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If something is staying on your To Do list and doesn’t seem to be budging, it may mean that the task needs to be more clearly defined and planned.  It may mean that it’s really a project that needs to be broken down into specific tasks, that needs information gathered, preparation made, planning sessions allocated for it, decisions made about it.

We are more likely to put off starting something if we’re not really sure how long it will take or how we’re going to do it.  It’s easier to do something we already know how to do, than something we have not done before.  Not knowing the first step that must be taken can be an invisible barrier to starting on the task.  We may take longer than necessary to do more familiar things so we have an excuse for not making a start on these other more uncertain things.

Procrastination is not necessarily related to laziness.  It is often just caused by uncertainty. 

If we need to wash the dishes, we’re hopefully familiar with the task and pretty confident about how to do it, what we’ll need and how long it will take. The first step of gathering them all in the kitchen sink area is not something we really need to plan and think about too much.  We can just go ahead and get it done, as part of our daily routine.  Drop off or pick up dry cleaning can be confidently noted in our calendar and done while we are out.

Something a bit more tricky, like fix the curtains, or install the new modem, or list items on eBay, might not look like it should take too long, but on closer inspection is perhaps being left behind simply because we need to identify smaller parts of the task, like working out how many hooks are missing and need to be bought, locating the electric drill, checking what size screws we need, setting aside time for a long phone call to tech support, recharging the camera batteries, setting aside time to gather items to be photographed, working out how the postage calculation works, working out how to estimate the weight of items to be posted and so on.

Broken down and identified as smaller more specific tasks, and what order they need to be done in, the thing that started off as an item on your list that kept getting put off has now become a project in progress once we are able to get the first small item done and continue to fit other smaller items into our day and our week.

As small parts of the project are completed, we need to continue to review and revise the tasks that are still to be done towards getting the project completed.  For this to happen, planning time has to be acknowledged and incorporated as a regular part of our routine, and made a habit of.

Needing a decent chunk of quiet, uninterrupted time may be necessary even for you to have a think about the task you’ve been avoiding and to make a rough, initial estimate of how much time the task is likely to need, what other resources will be required, what decisions may need to be made along the way, what information needs to be gathered.

When we are in the process of thinking about what is involved in completing a task or project, we may identify barriers or impediments, potential problems, reasons we have been putting it off.  It might be for example that we are aware that if we get interrupted in the middle of the task there will be a big mess and pieces of the project may be damaged, lost or misplaced, or it may be that we suspect some part of it may not work, therefore we will come up against new decisions and plans to be made.  We may even be unsure whether we really want to go ahead with the task still. 

This is all good of course, as it allows us to address these things and make decisions about them, such as what time of the day or week would be best suited, what preparations may need to be made, what possible choices we may be faced with.  Making a note of these things could develop into many notes.  If that’s the case, we can simply make a folder and label it, a place to gather our developing thoughts and the information we have already gathered that will help us with the task or project.

This is the reason that planning sessions are something you need as part of your routine.  We need a daily review of whatever calendar system we are using, and a weekly planning session where we review our lists and schedule things for the week ahead. 

Items can only be easily scheduled in for the week with a good chance of being done, if they are clearly identified and doable items, which we have a reasonably good idea how long they will take.  If not, they need more time spent on breaking them down.  So part of our regular planning sessions should be spent reviewing projects in progress and looking for the next doable tasks which can be scheduled in for the week.

How to do this breaking down of a project and identifying the parts and steps of it is not always straight forward, and is susceptible to being avoided because of uncertainty and the anticipation of being faced with decision making.  Just being aware of this may be all that is needed to overcome it.  If we feel concerned about something, that it may be difficult and we’re not feeling confident about it, we can try just making a note of what comes to mind – a sort of brainstorming session of potential barriers.  This gets them out of the back of our mind where they’re annoying us and out where we can see them.  Now solutions can start to appear, and decisions to be made and information and resources needed can be identified.

So, whether it’s sorting out your sewing basket, organizing a car pooling system for the soccer games, backing up your computer, or whatever niggling, annoying things that are hanging around on your list and you would feel much better if you could see some movement on them, try the following:-

- Make sure you have as part of your daily and weekly routines, planning sessions where you review your calendar, your lists, your projects.  Set aside quiet, uninterrupted time for your weekly sessions.
- Identify the items which are not moving and think about how much time and work is involved in them, what the barriers may be, what preparation, information, money, assistance etc may be needed, what decisions need to be made, what future decisions may need to be made. 
- Make folders if necessary for the items which need ongoing time spent on the planning.
- As you are able to pick out smaller, clear tasks to be completed, schedule them into your week to be done.  If they have been properly planned and thought out, your chances of getting a few things ticked off are greatly increased.
- Each week, continue to review your progress, re-prioritise, look for more decisions to be made, information to be gathered etc.  Re-work your plans and notes.

Here’s to my list of stuff and yours making some progress in the next few weeks, and us all feeling much better for it.

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Western Australia

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Lynne from Lowood,
Queensland, Australia

"I consider myself very fortunate having chosen Yvette for coaching.  It has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I started from a place where I was stuck in procrastination and everything seemed so overwhelming that I didn't really know where to start.  I love the freedom and empowerment I now feel.  Yvette's methods are personalised and very effective.  I have looked forward to every coaching sesssion."

Melbourne, Australia

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Liz Jarvis, CSI Business Solutions, 
NSW, Australia

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New York, USA

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M Shears, 
Melbourne, Australia

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Wollongong, Australia