Do you remember when you were a kid and really wanted a bowl of delicious ice cream for dessert? Yes, a bowl. Several scoops, with gobs of toppings. And, you wanted it as your main course, not just dessert.

But, you knew your parents wouldn’t go for that, so you pushed your carrots around, ate your potatoes, and had a few bites of protein before you proclaimed yourself as ready for that mint chocolate chip yummy goodness.

“You need to eat a few more bites of your carrots and chicken, and then we can talk desert,” your parents would say. (For the record, my parents never had to use this technique on any of us… we ate everything, and always had extra room for desert, so you have to forgive me if I don’t get this game exactly right.)

Cutting your chicken into the tiniest pieces, you took a few extra bites, showed your progress, as you prepared your pallet for that vanilla bean delicious goodness.

“You can eat a few more of those carrots,” your dad would say, “And then you can have your cookies n’ cream with a little extra chocolate sauce.”

“Chocolate sauce?” you thought in yummy anticipation, before you swallowed three carrots practically whole. But, hey, they were off your plate, and finally you got your ice cream. Excitement rippled through you, and a giant smile strung across your face, as you instructed your mom, “A little more chocolate topping, please.”

All that anticipation made the chocolate sweeter and the ice cream creamier. So delicious! It was worth the torture of getting through your broccoli and spinach. The system worked, and you wound up eating balanced meals.

Thank you, mom and dad!

Now, skip forward a couple of decades. Not only is ice cream plentiful and well within reach, but emails, text messages, and additional projects keep coming to you in droves. You want to feel that sense of accomplishment of finishing, but for some reason you can’t seem to focus.

It’s not that you don’t have the time. You do. In fact, you’ve sat in front of your computer, with every intention of completing the project, but somehow a couple of hours go by and you walk away empty handed, angry at yourself for not finishing.

Your anger and irritation with yourself leads you to avoiding the very project you want very much to complete. You want that feeling that comes from finishing, yet you’re tired of dealing with the self-beatings for not getting it done. At this point you refuse to even sit down and work on the project… leading you to calling yourself a terrible procrastinator.

You are not a terrible procrastinator. In fact, procrastination is not your problem in the least. Your real problem is lack of parentals to make you wait for your ice cream.

I mean, let’s be real. Just as ice cream dances on your taste buds, emails, texts, and special requests push at your “I’m needed, special, important” buttons. Ice cream tastes good, and affirmations feel good. And, staying focused (carrots and protein) are necessary to a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

So, rather than beating yourself up for being a procrastinator, call your mom.

No, I’m kidding. Well, kinda. You’re mom may very well have some ideas to help you stay focused. Here are a few I’ve uncovered…

  • Turn off automatic send/receive on your email.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Discover your prop of silence.

One executive told me about the sheer number of interruptions he dealt with every day in the office. In order to address important issues in a timely manor, he shared his frustration with his team, and then asked them not to interrupt him when he had his Orioles cap on. “If it’s truly an emergency, interrupt me,” he said.

Interestingly, his team has almost never had to disturb his focused time because ultimately very, very little of what distracts us is truly an emergency. Figure out what you need to put in place to ensure emergencies are handled appropriately, and then focus.

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister

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