Your colleagues, friends and partner might have empathy when you’re struggling with time management and productivity challenges. Strangers on the True Focus social media channels can definitely empathize with these challenges. And you *know* that I understand how hard creating and maintaining productivity can be.
But you know who doesn’t care about your time management issues? The IRS. They really, really don’t care.
It doesn’t matter how busy things have been at work or how overwhelmed you’ve been by caring for an aging parent or managing your own health issues. When Tax Day rolls around, if you don’t have an extension you’d better have your taxes paid. So you get it done. (Or, if your partner handles the taxes every year, let’s agree that you would get it done if this task fell to you.)
Whether you do your own taxes at home or meet with a tax preparer, it takes a big investment of time to pull together all the necessary paperwork and get your tax return filed correctly. Estimates say that the average taxpayer spends somewhere around 11 to 13 hours completing their taxes each year.
Finding those extra 11 to 13 hours might not be easy. You might have to shift things around in your schedule or miss out on sleep, but the tax deadline feels urgent enough that there’s no other choice. So you get this project done, no matter what.
- your most important goals felt just as urgent as getting your taxes filed did?
- you set deadlines for certain milestones on the way to achieving those goals, and those deadlines felt just as unmovable as Tax Day?
- other things were shifted around to make space for working toward those goals, instead of trying to fit those goals in around all the other stuff in your packed schedule?
I know what you might be thinking: the difference between how you approach your taxes and how you approach your goals comes down to consequences.
If you set a goal to launch your side business this year and you don’t get it done, you can always try again next year. The consequences for not paying your taxes could be huge fines or even jail time. That makes it pretty reasonable to be afraid of the IRS, enough so that you’ll do whatever it takes to get this task done by the deadline.
What are the consequences of your time management and productivity problems?
As I wrote about in a recent blog, April tends to be a prime time for peak productivity. There are no major holidays or summer distractions to interfere with your ability to get a lot done at this time of year.
But that doesn’t mean that your time management challenges evaporate. You might still be totally overwhelmed by everything on your to-do list and feel like you’re barely getting through the day, let alone able to make real progress on your most important goals.
It’s easy to become disconnected from those larger goals when all your energy is focused on the day-to-day. You’re probably very aware of what the financial and professional consequences would look like if you don’t hit your sales target this month, or what the personal consequences might be if you work too late and have to cancel dinner with a friend (again). Making those things happen feels urgent. The consequences for not getting them done feel concrete and immediate.
You might not feel the same sense of urgency around your big goals, which makes it easy to keep putting them off.
Here’s one strategy that might help you reframe how you think about the urgency of those goals: Pick one of your most important goals for this year and take a few minutes to daydream about two hypothetical future paths.
- In one future, you prioritize that goal and steadily make progress until you achieve it. Excellent! Play out what happens next in your mind. How would you feel about yourself after reaching that goal? How would you be better off, whether that’s financially, professionally and/or personally? Are there people in your life (like your kids or younger colleagues) who would be inspired by your example? What goal might you be able to accomplish next?
- In another future, your time management challenges leave you constantly scrambling and you never get around to digging into that goal this year. What would happen next? What would the consequences be? Maybe you’d choose that as a yearly goal again the next year; if so, what other big goal might you be sacrificing by continuing to work on this one? Also think about, what would it feel like to not meet that goal? How might those negative feelings interfere with you accomplishing the next big goal that you set?
3 Action Steps for Creating More Urgency Around Your Goals
#1 – Surround yourself with visible reminders of consequences associated with your goals. Maybe it’s a series of Post-Its that you write for yourself describing how amazing you’re going to feel when you accomplish X, or photos of the dream vacation you’re going to be able to afford once you meet that big career milestone. Stick them up on your walls, desk, mirrors, etc. so you’re reminded every day of the tangible consequences of what you’re striving for.
#2 – Reward yourself regularly for positive action. Accomplishing your biggest goal might take months and months of hard work, which means you’re a long ways off from reaping the big rewards of crossing that finish line. Create some mini rewards for yourself along the way to keep yourself connected to the positive consequences of that goal. Every week, choose a special treat or activity that you’ll get to enjoy if you complete whatever goal-related tasks you plan to complete.
#3 – Create accountability and build it into your monthly plans. Do you have that no-nonsense friend or colleague who’d be willing to check in on your progress at regular intervals and give you a stern talking-to when you fall short of your benchmarks? Fearing their reaction might be enough to motivate you to make meaningful progress on your goals. Or, downloading accountability apps that give you pop-up reminders on your phone might be enough to light a fire under you.
Need more support with time management and productivity?
If you could use more intensive help to take control of your time so you can actually get the most important things done and make progress on your biggest goals, join me for Jump Start Your Productivity LIVE Virtual Workshop. Register before April 16th to take advantage of the Super Early Bird Bonus!
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