Worst Things First!
July 30, 2007
Do you ever find yourself saving really important, but less than fun tasks for last? Before you answer that, let me just remind you of two things: Paying bills and submitting expense reports!
I especially struggle with submitting expense reports. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get motivated to gather my receipts and submit them, but it is. The strange part about my reluctance is that it’s my own money we’re talking about here. I, like most folks, use my personal credit card when traveling for business. Then after the trip, I submit my expenses for reimbursement.
When faced with less than fun tasks … don’t put them off for last. Recite the mantra, “Worst Things First!” and knock them out right away.
In working with clients, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. Almost nobody likes submitting expenses. When working with clients at their desks, it’s not unusual to see a bunch of receipts piled up in front of their monitor, presumably as a reminder to prompt them to submit their expense report.
The not so funny part is that some receipts (especially the glossy ones) are printed on a special kind of paper that causes the ink to fade very quickly. Waiting three months, may mean you no longer have a readable receipt to submit. By the way, a good tip for dealing with that is to take a photo copy of the receipt when it’s still new.
Just to let you know how bad the Expense Report Delay Syndrome can get (hey, I bet way more people suffer from ERDS than restless legs syndrome), I once worked with a client who regularly traveled to Asia as part of his job. He had un-submitted expenses dating back over one year, totaling $75,000! That’s $75,000 of his own money that he was paying interest on every month, because he just hated doing expense reports!
So what’s the answer?
Well, if you’re an infrequent traveler, or don’t submit expenses very often (less than once per month); I recommend submitting expenses the day after your return from the trip (or the event). For those of us who travel more frequently, I recommend building some kind of routine for submitting expenses, like marking your calendar for the last Friday of every month (obviously this depends on your companies policy for expense submittal).
Now, for the secret weapon! This is a technique that works for helping you prioritize expense report submittals, and anything else you don’t like doing. And it’s more powerful than it first appears. When prioritizing tasks you don’t like doing, but really need to get done, recite the mantra “worst things first” and tackle it as your first order of business. Why?
Because delaying action on things you loath doing is great incentive to never get all the way through your task list. You may even find yourself “unconsciously” working at a slower pace just to make sure you never get through the list. As silly as this all sounds, I’ve seen it happen (Ok, I’ll be honest … I’ve been guilty of it myself).
Have you ever heard the expression “making a mountain of a mole hill”? I can’t think of a better way to describe these kinds of “dreaded” tasks than that. The funny thing is that once we get started on them, they usually aren’t as bad as we made them out to be, and before we know it, they’re done.
So remember next time you’re faced with needing to submit an expense report, or any other dreaded task, go ahead, say it out loud “worst things first!”, and knock it out!