t have a live-in househelp, it’s my duty to prepare breakfast and get the children ready for school. The hectic morning rush reduced when I started preparing the evening before and taught my children the same.

Additional chores like fuelling your car, packing lunch, packing your handbag and work bag, and laying out your clothes and shoes the night before will help you overcome overwhelm in the mornings.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of. — Bruce Lee Click To Tweet

5. Set time aside for self-care

It’s easy to forget yourself as you’re busy taking care of family and conquering the world. Self-care is very important and you need ‘me-time’ on a daily basis.

In the previous article, I mentioned that I used to work late at night and all days, including Sunday. I ended up tired, distracted, and would lose my temper easily.

Today, I rarely switch on my computer in the evenings after the children go to bed. Instead, we have gadget-free dinner time and talk. I also read, journal or listen to music after the children have gone to sleep. My bedtime has also shifted from midnight to 9:30pm and I wake up feeling well rested each day.

Interestingly, reducing my working hours has not had a negative effect on my business as I’d expected. When I’m well-rested, I’m able to work optimally the next day.

Your daily self-care includes activities that help you unwind and relax. You could have a bath with a glass of wine, go to the gym after work, indulge in a hobby, write…the list is endless.

Related article: 7 Self-Care Tips for the Modern Woman

6. Create an ideal schedule

This is a time management trick that most people are unaware of. I learnt of it from Fredric Lehrman’s Prosperity Consciousness program.

In the program, Lehrman recommends that you create an imaginary calendar where you schedule in the things you want to do each day from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. Print this schedule and place it somewhere where you see it all the time.

Note that these are not necessarily the things you’re doing now, but what you want to happen in your ideal day. They include your work and personal roles.

Each day, from the moment you wake up, look at your ideal schedule periodically and then compare it to what you’re doing at that time, It doesn’t matter what you’re actually doing because in your mind, you’re living in the ideal schedule.

What will happen is that after a few months, you’ll notice that your real schedule will start matching the ideal one.

You can also use this when working on a project so that you complete the project within the time planned. For projects, you create an ideal schedule from start to end and allocate specific activities in the schedule.

The ideal schedule works by giving your subconscious mind things to prioritize and focus on, even as you go about your regular activities.

Having an ideal schedule helped me stop working weekends and after 5:00pm. I created an ideal schedule in Microsoft Outlook and posted what I want to do from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Below is my ideal schedule which is fast matching what my real schedule looks like:

ideal-schedule-cg

Before creating this schedule, I’d get people requesting for evening and Saturday coaching sessions. That is no longer the case.

Most of my clients now fit into my coaching hours between Tuesday and Thursday. For the few that request for afternoon sessions, I simply shift marketing to morning for that day.

7. Get control of your inbox

You’ll notice that my ideal schedule has no email planned. This is because I read my emails thrice a day: at 7:30am, 11:00am and 4:00pm.

At 7:30am, I check for emails from clients and respond to urgent emails. At 11:00am, I do a quick check to find what’s important and what’s not. I also clear my inbox and only leave important emails. I respond to the rest of the emails at 4:00pm.

An uncontrolled inbox will always leave you overwhelmed. There was a time when I had over 10,000 unread emails in my inbox and just seeing this figure daily would stress me. One day, as I was changing my email service provider, I lost all emails and started from zero. None of the unread emails have turned up urgent.

Implement a zero email inbox policy and set aside some time each day to clear your inbox until you’re down to zero. Create sub-folders for important emails. You can also save important emails in Evernote.

If you use Gmail or Yahoo, you can tame your inbox using Unroll Me. I was an email newsletter junkie and had signed up for over 300 newsletters. New emails filled my inbox each day and I couldn’t handle them all.

I didn’t know how bad my newsletter subscription mania was until I started using Unroll Me and in one day, I was able to unsubscribe from over 200 newsletters that I wasn’t reading.

The best thing about Unroll Me is that you can roll up updates from different senders and read them later from one email. This will leave your inbox clean and clutter free.

8. Set limits for distractions

While social media is important for growing my business and networking, it can also end up as a distraction. Once I open Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or simply go online…time just flies and I find that I’ve spent 3 hours doing nothing important.

I’m able to tame social media outside of working hours because I prefer interacting with people 1-1. So I’d rather call you or meet you in person than spend time on social media.

Other distractions include people walking into your office, unscheduled phone calls, and TV. Extended coffee and lunch breaks will also take up valuable time at the expense of important tasks.

Sometimes it’s easier to let the TV or games entertain children while you catch up with work, but this is not good for them at all.

I’ve visited people who have no quality family time because of addiction to TV, soaps and games. It’s sad when you visit people and then spend time in front of a box instead of connecting directly.

Set limits for all these distractions and stick to your limits.

For example, I use the Pomodoro technique when going online. With this technique, you set a timer for 25 minutes and then concentrate on your work. When the timer rings, you move on to something else or take a 5-minute break (you also set the timer for the break).

This technique also helps when I’m writing or conducting online research because I can end up sitting down for too long without taking a break.

Below are other tools that have helped me manage distractions during working hours:

  • Rescue Time: This app keeps track of what you do and gives you an accurate report of how you’ve spent your time, including internet use. The premium version allows you to block certain websites during working hours. At the end of the day, you can check your productivity report to see how productive or unproductive you were that day. I’ve used Rescue Time for two weeks now and just knowing that it’s there has helped me reduce time wastage.
  • Buffer: This helps me schedule social media updates without having to go to the social media accounts. It’s a useful tool if you have an online presence for your business or if you’re an online marketer.
  • Kills News Feed: This app hides Facebook updates during certain hours of the day. Google it and download the appropriate app for you (Chrome, Safari or Firefox).
  • Microsoft Outlook: Outlook manages my weekly schedule and daily to-do lists. I also download my work emails to Outlook, read/reply to them offline then schedule them for sending later.
  • Evernote: This app captures everything that you want to save for later. I save important emails, ideas, research, draft articles in Evernote.It syncs across all devices so you can update your folders from the phone, tab, or computer.

All these apps have free and premium versions depending on your requirements. The free versions are good enough for most people’s workloads.

Related article: Powerful Tools to Reduce Time Spent on Facebook Marketing

Time management is not so much about managing time as it is about managing yourself. Click To Tweet

9. Batch your tasks

When you look through your schedule, you’ll notice there are tasks that you can complete in big chunks or batch together.

For example, I do most of my writing on Monday and create new programs or products on Friday. When I batch these tasks, I get more done because I’m highly focused on only one thing at a time.

I used to break these tasks into an hour of work each day until I noticed that I was wasting a lot of time daily. This was because each day, I’d practically have to go back and remind myself of what I had done the previous day before moving on.

Batching has also helped me become strategic in what I do. I’m highly creative and used to waste time coming up with new things all the time. Today, I only work on one new thing per quarter and that new thing goes into my Friday schedule.

I also used to write half-complete articles and leave them hanging. With the focus on writing a blog post each Monday, I’m now working with a blog editorial calendar that lays out all the posts I’m going to create each quarter…and they are highly focused on the coaching program or product I’m promoting that quarter.

This system works for me because I’m in control of my schedule. If you’re employed or have other people who interrupt your schedule, then identify the times when you’re in control of the schedule or the tasks that you can batch and take control of that.

10. Be flexible

I’m the kind of person that works from a strict schedule and rarely deviate from it. However, working for myself and having children have taught me that being rigid doesn’t always work.

What is more important in time management is being able to go with the flow when your schedule gets interrupted and then get back to your work as soon as you can.

If you’re a working mum, sometimes you have to stop everything and give all your attention to your children. Other times you may have to put your work or business first as you complete important and urgent tasks.

By being flexible, I’ve managed to coach clients even when I’m not in my ‘normal’ workspace. And it’s also helped me attend to my own needs and my family’s needs during working hours.

Over the years, I’ve found that flexibility beats trying to create balance. It’s more realistic and keeps you from feeling as if you’re neglecting important things when life throws you curveballs.

Conclusion

No one can make the changes you need to make in your life. It’s only you who can decide to change your time habits and then take the necessary actions to achieve this change.

Change is never easy and when you change you will affect the people around you. Some of them may not take your new habits positively and they will resist. So don’t an easy time with your colleagues, friends, and family when you’re starting off.

However, with time, people will get used to your new way of doing things and they’ll start modelling what you’re doing. There’s no timeline for when this change will take place, but you should start seeing results within 3-6 months.

Recommended Readings

These books will help you manage your time effectively.

That’s it for now. In the next article, I’ll give more strategies on how to reduce overwhelm and lighten your workload.

Over to you now…

Which of these 10 strategies appeals to you the most?

What action will you take within the next week?

Please leave a comment below and share with us.

(Image credit: jesadaphorn at Free Digital Photos)

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that when you click on the links and buy from the vendor, I will receive an affiliate commission. However, I only recommend resources that I have used and that I believe will benefit you.

 

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at New Dawn Solutions. She helps brilliant professional and business women become more successful while working less. Her clients are able to reduce stress, overwhelm, and burnout and achieve goals they had given up on. You can contact Caroline to request for a complimentary Strategy Session and find out how she can help you achieve better personal, professional, or business results .

5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed and overworked

overwhelmed

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and battling with an overload of work, it’s time to stop. Here’s a better way of living your life so that you overcome overwhelm, while reducing chances of burnout.

In one of my goal setting teleclasses, the participants – who were all successful professional and business women – outlined the struggles they were having when working on their goals.

On further exploration, it emerged that some were moving through life in a rush. They reach the end of the week only to find out that they couldn’t account for what they’d done that week.

There simply wasn’t enough time to complete all the tasks they had each day or week. The result was that they were tired and feeling overwhelmed.

High achieving women are at high risk of taking on more work than they can handle as they move up the success ladder. If this is you, then chances are high that you’re currently battling with overwhelm.

Today’s article explores 5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed, overworked, and possibly battling with burnout.

5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed and overworked

#1: Over-commitment

You say “Yes” to a lot of requests and end up with more work than you can handle. This creates a very busy and out of control schedule.

In a coaching session, one of my clients complained that a colleague had a habit of pushing her work onto my client. This was pulled off so smoothly that anytime the work wasn’t done, my client would end up taking the blame.

It took guts and a lot of saying “No” before the colleague stopped offloading her work onto my client.

When you look at your schedule, what are the commitments that you’ve put in there that belong to other people? Isn’t it time to say “No” more often?

#2: Perfectionism

You’re a perfectionist and want to be seen as a success in everything you do. Nothing is good enough for you and you keep tweaking your work until it’s perfect. Unfortunately, this wastes a lot of time and gets in the way of other work.

I’ve also noticed that being busy is becoming a status symbol today. A lot of conversations centre on how busy people are and how much work they have.

The funny thing is that the more you talk of being busy, the more likely it is that you’ll attract more work to keep you busy.

#3: Poor planning and prioritization

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have a lot of items on your task list and everything is important and urgent.

Not everything that’s in your to-do list has to be done now. What’s more important is to identify the tasks that have to be completed and then work on only those.

Try to keep your list short so that you don’t get overwhelmed when you look at it.

#4: Fear of missing out (FOMO)

This happens when you’re afraid of missing out on opportunities or information. You try to take all the opportunities that come up…just in case they don’t come up again.

Another challenge we have today is that we have access to information at all times. News, updates, adverts bombard us from all our gadgets.

24/7/365 access to the internet and social media through mobile phones has led to digital overload and created ‘update addicts’. People are now caught up in wanting to know or give the latest news first.

This keeps many people on the edge and can easily lead to procrastination on other important tasks as you’re catching up with information and chasing opportunities.

#5: Lack of rest and/or sleep

Many people today are operating on less than 4 hours of sleep a day. This leads to poor focus and concentration which in turn leads to making mistakes or not being to concentrate. On the extreme end, it can cause accidents when you’re driving or operating machinery.

I know this for a fact because there was a time when I used to sleep 3-4 hours each day. The loss of sleep accumulated and one day I fell asleep at the wheel when taking my children to school. I was woken up by cars honking at me and the only thing that saved us from having an accident was the fact that I had stepped firmly on the brakes.

A few days later, I was so tired that I drove all the way from Westlands to Karen on autopilot – totally zoned out. I was supposed to visit a friend in Lavington but absently drove home instead…and ‘woke up’ in Karen on the way to Langata.

These two incidents shook me up so much that I made a conscious decision to increase the hours I slept at night.

Is there hope?

Being a high achiever, I’m sure you tend to put more in your schedule than you can handle. You stretch your workload and the start feeling overwhelmed.

As we get closer to the end of the year, it’s also easy to overcommit yourself and try to get everything done before the year ends.

Over the next 4 articles, I’ll be looking at specific strategies you can use to reduce overwhelm. These strategies will also lighten your workload and reduce your chances of burnout.

Over to you now…

What has kept you overwhelmed and overworked?

Are there strategies you’ve used effectively to reduce your workload and free your time?

I’d love to hear from you so please share your experience in the Comments below.

(Image credit: David Castillo Dominici at Free Digital Photos)

 

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at New Dawn Solutions. She helps brilliant professional and business women become more successful while working less. Her clients are able to reduce stress, overwhelm, and burnout and achieve goals they had given up on. You can contact Caroline to request for a complimentary Strategy Session and find out how she can help you achieve better personal, professional, or business results .

How to create time for yourself

create time for yourself Self-care requires that you create time for yourself and this may not be easy. When reading the 7 self-care tips for women, you may have wondered, “Where will I get the time? ”

In today’s article, I’ll explore ways you can create time for yourself and share strategies that have worked for me.

Where will the time come from?

Below are common areas where women lose their time easily.

1. Housework

A lot of women spend their evenings and weekends catching up on work that’s been neglected by the househelp. If this is you, then it’s time to STOP and take control of your household.

If your househelp leaves work for you to complete, then she is in charge and not you. You can complain, threaten, and shout at her, but nothing will change until you take charge.

A simple solution is to start by creating systems for running your household and then teach your househelp to use your systems and not hers. Replace your househelp if she cannot fit into your system and hire someone who can.

Sounds harsh? Yes, it is harsh…and it’s one of the reasons why Asians and Arabs keep househelps for years. In Asian and Arab households, the househelp uses the family’s system and is not allowed to deviate from it.

Personally, I’ve found that having systems for all the work in my house creates a better environment for everyone. This may seem strict, but the reality is that it gives us all a foundation to work from.

Having systems makes work easier to handle because everyone knows what to do and how to do it. Also, it’s easier for me to keep track and make corrections when the househelp starts slacking off.

If you have a live-in househelp and the work is too much for her, then consider hiring an extra househelp who comes in to do a thorough cleaning once or twice a month. The money you’ll pay this person is more than worth the freedom get when you create time for yourself.

2. Family, friends, and work

Children

Start teaching your children responsibility from an early age. They can start by picking up after themselves and cleaning up their bedrooms.

My househelp doesn’t live with me and only comes to clean and wash clothes twice a week. I cook and the children take turns clearing up and washing the dishes.

I’ve taught my children (ages 14 and 12) how to make simple meals such as sandwiches, noodles, and omelets. We’re now working on simple salads and larger meals.

I work from home and them knowing how to cook saves me time when they’re home on holidays and I don’t have time to stop and make lunch.

My children started doing simple household chores 5 years ago and they wash their clothes or clean the house if need be (still haven’t mastered cleaning toilets, though…).

Having children help with housework will not just help you create time for yourself;  it will also teach them to respect and appreciate domestic workers.

Husband, boyfriend or significant other

How much time do you spend picking up after your significant other? And how many of his roles and errands have become yours?

I won’t touch on picking up after him although that’s a really thorny issue for most women who find themselves in that situation. However, when it comes to roles and errands, there are changes you can make immediately.

If you have agreed on roles for each person with your partner, then let him do his part and don’t be tempted to let him slack off or hand over his roles to you as he goes out with buddies or for business networking.

Sad as it is, when women get married or commit to a relationship, many end up losing their friends and losing on promotions at work because they’re too busy on the home front.

In contrast, men who are in committed relationships rise very fast in their careers, especially if they have a Superwoman who takes care of everything at home (while being silently resentful).

Toxic friends and family

These include family and friends who take advantage of you or are always putting you down. It also includes people who complain and gossip a lot and those with a negative outlook to life.

When you say you want to make a change in your life, these people are at the forefront in a negative way – telling you how it’s not possible to achieve the change, or making snide comments about it.

Toxic people take a lot of energy and time from you and you need to dump them your life. They’re like energy vampires and feed off you until you’re drained. You don’t need them in your life anymore.

It’s almost impossible to implement a self-care system or create time for yourself when you’re in regular contact with toxic people. The moment you let go of these people, you will be free and have lots of time (and energy) for taking care of yourself.

Need some help with toxic people? Here’s an article I wrote on 8 toxic relationships you need to detox from.

3. Work and social activities

Once your family is handled, it’s time to hand back the extra roles you’ve taken up at work, with your friends and extended family, at church, in your chamas, and in your social and professional circles.

One woman whom I gave this tip recovered a lot of free hours each week as a result of giving people back their roles. Before doing this exercise, she was so busy that she used to sleep past midnight every day, had messed up her health, and alienated her family.

I also gave my mum this tip one day and she left a number of chamas she was in that were not serving her well.

If you find yourself regularly taking on other people’s slack at work or in committees you’re in, then it’s time to start speaking up for yourself so that people stop taking advantage of you.

Toxic people take a lot of energy and time from you and you need to dump them from your life. Click To Tweet

4. Social media, email, the internet, texts and calls

These are some of the worst culprits when it comes to losing track of time. Here’s how you can gain control of these modern-day time thieve.

Social media

Opt out of updates and set a time of the day when you go online. Make this towards the end of the work day or on your commute home if you use public transport.

WhatsApp and Twitter are especially addictive. I recovered my evenings when I unplugged myself from Whatsapp which had taken over my life.

I’ve written a detailed article on how to reduce the time spent on Facebook and you can use these tips to take control of other social media.

Email

Unless your job requires constant email updates, reduce your time to checking email twice a day for 15-30 minutes – at 11am and 4pm. Set a timer when checking email and stop when the timer rings. Also, systematically unsubscribe from most of the email newsletters you’ve opted into and delete unnecessary emails.

Aim for a zero-email policy in your inbox and install Unroll.me to help clean up your inbox and keep you in check. The first time I used Unroll.me, I ended up unsubscribing from 238 email lists. Now that was a real shocker!

Internet searches

It’s easy to get sucked into visiting more pages or following trending stories when you go online. Before you know it, the 15 minutes you had allocated yourself has turned to a whole morning…time lost that will never be recovered.

As with email, it can help if you have a specific time when you go online (with a timer of course).

Texts and calls

Phone addicts have a hard time ignoring texts and calls. They have to read messages or pick up calls. This habit will steal time from you.

Have a time in the day when you put your phone on silent mode or switch it off completely if you’re not in emergency services.

Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops have made life easier and communication more accessible as anyone can get hold you at any time. You need to be in control of these gadgets and not have them run your life.

Here are some strategies that have worked for me. Note that I’m an extreme introvert so some of these tips may not work for extroverts.

  • Having a gadget-free policy at dinnertime: All gadgets are put off and we spend at least one hour together at dinner. This has helped improve communication in my home and I’ve gotten to know my children better.
  • Separating your personal and professional communication: I have a separate business line and very few people (family, close friends, and my 1-1 clients) have my personal line, which I call my ‘secret service’ number. Having this separation has helped me unplug from work in the evenings and on days off.
  • Having a communication threshold: My family and friends know that I don’t pick up calls between 6pm and 8pm as this is homework and dinner time, and my clients know that I’m not available after 5pm and on weekends unless it’s an emergency. I also treat my work time seriously and rarely make personal calls during work hours. On work days, I make or receive personal calls during breaks at 10:30am and 1:00-2:00pm.
  • Removing social media updates from the personal phone: I don’t have any social media on my phone. That’s right…no Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, or any other apps. This means that when I have to connect with people, I do so directly. This strategy alone has created more time for me to write as I have free time in the evenings and on weekends; time that I used to spend with my fingers tapping away on the small phone screen.

On a funny note, my son who’s an extrovert used to get worked up when I didn’t read texts immediately and he took to waving the phone in front of my face while saying that it was rude to ignore calls and texts.

One day I got fed up and told him, “We grew up without mobiles or social media and we’d spend days waiting for letters or saving coins so as to make a call from the telephone booth.”

His response, “But mum, that was in the 1940s!” The shock was on me…because even my parents were not alive in 1940!

5. Watching soaps and other TV programs

TV programs do exactly as the name suggests. They program your mind to think in a certain way. It’s also easy to become addicted to programs and spend a lot of time in front of the TV (or the ‘idiot box’ as my sister calls it).

If there’s a TV program you like, discipline yourself to turning off the TV when the program is over. Also, find ways of having fun as a family without TV.

I find it sad when I visit people and we end up sitting to watch a Mexican soap for the rest of the visit instead of catching up and having a good time together.

TV will program you and suck the life out of you and your relationships. Use it, but with care.

6. Working without a plan or schedule

Many women wake up and hit the ground running. Their lives are an endless cycle of crises that need to be sorted.

Most of the time, such people are so frazzled and tired that they cannot stop to take a breath and relax. That used to be me until I learned the power of planning and using a daily schedule.

Here’s a planning system I’ve used for the last 4 years and it’s helped me manage my time as well:

  • Yearly goals: Each year, create a list of 6 goals you want to achieve in the year. These goals cut across core areas of your life. I take 3 days off in November to evaluate the year and plan for the next year. Once the plan is done, I put it aside and fine tune it the week before Christmas.
  • Monthly sub-goals: Each month, look at the yearly goals and create a list of 6 sub-goals for the month.
  • Weekly targets: Monthly goals get broken into weekly targets so that you have 6 main targets to focus on each week, which are then spread out across the days of the week.
  • Daily to-do list: Every evening, evaluate the work done that day and then create a to-do list for the next day. My daily to-do list never has more than 10 items, and I try as much as possible to put pending items from the previous day and the main goals for the year at the beginning of the day.
  • Regular evaluation:
    • At the end of the week, evaluate the week and create the next week’s plan.
    • At the end of the month, evaluate what’s worked well and what needs improvement, and compare progress with the goals for the year. Do this evaluation before deciding on your goals for the new month so that you don’t leave things hanging from previous months.

Using this system, each day’s work feeds into the week’s targets; each week feeds into the month’s goals, and each month feeds into the year’s goals.

Having a plan and schedule will keep you focused on what’s important and make your life easier. You’ll also be able to eliminate time wasters and deliberately create time for yourself.

You can find a detailed explanation of my planning system in the article on how to achieve your goals effectively with 90-day goal setting.

Need some more inspiration?

Here are articles with additional tips on how to create more time for yourself:

If your life is not as happy and fulfilling as you’d like it to be, then it means that you’re looking for happiness and fulfillment outside of yourself instead of creating it from within.

You need to become a priority in your life. And it starts with creating time to take care of yourself and doing things you love.

What is one thing you’ll do or have done to create time for yourself? I’d love to hear from you so please share with us in the Comments.

(Image credit: saphatthachat at Free Digital Photos)  

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at New Dawn Solutions. She helps brilliant professional and business women become more successful while reducing the time they spend working. She is the author of 12 Weeks to Startup: How to Turn Your Skills, Talents, Knowledge and Experiences Into a Business, which is a self-coaching manual that helps professionals start businesses while still working.