Creating a Sense of Accomplishment

by Kevin Stacey

© 2003  TrainRight, Inc.

One of the biggest producers of stress is going to bed feeling like you accomplished nothing all day but spin your wheels. Anxiety is sure to arise after an unproductive day where tasks are beginning to accumulate. When that happens, it is almost impossible to relax and shut off the world for the night.

On the other hand, when we end the day with a sense of accomplishment, we can exhale, breathe deeply, relax and sleep soundly. Our minds are free to focus on other pursuits, and we wake up feeling re-charged, in balance and ready to face another day.

By implementing a few simple time management strategies, you can create a sense of accomplishment every day, no matter how often you are interrupted or side-tracked by other people:

  • Divide your daily activities list into two columns: offensive and defensive. The items on the offensive side of the column are tasks on your to-do list. They may be projects with a looming deadline, or they may be usual, predictable activities. The items on the defensive side of the column are reactionary tasks, such as responding to crises, interruptions, voice-mails and e-mails. Your lists will vary greatly according to your industry and how much autonomy you have in planning your day and allocating your time.
  • Review your list of offensive items. Ask yourself, "What is one task that I can complete today, or make significant progress towards completing, that will make me feel better about myself, my day, my job, or my work ethic? What achievement would make this day a success?" This task may not be the one you want to do. In fact, it may be the one you have been procrastinating on the most.
  • Commit to spending a defined amount of focused time on the item you selected. If it’s realistic to complete the entire task that day, firmly resolve to work on it for the entire day until it is finished. If it’s a long-term project that you can’t realistically complete in a day’s time, give it a minimum of one hour. Spending an hour on offense is an hour more than nothing! No matter how much time you allocate, make sure you fulfill the commitment. Use a stopwatch to time yourself and turn it off every time you get interrupted. You will quickly see how fast your offensive work becomes defensive reacting.
  • If you can, leave your workstation and "hide" in an empty cubicle or conference room. If you’re uncomfortable saying no to others and cutting off interruptions at the start, try working in a place where you can’t be interrupted during your offensive time. If that’s not possible, turn off the phone, close the door, shut down your email or put on headphones to give yourself some uninterrupted work time. When you have to push others away in order to get your work done, remind yourself that this will help you relax tonight and feel like your day was a success.

Almost everyone can go on the offensive for at least some part of the day. Some of us may have to arrive earlier or stay later when there is no one else around. Others may have to take more drastic measures like making themselves scarce in an alternative location, or directly telling co-workers, "I’m trying something different, and I’m not going to be available from 10-11 am. Thanks in advance for your support." Many people will feel some initial discomfort when they stop acting defensively and start proactively managing their time. But remember, it’s only when the pain of the old way supercedes the discomfort of the new way that change happens. However, if nothing changes nothing changes. So, what are you going to change?

About the Author

Kevin Stacey helps companies and professionals achieve maximum productivity and effectiveness through stress management and time management training.  He is available to speak on these topics.  For more information visit or call 1-800-603-7168.

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