You’re losing 2 hours a day. Learn how to find them.

Time ManagementDo you wish there were more hours in a day?

I do, too, and that’s why I was so delighted to interview Leslie Hassler, the Business Strategist & Time Leverage Stickler.  With her time management tips and strategies, she helps women entrepreneurs stop being a slave to their business, take control, and live life on their own terms.

As you’ll hear in this interview, it became a little embarrassing for me, as each time management tip Leslie gave showed me what I was doing wrong.  You might enjoy listening in on the moment when I realize that I used to plan my grocery shopping better than I now plan my time in running two businesses!

Here’s the interview — Enjoy!

Click to play:

Leslie also runs two 6-figure businesses, so she knows what she’s talking about.  Her business, Your Biz Rules™, helps you get control of your time, strategize your business plan, and internalize the time management tips and rules so that you have more time to spend with your family and doing the things you love.

Leslie also has a gift for my readers, her Your Biz Rules™ Starter Kit, complete with a quiz, “Is Your Biz Running Your Life?” and the “Top 10 Rules for Your Business” checklist.  

Click here to get your free gift, and to get some hours back in your day!

She Gets Things Done…

You Can Do It!As you know I’m all about action taking. After all, that’s what my software helps your clients do – finish what they’ve started. Hesitation to take action is the biggest barrier to success for most entrepreneurs. We’re stopped by fear, resistance, and excuses that sound really good.

So it’s important to seek out those people who are NOT stopped by their own excuses and who take action! We must find out what is going on in their heads that is so different from people like me and perhaps you, and for many of our clients, who pause and worry and procrastinate.

Tee MingIntroducing Tee Ming Ooi. And for the record, her first name is Tee Ming, with an accent on the second name. Her web site is called Teeming Connections, and she recently held a telesummit called “Certainty and Confidence: The Key to More Clients, Higher Income and Less Stress.”

That should tell you something – a year ago she didn’t have a business. And she has already completed a successful telesummit!

Once I met her and talked to her, I realized I just had to interview her and bring her to you.

Here is the interview: Enjoy — you’ll get a lot of motivation to just …do it!

Tee Ming is such a good role model for taking action that I hope she will inspire you to take stop procrastinating and making excuses, and just do it!

I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever made excuses for not taking the leap and doing something big?

Or, like Tee Ming, have you made the leap and gotten something big accomplished? How did you get past the fear?

Just give me your thoughts below.

Consistency is Queen — 4 Steps to Consistent Action

[Gina is making her way back home after a heavenly almost-four-weeks of cruising and relaxing and generally galavanting all round Europe. She’ll be back, relaxed and ready to roll, next week.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy one of my favorite topics for building your Dream Business — with Finish Agent, of course!  Denise]

CrownWhen your to-do list is as long as your arm, yet the warm summer days are singing their siren song, there’s one sure way to get your most important projects done, and still have time to enjoy the summer sun.  Work a little bit every day, consistently, and then you’ll be more relaxed, and can take time to play.

I know, I know, this sounds crazy.  But there’s a boatload of research that shows that people who work in small bits, very consistently, are more creative, more productive, and less stressed.

So in the face of that mile-long to-do list, how can you be consistent?  You just need to do a few simple things:

1. Focus on ONE — Yes, I know you have a million things to do.  I’m not saying you can’t work on as many as you want.  What I am saying is that the most successful entrepreneurs understand that focus is crucial.  So they make sure that they have one primary project at the top of their list, and that at least one small task gets done, on that specific project, every weekday. 

2.  Use a Trigger / Catalyst – I’d be willing to bet that you have at least some routine in your day, yes?  For example, you get up at a certain time, you shower, get dressed, then maybe exercise, or meditate, or have breakfast.  Those things are easy for you because you’ve created a habit.  And you can play off of that routine to add on yet another small, but very potent new habit — working for a short time, each day, on your most important business project.  Figure out at what point in your day (preferably morning) that you could spend 15, 20, or maybe even 30 minutes working on your most important business project.  Right after you shower?  As you’re drinking your morning tea or coffee?  Think of something you rarely miss doing, and hitch this new habit to that existing habit.

3.  Start Small – One of the most important parts of creating a consistent habit is to ease into it.  If you suddenly declare “I’m going to get fit.  I’ll go the gym every day for 1 1/2 hours!”  I don’t know about you, but it would take about 5 minutes for me to find an excuse not to go the gym.  On the other hand, if you say “I need to get fit.  I’ll start by walking 10 minutes on the treadmill while I read in the morning,” then your chances of success just increased significantly.  Never underestimate the power of small.

4.  Leverage Your Willpower — Remember that willpower is an exhaustible resource.  So take advantage of that fact and do one short work session early in your day, while your willpower reserves are at their highest. 

Just think of this as going on a long road trip.  If you’re going from San Francisco to New York and you drive only 5 miles a day, in the right direction, at least you are making progress.  If you sit at home, doing nothing, in one week you’ll still be sitting on your couch.  On the other hand — if you drive 5 miles a day, every week day, at least you’ll be 25 miles closer to your destination.  Every little bit counts.  And Consistency is Queen.

Do you have other ways that you create consistent action in your business?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Peanutbutter and Bananas — The Elvis Method to Get Stuff Done

[Hi!  I’m Denise from  Gina asked me to step in for a little while, because she’s busy cruising around the Mediterranean for 3 weeks.  But don’t worry, she’ll be back soon.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a different twist on how to be a lot more productive… in Small Steps, of course!]

Elvis Peanutbutter Banana“Welcome to Programming 101.  Please take out a piece of paper.  Over here we have all the ingredients and tools that you will need,  to construct an Elvis Peanutbutter and Banana sandwich.  What I want you to do is write down every single step, in specific detail, for how to make that sandwich.  Go.”

Tick tock, tick tock….  10 minutes later…

“Great, all done?  Now, trade papers with the person sitting next to you.  Listen very carefully.  I want each one of you to read the instructions on that piece of paper and do ONLY what the steps say — do not do ANYTHING that isn’t on that instruction list.  Got it?  Go!”

Picture a room full of 20-somethings fumbling around the classroom, tripping over chairs, sticking their fingers in the peanutbutter jar, and slapping a whole banana on a piece of bread.  That is, of course, if they weren’t walking into walls, or just sitting in their chair with their hands in their laps.  They followed the instructions.  Exactly as they were written.  Nothing more, nothing less.  What a riot!

That’s what happens to entrepreneurs.  Only it’s not so funny.  Someone says to us:  “I’ll teach you how to create a new product (or signature talk, or new website or whatever) and here are the things you should do…”  But most of the time they don’t give you the kind of detailed, step-by-step instructions that you need to get the job done.  That leaves most entrepreneurs bumping into walls and sticking their finger in the peanutbutter jar…  but they’re still hungry because there’s no sandwich.

So here’s The Elvis Method — 3 simple steps to help you make better peanutbutter and banana sandwiches (aka get stuff done):

1.  Pick ONE specific project at a time that will be your priority.  Are you making a peanutbutter and banana sandwich?  Or are you making an omelette?  If you think about it, you’ll probably admit that most of the time you start making a sandwich today, but tomorrow you spend most of your time beating eggs.  You need to spend a little time every (week) day working on that sandwich, or it will never get finished.

2. Write down the steps.  Be very specific.  If you’re sitting in a chair and the peanutbutter is across the room, you can’t just say “Step 1:  Open peanutbutter jar.”  You have to do something to get yourself from the chair to the peanutbutter jar.  Drill down:  “Step 1:  Go to peanutbutter jar.”  Hmm…. what does “go to” mean exactly?  Drill down…  “Step 1:  Stand up out of chair.  Step 2:  Take 10 steps straight ahead.” OK, now you’re cookin’.  Keep drilling down until you know precisely what next step you need to take, and every day, take at least one step toward completing your ONE most important project.  Even if it’s just 5 minutes (one quick phone call, reviewing content that you need to edit, etc.) you’ll be amazed at how much you get done.

3. During the short time each day that you’re working on creating that Elvis sandwich, don’t allow any distractions.  Be laser-focused on that one small task.  Don’t answer the phone, don’t talk to anyone, and don’t do email.  The more focused and clear you are, the faster you will get that project done.

Have you tried the Elvis Method?  Or some other method to break your most important work down into small steps?  We’d love to hear from you.  Please share it with us in the comments! 




How to stay focused: 3 simple secrets to help your clients succeed

Here is my focus in this blog.  Actually I have two.

inspectingMy first focus is this:  I want to show you — the coach, consultant, or change agent — how to get things done and develop good work habits.

My second goal is to show you that you’re missing something in your work with clients.

Are your clients getting their long-term goals accomplished?  If the answer is “No” or “I don’t know,” read on.

Here’s what I’ve seen over and over — wonderful teaching, inspirational, motivational coaching sessions, but not enough training in how to get that big project done in daily, doable small steps.

Today my focus is on how to get your client to focus on those small steps.

Here is how I work with my clients to help them focus on the important.

inspectingupOnce the client has decided what their long-term project will be (e.g. starting a business, improving their use of social media, writing a book, developing healthy eating habits, building their practice), the client needs to know what to do next.

A long-term goal is important, but if you don’t know what to do tomorrow, you won’t do anything at all.

I believe that most people thrive with extremely specific plans, which means they need plans for what to do each day.

Jocelyn K. Glei reports in 99u that “a recent happiness study from Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are. Summing the research, the New York Times wrote, ‘Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else.’ In short, being mentally ‘present’ and focused on the task at hand really does matter – quite a lot, in fact.”

The only way to learn how to focus is to know exactly what you should focus on.

So I ask the client to determine the very specific next steps they must take.  I work with them until they know what they are going to do, in small steps, each day.

I also help them break down what could possibly get in their way, and how they are going to accomplish each small step.

Clients are overwhelmed by a deluge of information, thoughts, fears, and interruptions from daily life.  Without a list of next steps, they just won’t take any steps.

Seven Rules to Teach your Clients

  1. If you don’t know what to focus on, you can’t focus.
  2. If you can’t set an intention to focus, you probably won’t focus long.
  3. If you don’t eliminate distractions, you will be interrupted and stop focusing.
  4. If you don’t know that you’ve been distracted, you will end up doing something else without being aware of it.
  5. If you focus too long, you will burn out and not want to focus the next day.  So you need a reminder to stop.
  6. Without a reminder to keep focused, you may lose your focus.
  7. You need a way to mark the fact that you have started, which helps you start focusing.

Three Simple Tools That Help You Learn How to Focus

Here are 3 simple tools that address these issues.  See if you can identify which issues each one addresses.

  1. Use a timer.  First decide how long you want to work.  Make it a reasonable period of time (planning on 30 minutes is better than planning on 4 hours, because you might not want to do 4 hours, so you’ll do nothing).   Turn the timer on, and start your work.  As long as that timer is on, you keep going.  You don’t stop for email, eating or any other distraction.  When the timer bell dings, you stop.  You don’t keep going.

    Using this method, you have an internal reminder of what you are supposed to focus on, and an external reminder of when it’s time to start and stop.

  2. There’s an app for that: Concentrate, for Macs only, lets you specify which applications on your computer will be turned off while you focus solely on your chosen task.  It also gives you reminder sounds to help you stay on task.  It then turns off those apps once you tell it that you have started.

  3. Intentionq is a simple, web-based app that is designed to make you aware of what is often unconscious.  The designers of Intentionq ask this intriguing question:  “What would it look like to use the computer in a more intentional way; to only engage in tasks out of a conscious desire to do so?”  They then explain that Intentionq aims to answer that question in the simplest way possible, by recording and tracking your intentions as you use the computer.

First you set your intention. The instructions below say this say, “What are you using the computer for?  Be specific.”


Here I’ve set my intention as “writing an article,” and I’ve chosen 25 minutes as the amount of time that I want to work on it.


The timer has started, and I’m reminded by the title what my intention is.  If I decide part way through the 25 minutes that I want to check my email, I must set a new intention.


I’ve set my intention to check my email for 10 minutes.  Note that my previous intention is “Pending” below in the middle bottom.


As soon as I finish checking my email, the app will put my previous intention, “Writing an article” back on the screen, and continue the countdown clock.

The point of Intentionq is to help your clients become intentionally aware of the choices they are making, instead of finding themselves immersed in Pinterest 2 hours later, without any awareness of how they got there.  Like I was yesterday.

Try one or more of these apps for yourself.  Most of us mere mortals need something external to help us structure our work.  And remember, FOCUS!

What do you think of these apps?  Do you know of others? What do you do to focus? How have you helped your clients focus?

Please post your responses or thoughts below – I really want to hear from you!

Getting It Done Myths: Review & 3 Lessons Learned

Over the past few months, I’ve debunked nine common, but evil “Getting it Done Myths” that make it hard for so many of us to complete our big, important projects. Let’s take another look at these misconceptions and remind ourselves to guard against their sneaky attempts to undermine our self-confidence and success.  And I’ve added a picture of a sneaky myth for each one, so you don’t forget how sneaky they are.

Myth #1: You have to be in the mood to tackle your important-but-not-urgent work (especially the parts that you tend to procrastinate on).
Spy - medium

Stop waiting for the Muse to appear. Instead, think of motivation and inspiration as skills to practice and master.

Research proves that those who work at a project regularly, for a short time each day, generate MORE creative thoughts than those who wait for a stroke of genius.

Develop the habit of working this way, and you’ll experience a positive upward spiral of effort followed by ideas, excitement, and eagerness to get back to work.

Myth #2: You must have long blocks of time to invest in the projects that mean the most to you.
Spy - medium

Last-minute cramming may be the way a lot of us have functioned since school days, but it’s just not the best approach to getting things done.

For starters, it’s hard for most of us to carve out hefty chunks of time. So we keep putting off that big, important project, usually until deadlines force us into a working marathon that compromises our productivity, our results, and our health.

Why not, instead, start to enjoy the bursts of energy and self-satisfaction that come from short and consistent daily jogs toward your goal?

Myth #3: Getting it done is easy for everyone else.
Spy - medium

I estimate that 90% of people think the work they find taxing and even anxiety-producing comes easy for everybody else.

The truth is that the same tasks you find so difficult and dread so much are likely just as hard for others. Even the most well-known and seemingly secure people sometimes doubt their abilities.  The only difference is that they persevere despite all their self-doubts.

You can tackle the negative belief that everyone gets done more easily than you.  Small, daily actions will move you through even the toughest parts of your projects.

Myth #4: You can “get it done” by working on it once a week.
Spy - medium

Weekly commitments may work for staff meetings, Rotary breakfasts, and church services, but not when it comes to finishing big, important-but-not-urgent projects.

Limiting yourself to weekly work sessions puts you right back into “binge working” mode, with all its drawbacks. And it’s much harder to get back into a project when you haven’t thought about it in a week. Your most important work demands — and deserves — more frequent attention.

Begin by setting reasonable expectations of how much time you’re willing to work on it daily. Even 15 minutes, whether at your desk or in your car waiting for an oil change, will move you forward.

Myth #5: I’m just slow. Everyone else works way faster than I do.
Spy - medium

“Slow and steady wins the race” is still true, especially in completing important, long-term projects. And yet many of us feel we’re working too slowly to ever cross that finish line.

The truth is: slow is the only way you can go. You can’t expect to finish a big project overnight. In fact, the more you try to speed up, the more anxious you’ll feel, which will really slow you down.

The solution is optimizing your work by accomplishing a reasonably small amount each day. Going slow has a magical way of helping you work at your best potential and cross the finish line with a flourish.

Myth #6: “It has to be perfect or it’s worthless.”
Spy - medium

Can you imagine setting out to become a concert pianist, but deciding before your first lesson that you’ll never play a wrong note? Ridiculous, right? Yet this is the way many people approach their big, important projects.

Perfectionism is a no-win proposition.

Instead of holding yourself to impossible standards, follow the example of highly successful people. They’ve learned to be resilient — fail fast, learn from mistakes, and move on — and to realize that “good enough” really is. And they aren’t afraid to share their imperfect work with others in order to gain valuable feedback. I could say more, but this summary is probably good enough as-is.

Myth #7: I never meet my self-imposed deadlines, so I might as well give up.
Spy - medium

Deadlines can be an effective way of getting things done. But self-imposed deadlines are often unrealistic to start with, making it tough for us to meet them.

When you create self-imposted deadlines, you end up in the middle of an internal shouting match among your reasonable “Adult You” and less realistic “Crazed You,” “Critical You,” and “Superhero You.”

End the deadline drama.  Turn up the volume on “Adult You,” listen for negative self-talk and refute it in writing.  Keep track of how long it actually takes to accomplish tasks, and be flexible.

Soon, “Adult You” will learn to set more realistic deadlines, making the process less painful and more useful to you.

Myth #8: There’s nothing to be gained by getting feedback from others.
Spy - medium

People with perfectionist tendencies don’t like to share their work until it’s, well, perfect. But most people do much better work when they ask for feedback from others than when they isolate themselves.

By sharing your early work with trusted peers, carefully considering their feedback, re-doing parts they misunderstand, and taking advantage of their help in solving sticking points and dilemmas, you’ll improve the eventual impact of your big, important project.

Even if they find mistakes, your trusted peers won’t think less of you, lose respect for you, or dislike you. In fact, they’re more likely to feel flattered that you asked for their advice and want to help you in return.

Myth #9: The reason I’m struggling is that I’m not cut out for this.
Spy - medium

This myth can be sneaky. Here are some other ways it might pop up in your head.

  • “I’ve never been any good at ___________.”
  • “I’m not the kind of person who _____________.”
  • “I wouldn’t be able to ______________.”
  • “I tried that, and it didn’t work for me.”

And here are some tips for fighting back:

  • When something feels too much for you, know your anxiety about it will go away, not kill you.
  • Think about what a good friend would say
  • Remind your perfectionist self that “good enough” usually is.
  • Remember everyone struggles; it’s part of living life fully.
  • Have faith in the process. It may be long and hard, but with small, consistent steps, you can get it done!

Lessons Learned

One lesson I take from looking over these myths, is that you have to become alert as to why you’re choosing to tackle your work a certain way.  Check out the underlying assumptions that are motivating your approach.  Are you unconsciously obeying some already-debunked way of thinking?

Lesson number two is:  Learn to question why you feel a certain way.  If you are down on yourself or discouraged, then try to find the underlying belief that is telling you to feel bad.  Could it be, “I’m too slow?”  Well then, that goes back to myth #5, “I’m too slow.”  Remind yourself of the more reasonable way to think about your work style, and you will feel a whole lot better.

Lesson number three is:  perseverance trumps everything.  Become flexible in your thinking and feeling.  Don’t get mired down in beliefs.  And keep on keeping on.  It’s the people who can persevere who win.

Spy - smallAnd finally, I know that there are many more myths like this.  Don’t worry; I spend hours searching under moldy leaves in the woods, in order to bring those sneaky myths into the light of day, so you don’t have to.  

I will report on them periodically.  Bringing them into the light is the only way to make long-term projects safe for humanity to tackle.

What do you think? Do you see any common threads between these myths?

Which did you think was the worst myth – the one that has derailed you the most?

Can you help me think of some other myths that stop us from being productive?

We’d love to hear from you! Please post below.

Getting It Done Myth #9: The reason I’m struggling is that I’m not cut out for this

Multi Colored Rings Around HeadI remember when one of my mentors said, “You’re the CEO of two software companies.”  I almost ran out of the room.  

I was trained as a therapist!  I don’t know anything about business.  What is a CEO and what the heck do they do???  

At that point, I wanted to exit the business, because I realized he was right.  I had somehow gotten more than I wished for, and felt like I was over my head.

I wanted to give up.  How could little tiny me be a CEO?  Other people could learn this, but not me.  

I’m not cut out for this.

Then I realized that I’d better watch out, or I could fall into the trap of believing what my brain was telling me.

This Myth Can Be Sneaky

Your brain may come up with sneaky ways to make you believe that you cannot get it done.  Here are some of the thoughts you might have instead of “I’m not cut out for this.”

  • “I’ve never been any good at ___________.”
  • “I’m not the kind of person who _____________.”
  • “I wouldn’t be able to ______________.”
  • “I’ve already tried that and it didn’t work for me.”
  • “I’m different from other people who do that.”
  • “I’m confused.  I don’t know what I’m doing.”

When faced with scary challenges, the first thing our primitive brain (the part deep inside that was formed back when we were fish or something) wants to do is run away and hide under a rock.

Hunger DreamsBut the weird thing about being scared is, it doesn’t always feel like fear.

In my case, it often feels like hunger.

You know you don’t feel exactly right.  So you try to make yourself feel right.  The highly intelligent part of your brain searches for reasons.

In my case, I was uncomfortable feeling like I had to know and do everything that a CEO knows and does.  So my brain quickly came up with lots of thoughts to take myself off the hook:

  • “I don’t even know what a CEO does.”
  • “If I tripped over a CEO, I wouldn’t recognize her.”
  • “Do I look like a CEO?”
  • “I’m not really a business person.  I’m ‘just’ a therapist.”
  • “I really don’t know anything about business.”
  • “I can never learn all that.”

These escapist thoughts allowed me to calm down and just drift.  It took me quite a while to “own” the idea that I could learn and do what a CEO does.

Here are some tips to help you avoid drowning in this evil myth:

  • Recognize what you typically say that protects you from going for challenges.
  • Notice anxiety or fear responses when something feels too much for you. Pause and feel that fear. It will go away.  It won’t kill you.
  • What would a good friend say?  “Of course you can learn that,” or “Don’t forget that you were able to do x and y, even though you were nervous about it.”
  • Turn those friend messages into positive affirmations, like “I’ve just hit a snag in the process; it happens to everyone. I’ll work through it by focusing on one little step at a time.”
  • Remind your perfectionist self that you don’t have to be the best, or do it perfectly.  Fail fast, then improve on what you did.
  • Remember that anxiety and struggle are part of the process of living your life fully.  You can hide in your living room with chips and “I Love Lucy” reruns (been there, done that), or you can be really alive.
  • Have faith in the process.  It’s a long process.  Remember, everybody struggles.  This is supposed to be hard at times.

Have you ever felt like giving up when things got rough or scary? Did you?  Or were you able to get it done despite your fears? What helps you work through setbacks? I’d love you to comment below and let us know.

Getting It Done Myth #8: There’s nothing to be gained by getting feedback from others.

People with perfectionist tendencies don’t like to share their work until it’s, well, perfect. They operate from the belief that people will like them less if they expose their weakness or mistakes.

LifebeltIn fact, the opposite is true. People are more comfortable with “real” people. We all have some kind of insecurities; therefore, we prefer to be with others who aren’t perfect. If you share your work with trusted peers, even if they look at it and find mistakes, they won’t think less of you, lose respect for you, or dislike you. In fact, they’re more likely to feel flattered that you asked for their advice and want to help you in return.

Don’t isolate yourself.

Most people do much better work when they ask for feedback from others than when they isolate themselves. Trust me on this. I’ve seen the incredible results people get when they simply relate to each other about the process of getting their work done. It’s a testament to how ending isolation enables you to work more freely.

Isolation can convince you that people are scarier and more critical than they really are. Finding out that others can and will support you enables most people to do better work — and more easily.  

By sharing your early work with trusted peers, carefully considering their feedback, and redoing the parts they misunderstand, you’ll improve the eventual impact of your big, important project. (Because if these initial users misunderstand, chances are later users will, too.)

Share and collaborate.

Being open and willing to share your ideas with others and take in their ideas about your work contributes to creativity. On the other hand, a competitive mentality contributes to self-consciousness, anxiety, and fear, which tend to shut down the creative parts of your brain.

Talk about your ideas with people in other fields, too. The more off-the-wall their responses are, the more they might trigger something new in your brain! Many times, my clients have come up with novel and creative ideas just by trying to explain their projects to me, or by answering my naïve (but penetrating, searching, and highly intelligent) questions.

It’s worth the wait.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the time you spend waiting for a peer or colleague to evaluate your project and get back to you will save you time in the long run. You can relax as you work, knowing that a friendly reader will catch glitches or errors in logic. You can reduce your frustration and speed your progress by asking others about sticking points and dilemmas.

Sharing your work with others can help you deal with these seemingly unsolvable problems. Besides, taking a couple of days break from your big, important project while you wait for feedback can give you the fresh perspective you need to move ahead with confidence.

Do you hesitate to share your unfinished work with trusted peers? Can you think of a time when constructive feedback helped you improve your final product? I’d love to hear from you.

Please respond below!

Getting It Done Myth #7: I never meet my self-imposed deadlines, so I might as well give up.

worried_calendar_smallDeadline drama. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes self-inflicted. Deadlines can be an effective way of getting things done. But only, it seems, if they’re hard and fast, which usually means externally set (someone else has set the deadline for you) and linked to unpleasant consequences for missing them.

By contrast, your own self-imposed deadlines don’t get any respect. Who cares if you actually accomplish that one step in your long-term project?  You’ll work on it tomorrow, if you don’t clean out the closet instead.

And after awhile, when you’ve failed to meet enough of your self-imposed deadlines, you start losing respect for yourself.

Let’s rethink this no-win cycle. It usually starts when people set unrealistic deadlines for themselves, setting themselves up for failure.

The Four Faces of You

I see the real problem here as a tug-of-war among four sides of yourself that are at odds with each other. (No, you don’t have multiple personalities.)

First, there’s “Adult You,” the reasonable and objective one. “Adult You” knows you need to set an occasional deadline to motivate yourself and keep on course to finish your big, important project. “Adult You” also knows it should be a realistic deadline, based on small daily actions.

But then “Crazed You,” who sees everything in extremes, starts shrieking that if you don’t set and meet a much more ambitious deadline, the world will end.

Next, along comes “Critical You,” who thinks of itself as extremely rational and logical, yet warns that you’d be an idiot if you couldn’t finish your project by your deadline, no matter how unrealistic.

Finally, there’s “Superhero You,” who’s grandiose and in denial. “Should be a snap to meet this new goal,” “Superhero You” brags.  “You can fly over tall buildings, so you don’t need to work on it today.  Let’s buy some chips and dip, because you won’t gain weight.”  [uh oh, my own Superhero Me got in here.]

So now, three out of four “Yous” agree that you should have no problem meeting your crazy, unrealistic deadline.

The Aftermath

Ok, now it’s 2 days until D-Day. Let’s tune in to the internal conversation:

Critical You” “I knew it – you won’t make your deadline. You never do. You’re just not cut out for this. Furthermore, you’re not really very smart or good at anything.

Crazed You” “Everything! Will! Go! Wrong! And it did!”

Superhero You” “La-di-da! So it’s not happening. Big deal. I’ll just set another ambitious deadline. I’m sure I’ll meet it! I always do!”

Adult You” “Be quiet, all of you. I set an unreasonable deadline, so of course I didn’t meet it. But that doesn’t say anything about how smart I am. I just need to be more realistic when I set a deadline.”

Stop the Insanity!

Here are some actions that you can take to avoid being sabotaged by your own deadline drama:

  • Turn up the volume on “Adult You.”
  • Become aware of the negative voices and write down what they’re saying. Things like: “You’ll never get this done!”
  • Answer these negative voices, in writing. Even if it feels like what they’re saying is true, go through the exercise of writing down a response. Things like: “If I continue doing a little every day, I will finish.” Your response should be something that a good friend would say to you.  This will take care of “Crazed You” and “Critical You.”
  • Keep records of how you actually do on making deadlines. Note how long it actually took you to complete your small, daily tasks and how many minutes you actually spent on them daily. This will counter “Superhero You.”
  • Be flexible.  Your self-imposed deadline helped you somewhat.  If it didn’t, then stop setting them.  So use them to keep yourself in line, not to create internal warfare.
  • Start and keep a list of positive affirmations about your abilities, intelligence, and situation. Read it often. Soon, “Adult You” will be able to set more realistic deadlines, making the process less painful and more useful to you.

I hereby give you permission to quit beating yourself up over missing self-imposed deadlines. They’re supposed to be signposts to help keep you on track, not signs telling you that you’re a failure. Be proud that you had the forethought to plan a deadline, re-adjust your schedule, and go forth and get it done!

What is your experience with those deadlines that you set, as opposed to the ones set by the outside world?  Do you meet the deadlines?  How do you handle it if you don’t?

Please respond below!

Getting It Done Myth #6: “It has to be perfect or it’s worthless.”

piano_smallCan you imagine setting out to become an expert pianist, but deciding before your first lesson that you will never play the wrong note?  Imagine how anxious you would be whenever you thought about playing the piano.  You’d likely dread each lesson, hate every minute of it, and feel like quitting after a few weeks.

It doesn’t make sense.  Yet this is the way so many people approach their big, important project.

Believing, often unconsciously, that “it has to be perfect or it’s worthless” is a major reason that people don’t accomplish their most cherished goals.

Perfectionism is a no-win proposition.

And before I tell you why, let me say one thing.  When I talk about perfectionists, I’m talking about the human race.  We all go through this at one time or another.  When reading this, think about an area of your life where you might be too perfectionistic.

OK, here’s why perfectionists always lose.

  • Perfectionists feel perpetually anxious about the future; in their minds it can only bring failure.
  • Perfectionists feel terrible about the past, because they’ve never lived up to their own expectations.
  • Perfectionists focus so much on details that they miss the big picture.  This squelches creativity. So the details of the final project are perfect, but the overall aim misses the mark.
  • Perfectionists don’t ever allow themselves to take a break from their work and then revisit it with fresh eyes capable of seeing how they can make improvements.
  • Perfectionists often put off doing their most important work, and end up cramming under deadline pressure — not conducive to producing the best outcome.
  • Perfectionists also tend to be detail oriented and anxious, both of which squelch creativity.
  • Perfectionists often cut themselves off from the helpful input of others because they fear criticism.
  • Perfectionists have trouble finishing and letting go of projects because they can’t ever see them as good enough to be really done.
  • Perfectionists’ constant feelings of failure make them more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
  • Perfectionists don’t realize this important fact:  If there are no deadlines, they will never finish the project.  There’s always tomorrow to make it better, right?

Here are some hints to help you curb those perfectionist tendencies that impede your progress.

  • Fail fast.  Make your mistakes quickly, then learn from them and move on.
  • Learn to be resilient and recover from failure.  See it as an opportunity to get stronger.
  • Say to yourself, “It’s OK if I’m not the best.”
  • Give yourself credit for taking on the admirable challenge of tackling something really big, something that really matters to you.
  • Notice how imperfect successful people are.  I’m constantly finding typos in the emails of well-known people.  The lack of perfection doesn’t seem to have hurt them.
  • Be on the alert for “all-or-none,” or “black-and-white” thinking. Slightly flawed is pretty damn good.
  • Try to catch yourself before you turn minor imperfections into tragedies.  That’s called catastrophic thinking.  See the next hint for help with this.
  • ribbon_on_finger_smallUse positive affirmations – they work.  Remind yourself daily to repeat phrases like, “done is better than perfect,” “this is good enough,” “I’ll feel so good when I finish this,” or “successful people aren’t afraid of being imperfect.”  You might even put up stickies with these phrases on them.
  • As always, I recommend that you work in daily, relatively short sessions.  This practice allows you to step away from your work, and be more aware of the big picture.
  • And finally, don’t isolate yourself:
    • Sharing early versions of your work with others—mistakes and all—won’t make them think less of you.
    • On the contrary, everyone prefers hanging out with real people who aren’t perfect.
    • Chances are, they’ll feel honored you asked their opinion, and they will come up with fantastic ideas that you never would have thought of.
    • Your results will be better from the masterminding — even better than your isolated ideas of “perfect.”

Do you sometimes find yourself caught up in “it’s got to be perfect or it’s worthless” thinking?

How do you counter your tendencies toward this sort of “all or nothing” mindset?

I’d love to add more hints to the ones above! Please post your comments below.