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Don’t Procrastinate: Tips to Get Your To-Do List Under Control

The work life of a successful insurance agent can be quite stressful and requires a lot of time-management skills and organization. There’s always another client to call, more forms to fill out or dozens (hundreds?) of emails to answer.

Are you reading emails over and over again without beginning to work on them or deciding on the best way to tackle the issue?

Do you feel like you absolutely cannot start this project without having that fresh cup of coffee or that little snack?

Do you find yourself taking “mental breaks” by scrolling through Facebook or Twitter and, before you know it, two hours have passed, and you’re still staring at a blank Word document page?

If you’ve answered “yes” to most of these questions, chances are you’re a procrastinator and likely also a perfectionist.  The most successful insurance agents must have perfect time-management skills and be able to get things done efficiently with minimal mistakes.  But procrastination makes organization and success impossible because the more time you waste, the more overwhelmed you will feel at the end of the day, which will already affect how overwhelmed you feel when you begin your next work day. Both the quality of work and the quality of customer service you give to your clients will suffer because there are only so many hours in a workday and only so long you can feel overwhelmed and unproductive before it spills over into your attitude.

Recognizing You’re Procrastinating and Why

If you’re regularly saying yes to smaller, unimportant tasks given to you by coworkers or your bosses, it may be due to you feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty and amount of time your larger projects will entail. So, to make yourself feel better and still feel somewhat “productive,” you work on other, smaller projects to take your mind off the larger task at hand.

Figure out what’s bothering you about the big project. What about the project makes you feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed? Many procrastinators are actually perfectionists who feel that if they can’t do a task quickly or perfectly the first time, there’s no point doing it at all. Being disorganized and scattered and feeling like you’re being buried in the amount of work assigned doesn’t help either. The more you put things off, the more projects that will come along until you are struggling and feel like there’s not enough time to complete all the tasks that have piled up along the way. For perfectionists, this is a slippery slope because you won’t be able to get everything done well if you have to rush through each task and do a halfway decent job. You’ll be working on a million things at once and doing all of them poorly.

Organization is Key

When feeling overwhelmed, whether it’s with multiple tasks at hand or one huge project, it’s important to make a checklist. Start prioritizing by putting the smaller, more manageable tasks at the top of your list and begin working on those right away. If it’s a larger project, figure out what basic, preliminary things you need to do first to get started and break it down into steps (that don’t include checking Facebook, cleaning your desk or going to get coffee). Sometimes the act of just getting something done and being able to physically scratch it off the list is motivation to keep going until, before you know it, you’re finished. It’s extremely gratifying to see that huge list get smaller and smaller and, as a result, more manageable.

Treat Yourself

Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective measures you can take to make sure you complete everything on your task list. While you’re working, it helps to have something to look forward to after working on that Excel spreadsheet or dealing with that tough client on the phone. Go grab a snack from the break room after you’ve completed a daunting (or maybe just boring) task. If it’s a nice day outside, and you have the capability to do so, go for a walk around your building and get some fresh air. You can walk to that coffee shop across the street from the office and get the benefit of fresh air and a delicious treat.  The fresh air and new scenery (not to mention the caffeine) will clear your head and get you ready for the next tasks at hand. But remember: These types of activities should be used to reward yourself for completing tasks – not avoiding them.

Have an Accountability Buddy

It can be helpful to have a fellow friend or coworker in the office (who has a similar workload as you) go over your list of tasks and put time limits on each one. How long should it take for you to answer those emails? Schedule that call? After a certain amount of time, take a quick break and catch up with that coworker quickly to see where they’re at on their to-do list. If you’re both successful at hitting your goals in a timely manner, you can both partake in a little reward and break together. Having someone else there to hold you accountable if you waste an hour on Twitter when you should have been working on your to-do list is essential. Just make sure they’re friendly enough not to make you feel too terrible about yourself if you don’t meet your goals and can give you constructive feedback on how to do better next time.

Admitting you have a problem with procrastination is the first step to dealing with it. After that, you can work on being organized by setting up a checklist, rewarding yourself for completing tasks, and having a friend keep you accountable – all of which are easy ways to make sure you establish great time-management skills. The fewer projects you put off, the more efficiently you will get things done. This will allow for a much clearer head and even more time to focus on other goals for your business. With all of the extra productive time insurance agents will have from not procrastinating on other tasks, they may be able to fit in a few new clients or have more time to focus on the agency’s bigger-picture goals.

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