About a year ago, I decided it was time to create a customer service survey. So I went on line, found a surveying program and created some questions. I even went so far as to show it to my business coach, Susan Thomson, to get her feedback. She made some suggestions which I incorporated.Procrastination

Then I did what so many of us do mid-project, which was to sit on my butt. The survey sat there, all dressed up and nowhere to go. I didn’t send it to a single soul.

Things go that way sometimes. I have a flip camera, for instance, that I bought two years ago and used for the first time… ummm… a month ago. Even then, I did not post the video I took with the camera. There are also certain collections of notes and papers – the ones I’m not sure what to do with – that gather dust in piles. And my new printer sat in its box on the floor of my office for a week before I finally pulled it out and set it up.

All these tasks, and more, live in the realm of “Important, not Urgent,” one of the four quadrants identified by Steven Covey in his best-selling business management book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Often, until something happens to make one of these items urgent (such as I need to print something and I can’t get my old printer to work), I am likely to procrastinate completing the task.

Letting “Important, not Urgent” tasks fall by the wayside leads to a high-pressure life. If I wait until an item is urgent before doing it, then I set myself up for stress. Everything is always urgent! Plus I never get things done that would make a huge difference for me or my business, even though they might be high-priority tasks. Surveying my customers is one of those items that is highly important for my business, but not urgent. It will never get done if I wait for it to become urgent.

I have found a few tricks that help me break through the wall of resistance that keeps “Important, not Urgent” things from getting done.

1. Take stock. Identify what’s important.

Every quarter, I attend a meeting of small businesses through a business coaching organization, ActionCOACH. During these quarterly workdays, we go through exercises that are hugely valuable in getting perspective on our business priorities. This past January, client contact and assessment came up as a high priority for The Essay Expert. When I created my calendar of tasks to complete over the quarter, my stagnating client survey came up high on the list of things to do.

2. Break it down.

Important tasks often seem overwhelming because they are multi-faceted. If I can break the tasks down into small, attackable pieces, then I stop feeling overwhelmed. I know I can do something like “Call virtual assistant to talk about survey options.” It’s so much less intimidating than “Survey all my past clients.”

3. Put it on the calendar.

If my calendar tells me to “Prepare survey” or “create list of emails for survey recipients” at a certain date and time, I will either do it at that date and time or reschedule it so it gets done. I am a slave to my calendar — and that’s a good thing. After my quarterly workday in January, survey-related tasks went onto my calendar. They started to get done. [This calendaring system is how I get my blog written every week as well. It’s on my calendar, so I do it!]

4. Make promises to other people. Create accountability!

In my January blog article, The Essay Expert’s New Year’s “Ressaylutions”- Completing 2011 and Creating 2012, I promised you that I would be sending out a client survey. Suddenly I became accountable to someone else. Since I wanted to announce at the end of 2012 that I did what I promised, I got into action!

5. Get help.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was not going to do this survey thing on my own. So I got help. My new virtual assistant, Jeanne, handled some of the logistical pieces of getting the survey finalized and sent out. I asked my web designer to take care of creating a new email address, clientsurvey@theessayexpert.com, for purposes of administering the survey. Getting the support I needed accelerated the project tremendously.

6. Know the tools at your disposal.

If you’re sending out a survey, it helps to use Survey Monkey. If you want to get piles of notes and papers off your desk, it helps to use a scanner and the brilliant cloud-based note-organizing program Evernote (www.evernote.com). If you draw on your resources, you will almost always find an easier and/or alternative way to do what you’ve been putting off. Ask around. Be on the lookout for new tools and techniques. Those overwhelming tasks might not be as complicated as you had imagined.

7. Take action.

It always comes down to just doing it. If I don’t take action, then regardless of how many action items are on my calendar, I won’t get results. If I take action, especially well-considered action (see #1-6), I have a fighting chance!

8. Keep taking action.

This item might sound a lot like #7. But it’s different. Someone very smart said that the secret to getting results in life is to keep taking action until you get them. You might take initial action, not get the result you want, and promptly give up. The key to getting important stuff done is to stay in action even when things look like they’re not working or not going fast enough. If you give up on taking action, you give up on your results.

9. Take responsibility.

Whether your important tasks are getting done or not, you are the one who is responsible for the situation. Blaming outside circumstances (“The survey program wouldn’t let me ask the questions I wanted to ask!” or “I don’t have time!”) will stall you out. In the survey project, many things interrupted me and presented obstacles. I chose to find a way around them.

10. Celebrate!

I am going to celebrate getting my survey out. Sure, there will be a whole set of new tasks to conquer when this one is complete. But first it’s time to acknowledge what got done.

And it IS going out!! Step by step, with lots of support along the way, I completed this important task. If you are a past client, you probably got an email yesterday requesting that you complete The Essay Expert’s client survey. If not, please take some time to respond now. TEE Client Survey.

I look forward to being able to report on the results!

I’d love to hear what tasks you are putting off that might get done if you put the eight items above into action. What progress will you be able to celebrate three months from now?


Leave a Reply