Just put up the tree already—How to stop procrastinating
I don't have children. Well, not human ones, anyway. It's just me, my husband, and our pets taking up the space in my home. And though I don't get many visitors (I've told you before, I'm an introvert), I still love having a Christmas tree for my cats to attempt to ruin during the holiday season.
But if I love the tree so much, why does it take me so long to get it out of the garage and decorate it?
Procrastination is a familiar foe, and, at least for me, it rears its ugly head at this time of year more than any other. So, how do we tackle procrastination and finish the 2024 budget, manual reviews, employee one-on-ones, and end-of-year equipment purchases?
Break it down
Sometimes, the mountain of tasks can be overwhelming, causing us to put off even getting started. Break down your day into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Write down what you've got to do and prioritize tasks by urgency. Just like treating a patient, address the most critical issues first.
The "treat yourself” technique
We commonly use positive reinforcement in pet training but forget that we could all use a reward now and then. Set up a system where you reward yourself after completing a task. It could be anything from enjoying a cup of your favorite coffee to taking a short stroll around the clinic. By associating completing tasks with positive experiences, you'll be motivated to get things done without even realizing it.
The power of teamwork
Instead of tackling everything alone, involve your team in the process. Delegate tasks according to each team member's strengths and interests. Not only will this lighten the load, but it also fosters a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility. Plus, nothing beats accomplishing a task together. (Did you know high-fives are free?!)
Create your workspace
I have to clean my kitchen before I cook. Why would I do that when I'm just going to make it dirty? It's because our environment plays a role in how we focus. Look around your hospital—is it organized, clean, and conducive to productivity? A clutter-free and well-organized workspace can do wonders for your concentration.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
Ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It's a time-management method that encourages focused work with short breaks. Set a timer for 25 minutes of intense work, then reward yourself with a five-minute break. Rinse and repeat four times, then take a longer break. This technique prevents burnout and helps you make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed. Even if you don’t follow this exact formula, a couple solid work sprints for a set amount of time can work wonders!
Technology is amazing and can help us with reminders, timers, and motivational music, but it can also be a major source of distraction. Set boundaries when it comes to smartphones, social media, and other potential time-wasters. Be mindful not to fall into the trap of endless notifications and remember, we control our devices, not the other way around.
Foster a culture of accountability
Encourage open communication within your veterinary team. Share your goals and deadlines with each other. Knowing your colleagues are counting on you adds a layer of motivation to get things done. Consider holding brief daily check-ins or weekly team meetings to keep everyone on the same page and offer assistance when needed.
Procrastination can be caused by underlying health conditions and/or negative moods. If I'm having a particularly hard time getting started with a task, I stop and ask myself: Am I anxious, depressed, frustrated, or angry?
If I don't deal with my underlying emotions, I start to associate them with the task at hand. Forgive yourself for procrastinating, and work on figuring out what you're feeling and why. I mention this solution last because it can take some serious investment, but it's worth diving into if you find yourself procrastinating often.
Overcoming procrastination doesn't have to be a daunting task. By adopting an approach that works for you and integrating these tips into your daily routine, you'll discover that the battle against procrastination can be won—one task at a time.
So, let's roll up our sleeves and get that Christmas tree out of the garage!
Jenn Galvin owns and manages Advanced Animal Care, a companion animal hospital located in Arizona. She has been in the veterinary industry for over 25 years, and she is a true nerd at heart, with a passion for staff development, inventory, and veterinary financials.
Photo credit: Ekaterina Zirina © E+ via Getty Images Plus
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.