One of my biggest personal challenges has been planning--and all the time-consuming details that go with it. My frustration would rise with each passing minute as progress was stalled on a project because of some task I hadn't done or a detail I had overlooked. In some cases, it immobilized me.
Over time I learned that I had a choice as to how (and when and where) I could get certain tasks done. It didn't have to be at work or in my home office. In fact, I found that the more monotonous the task, the more I personally needed to enhance the experience surrounding the task to make it tolerable, even enjoyable.
I created my own Task Retreat.
A Task Retreat is a scheduled appointment with yourself to work on a "must do" task that requires considerable time and focus; it is enriched by an environment of enjoyable personal experiences to eliminate procrastination. You create conditions for your personal self to offset the drudgery of an undesirable task by enjoying a time of relaxation while doing it. As a result, your professional self will reap the benefits the following week, such as having a clean prospect list or an accurate database.
Here are six steps for creating a successful Task Retreat:
- Availability--Schedule time each week for your personal retreat. For early risers, try Saturday mornings at 7. Most cafés are open, with fresh-baked goods ready to serve. For the late-day people (like me), you might schedule some time on Sundays in the late afternoon, from 4 to 6. Regardless, pick some free time that you would easily waste on an unproductive activity.
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." --Mother Teresa
- Atmosphere--Location is vital to pulling off an enjoyable Task Retreat. Whether in your own home or a favorite local café, find an environment that you'll enjoy. Be sure to get yourself into a really comfortable chair or couch. Make plenty of room for your laptop. Ensure you have a good Wi-Fi connection. Bring all necessary office supplies. Avoid times when your retreat location is too crowded. You don't want to fight crowds. Go during the slow times of the day or evening so you can get the best seat in the house and enter into a relaxing state of mind.
"Without atmosphere a painting is nothing." --Rembrandt
- Attire--Wear your most comfortable clothes and shoes. What you wear affects how you feel. Now I don't recommend going out in public in your pajamas, but a favorite pair of jeans, a warm sweatshirt on a cold morning, and a pair of slippers or sneakers can certainly do the trick.
A few comfy shoe recommendations:
"Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire." --William Penn
- Appetite--This is the treat portion of your Task Retreat. Select your favorite beverage to enjoy as you relax your way through your task list. Remember, this is your time, so enjoy it. Food and beverage are essentials to a successful and rewarding retreat. According to the NCA (National Coffee Association), gourmet and espresso-based beverages are on the rise this year. Add a beignet or a Tim Tam to complement your beverage of choice.
"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." --Mark Twain
- Audio--The last environmental element of your Task Retreat is music. Build a playlist of your favorite artists or download your favorite album for this occasion. Also, get a good set of headphones, ideally, a pair of noise-canceling ones. My son bought me a pair of Beats, and they have served me well on Task Retreats over the years as well as many cross-country flights when crying babies occupied the seat behind me.
Here are a few of my favorite artists for relaxing:
"If music be the food of love, play on." --William Shakespeare
- Actions--Finally, we get to the work. Define your objectives prior to your Task Retreat. Don't be ambiguous about your actions or desired outcomes. Focus on next week's priorities, because the effort you put in on your retreat will really pay off next week. It's as if you become your own personal sales support staff. Who wouldn't want to show up on Monday morning with a vetted prospect list or an up-to-date database?
Here are a few examples of smart goals for a Task Retreat:
- Find 20 targeted decision makers on LinkedIn in a specific industry
- Verify 40 email addresses of key influencers in your target market
- Send out 35 follow-up emails to prospects to keep your name in front of them
- Clean up 60 contact records for face-to-face cold calls
"The future depends on what you do today." --Mahatma Gandhi
The Task Retreat is your chance to overcome the procrastination that paralyzes productivity by transforming the work experience itself. Instead of avoiding certain tasks and responsibilities because they're tedious or boring, you'll find yourself actually looking forward to them each week. And your professional self will love you for it.
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