Stop Procrastinating and Get Your Hands Dirty


Have you ever looked at your to-do list and put off the things that you’re not the least bit excited about doing? Of course you have. I do it, too. We all do. And even though I put off those tasks for later, I know I have to eventually get to them before they start piling up. Whether it’s work related or in our personal lives, procrastination seems to tempt us at one time or another. But if we know we eventually have to get our hands dirty, why do we wait until the last minute?

The Task is Outside of Our Comfort Zone

Psychiatrist, Phil Stutz, and psychotherapist, Barry Michels, have asked the question as to why we procrastinate. They point out that many of us hold off on certain things because it’s outside of our own comfort zone. One job I used to hold was an analyst position. I always procrastinated on the detailed excel reports because the math that went into all of it was overwhelming. And all of the formulas and equations had to be triple checked because those reports were sent to senior executives. It caused a lot of pressure on my end and sent me mentally outside of my comfort zone. I would wait until the last minute to do the reports and cause myself needless stress to have them done by their deadlines. I always met my deadlines, but I made myself sick in the process. Now, I take a different approach. If I come across something that I feel is overwhelming, I take a deep breath and dive in. I find it’s better to tackle the most stressful tasks first and save myself from the unwanted stress.

We’re Waiting For the Perfect Moment

Sometimes we tell ourselves that right now is not the right time to do something. And in some cases, we’re right. Right now may not be the right time for you to buy a house or start a family. But for lesser life changing events, like filing your taxes or asking for that promotion, procrastination won’t benefit you. If you want that promotion, you have to show that you’re not only ambitious but that you deserve it as well. If you procrastinate because you don’t think it’s the right time to ask, then you’re letting the chances of a better future slip through your fingers. Instead, make that leap and take a chance. The worse that can happen is you’re told no, but you can walk away with the confidence knowing that you at least tried.

The Task is Too Boring

Honestly, I hate doing laundry. It’s one of the most boring chores I ever do. I find folding and hanging clothes to be so tedious and mundane. But I know that it has to be done. When I first lived on my own, laundry would be the last chore that I would do. What I then realized was that I was having to stay up late to make sure that all of the laundry was done, making me pretty tired the next day. It was then that I learned that if I wanted a decent night’s sleep, I would need to start doing laundry earlier. I also decided to incorporate music into my laundry routine. So now I rock out to Maroon 5 or some classic Depeche Mode to help push myself through a chore I’d rather not do.

No matter what the excuse is, procrastination really does nothing more than prolong the inevitable. If you’re ready to take charge and get things done, make one of your goals this year to be to stop procrastinating. You may find those things you were holding off on doing really weren’t that bad to begin with.

Leadership Lessons Learned from Olympians

Jared Zezel.

Does that name ring any bells?

No? Okay, how about Allison Pottinger?

Allow me to shed some light on our mystery guests. Jared and Allison are members of the 2014 USA Olympics team who will compete for Sochi gold in the sport of curling.

Heh? Curling? What's that? I was exposed to curling during the Salt Lake City winter games and while it may not seem very exciting, I've found it to be more edge of my seat than some of the other winter sports. (Maybe it's because I have no idea how it's judged but I find myself waiting to hear the teams calling out instructions and then cheering as one stone slaps against another.)

There's no one who wouldn't agree that in order to be an Olympian you have to work your tail off, but the curling champions of the world compete in a sport that lacks a sexy or romantic flair. Major brands are not going to approach the gold medal curling champion and ask them to promote the hot new car or next big thing. No, brands and advertisers want Shaun White flipping over the top of a BMW or Gracie Gold cutting figure eights around a bowl of cereal. (Editors Note: IOC regulations prevent Olympians from promoting products during the Olympic Games, but the games are an opportunity to make a "name" for yourself.)

People like to think that athletes are in it for the money and the sponsorship deals. It's a bonus, yes, but we can learn a lot about drive and leadership from the champions of both popular and the little known Olympic sports.

Hard Work and Dedication

Nothing comes easily and we would all do a lot to remember that we can't just wish for our dreams to be fulfilled. We have to go out and fall on the ice or face plant into the snow. When you get up and brush yourself off, you try again, and you have a better idea of your mistakes. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to be considered as the "elite" of anything - be it curling, writing, snowboarding, or basket making.

Set Goals Early On

Not all athletes want to be Olympians. Not all Olympians dream of a day when they can enter their sport professionally. No matter what they want, they decide at a young age what they want to be. Going pro versus being an Olympian might take you to different circles of competition or choose a different coach. Setting a specific goal from the get-go can help you determine the path that you need to take, rather than just wandering in the weeds with no real direction.

Success is What You Make of It

The champions of the sport of curling will likely never get a multi-million dollar deal to promote a brand or product. The Jared and Allison's of the Olympics will likely never be featured on the front of cereal box, but yet, they are still competing with all of their hearts and souls. Success isn't always about being the biggest, baddest, and most well-known name in a field. We won't all get to that point and in truth, almost none of us will. Set your success along the way in a manner that you can be happy with them. Reach for more, of course, but understand the importance in making strides in a consistent manner. For many athletes, being an Olympian means more than being the "face of the Olympics".

I highly encourage you all to watch the lesser known events during the Sochi Games and be sure to get to know Team USA as we go for the gold in 2014.

How Your Brain Drives Productivity and Focus

There comes a point in our day where we have a task to do and we simply cannot get our brains to cooperate. Maybe there’s a batch of emails you need to send out or there’s a meeting you just can’t get excited about. I've always just attributed it to just not being excited about the particular task at hand.

In marketing, we have to communicate with people – talk, email, think, conference, brainstorm, send smoke signals, or whatever. One of the things we don’t always think about is that we might be trying to do the wrong tasks at the wrong time. Research studies have shown that it’s not what you’re doing but when you’re choosing to take on a particular task.

Science may seem boring but if you understand what’s happening in your brain at any point in the day, you can get the most out of the chemicals buzzing across your brain.

Relationship building should be the focus of your first few hours at work. High levels of oxytocin make you feel connected and cuddly to the world. You can harness this hormones power by reaching out to clients, writing thank you notes, or engaging on social media. Oxytocin is a hormone that is more related to your personal relationships with family members or significant others, but you can take action while your levels are high and you’re at work.

Creative activities are the most effective in the mid-morning hours. Have you ever wondered why cleaning or crafting is a stress reliever? The hormone cortisol (the “stress hormone”) will help your brain focus on tasks and prime you for learning. Since cortisol is highest in the mid-morning hours, it’s the perfect time to plan out that presentation, do research for an upcoming infographic, or sit down to write that blog post that you just know is going to break the Internet.

Save difficult or complicated tasks for after lunch. The hours just before and after lunch time can be your most productive. The melatonin levels (the “sleep hormone”) will be on the decline at this time of day and you will have the mental focus and drive to take on the world. Melatonin levels can be affected by the kind of meal you have and how much you eat, so make good decisions at lunch time to keep the sharpness. This is the time to focus on those emails you send out, scheduling conference calls, or making pitches to your clients and bosses. This is the time of day where you are sharpest and ready for success.

Collaborate at the end of the day. By late afternoon, your brain is on a natural downswing which makes it the best time of day for laid-back activities like a brainstorming session. This is another good time to engage on social media because you’re feeling friendly and laid back. If you spent your morning re-tweeting or sending out links, this is a good time to talk directly to your followers.

Obeying your brains needs and desires at home is just as important as at work, because everything you do once you get home will have an effect on your next day at work. Start by getting a better night of rest.

  • Exercise before 6 PM so adrenaline levels will be down before you go to sleep.
  • Repetitive activities like doing puzzles will help you wind down for bed time.
  • Eating late at night will cause problems with your sleep schedule as your body metabolizes the food.
  • Practice darkness therapy to get better sleep. Put down the cell phone, turn off the television, and cover light emitting objects in your room with electrical tape. (I have done this and it’s worked great!) The light sources actually prevent your body from making melatonin at the times it needs to, which can prevent you from getting a good night of sleep.

To be more productive both at work and at home you must listen to your brain. It will tell you what you need. Do you base your tasks around the peaks of your brain power or do you just work down the list? Is it possible to get more out of your hours by letting your chemicals control you?