You have a report to write, or a presentation to prepare, or a project plan to implement. It is daunting — there are too many parts to it; too many issues to consider. You find yourself procrastinating and feeling a little anxious. It is just too big of an undertaking, and you’re convinced the result must be perfect. You end up delaying until there is no room for delay. The pressure mounts, quality suffers, and oh, wait — an urgent matter consumes what little time you had left.
There’s another way. Have you ever tried working in iterations?
Give yourself permission to spend, say, 30 minutes to do a brain dump relating to the project. Remind yourself not to go into analysis or conclusions yet. Capture related issues, ideas, worries, whatever else comes to your mind. Don’t worry about organizing or ordering. Include a list of potential resources that you may have access to or would like to have access to. Be creative! Be bold! Dare to put down freely what comes to your mind.
Leave the above alone for a bit. This may be an hour or two, or a day or two, depending on the magnitude of this project. This interval will allow your mind to absorb the information and do its own background work. It can help to engage in some creative work or physical exercise during this time.
Take another stab at it. This can be a 45-minute session. In this iteration, you may add additional thoughts, and your mind may have already come up with new and interesting ideas on how to approach the project. Capture them and then move into organizing your thoughts and getting them ready for action. This probably means breaking down what needs to get done into manageable components that you can then schedule on your calendar or delegate to others.
Now that you have a plan, start following it. If it’s possible and applicable, involve others. Set up a dry run or a review session with the people who can provide meaningful input and who might have some stake in the success of the project. Set a deadline that can help you focus your energy and motivate you to get things moving.
Give yourself time to refine, gather more input, and go for the final victory. Then don’t forget to celebrate. And to put aside your sense of overwhelm next time and iterate rather than procrastinate.
Pierre Khawand is the founder and principal of People-OntheGo, a corporate productivity coaching firm. For more suggestions about how to increase your productivity, download his free eBook Results Curve™.