We all have those days we’re up to our eyes in work, taking on far too many tasks than we have time for but managing, miraculously, to cram it all in before we punch the clock at the end of the day. But precisely how we manage to finish it all was a matter of interest for The Science of Us, who reached out to a specialist to figure out why the busiest people are often the most efficient. Because all of us deserve a fair shot at tasting the potion of productivity, do we not? (Yes. Yes, we do.)
Laura Vanderkam, an authority on the matter, is the author of soon-to-be published I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. Her book will explore, among other things, “why we work less and have more free time than we think; why it’s a myth that successful women get too little sleep; and how women can have demanding jobs, spouses, and kids, and still enjoy a healthy amount of downtime.” And aren’t these the cornerstones of success? A copy for each of us, I say.
So what exactly is the key? She tells The Science of Us that “people with hectic schedules have, by necessity, gotten really good at (realistically) estimating how long things take.” Wait...that surely that can’t be it, right? Here’s how she broke this down.
"I think it's because people with full lives have a good sense of exactly how long things take, how much can fit in any given day or week, and how much they've currently got on their plates. If they take something on, it's because they've thought about how long it will take, they've looked at the amount of available time, and have calculated if it will work."
So the key here, it appears, it time management. Meeting deadlines, budgeting your project time respectively, and refusing to bite off more than you can chew seem to be the most obvious ways to make this work. But what if you have the procrastination gene? You’re not all the way screwed -- there’s hope for you yet. Here are a few ways to abate your distracted attention and get your project management back into shape.
1. Set Goals, and Reward Yourself When You Meet Them
Remember gold stars in pre-K? Think of this as the grown up variation. Hold off on checking your social media until you’ve completed your tasks. Incentivize yourself. “Procrastinators have a problem with delaying gratification,” says XOJane’s Hristiqn Nikolov. Using small rewards, especially digital ones, help “invest in your personal development in terms that your tech-addicted brain is already familiar with.”
2. Make “To Do” Lists
Seriously, this works. And much like the aforementioned incentives, the gratification of checking off each individual task will make for a pseudo-reward system.
3. Know You Aren’t Stuck This Way
”Chronic procrastinators tend to wrestle with anxiety, depression, and self-critical thoughts more than others do,” says the Scientific American. “Research is showing that procrastinators use distractions and temptations as a way to neutralize negative emotions. Learning more effective techniques for regulating emotions can counteract the tendency to delay important tasks and help people commit to their goals.” So focus on the tasks at hand, refer to our anti-procrastination guide, and get a-movin’.
Images: Laura Vanderkam/Amazon; Giphy (3)