Getting It Done


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I’ve been feeling a little anxious lately. I commute into an office three days a week now, leaving a lot less time for my other projects. I have a major magazine piece I’ve been meaning to tie up for months (this is what happens when my deadline gets extended). I’ve been struggling with a project outline for another client, stressing out about getting it wrong. And Christmas has sort of snuck up on me. There are still gifts to be bought, other gifts to be wrapped, cookies to be baked, and cards to be sent. All within the next week. Not only that, but I’m already feeling burnt out, and I have major problems with procrastination.

Yesterday, I talked to my mentor coach about procrastination, motivation, and low energy levels. I told her how I tend to put off large projects, intimidated by their scope, telling myself that there’s still time, yet feeling heart palpitations every time I think about the fact that they’re unfinished. Then, once I finally tackle the project (in the eleventh hour, of course), I’m blown away by how easy it is, wondering over how I had been worrying all this time about nothing. (Miraculously, using this tactic has never caused me to miss a deadline.) I tell her how I wish I could get things done early, instead of causing myself undue stress over an extended period of time. I tell her about my low energy levels. My exhaustion. My CFS. We brainstorm.

I left the call feeling a lot more optimistic about all the work on my plate. We had put together an action plan, and thrown around ideas for boosting my energy levels. I’ll share them with you now, because that’s just the type of gal I am. Below, my shiny, new plan for tackling large projects:

1. Score major project.

Do a happy dance. Skype my husband and gloat. Daydream about all of the pretty, pretty dresses and brand spanking new books I’ll buy with the money I eventually get for this project, despite the fact that I know–deep within myself–that I will actually end up using the money to pay off my credit card bill and student loans. Drool over the items on my Amazon Wish List, items that now seem closer to my grasp. Feel accomplished. Eat a cupcake.

2. Break major project down into less terrifying action steps.

Suddenly realize that project is big and scary. Consider hibernating instead of actually tackling project. Hug the cats for comfort. Then, remember this new plan, and feel a renewed sense of energy. Consider all the different, smaller steps this one, large project will actually require. (For example, for my wine article, I had to: Map out wineries, wine shops, wine bars, and restaurants around NJ; visit them; gather tidbits of info on them and put them into a single database; write intro; hand in.) Give myself mini-deadlines for each step. Pinky swear myself that I will actually meet them.

3. Bribe myself.

Realize that I will never actually meet mini-deadlines unless I bribe myself. Consider how I might reward myself upon the completion of each action step:

  • a game of Spider Solitaire
  • a DVRd episode of So You Think You Can Dance
  • a nap with the cats

4. Boost my energy levels.

Despite what you might think, the fact that I have a pot of coffee for breakfast does not actually boost my energy levels. After thinking about the things that do energize me, I decided that, if I was starting to slow down, I would do a mini callanetics workout in my living room. I typically take a callanetics class with my mother once a week and, no matter how unmotivated I feel before the class, I always end up glad that I went. It never fails to simultaneously relax me and revive me. And it’s the type of workout that could easily be done at home. Considering that naps can leave me feeling groggy, I’ve decided that this is the best way to get my second wind.

5. Finish my project. Early. Because I am awesome.

At this point, I will have a celebratory glass of wine and then pass out.

So how do you guys manage larger projects? And what are your tricks for keeping your energy levels up?

p.s. I promised my coach that I would write the intro to my wine piece this coming Friday, and then hand it in (it’s not due until January 1). Help me keep my promise by berating me if I appear to be procrastinating.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Business Management While Christmas Shopping


  1. I am a BIG fan of step #1 and step #5 too, it is the inbetween that I seem to get lost. 🙂 I have this same problem and I can’t say the same as you, as I HAVE missed deadlines because the projects turn out to be more difficult than I could have ever imagined 🙁

    I get overwhelmed because there never seems to be enough hours in a day…or maybe it is that I just spend my hours in the wrong things instead of actually working…daydreaming is one of those things.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips and suggestions, I think I will start out by having my pot of coffee (yes, I do that too, along with a couple quad shots over ice..mmmm) and eating a cupcake…then and ONLY THEN, will I get back to work. Red velvet with cream cheese icing, HERE I COME!

  2. Ah, daydreaming. Daydreaming and playing Spider Solitaire. I am so with you on that, Sal. I shudder to think of how undisciplined I was when I first started freelancing. Most days, I usually ended up on my living room couch, watching America’s Next Top Model marathons. Of course, part of that was due to the fact that I didn’t yet have the work to fill up the time, but I should have been hustling. Marketing. Pitching. The discipline wasn’t yet there, though.

    p.s. Red velvet cupcakes are the best.


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