Archive | January 2012

Tasks I Just Can’t Face – Beating Procrastination

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” ~Olin Miller

I had a moment of self-revelation yesterday when I discovered that I have been using one of my key productivity tools – my to-do list as a form of procrastination.

Some people use lists to procrastinate by spending such a long time making and prioritising them that they have no time to do their actual tasks. I do still do that from time to time.

My method of procrastination has been to lower the priority of the tasks I just don’t want to face to the point where I never get around to doing them.

A number of months ago I scraped the front of my brand new car on the edge of our garage door. It was a horrible scrape – gouging out paint from 3 panels.

I was so ashamed that I did that to my new car (it was only 2 months old at the time) I just didn’t want to face it. Nevertheless, I added “arrange smash repair” to my to do list.

Each morning I would star the items that really needed to be done that day. I’d make sure I would get through all the starred tasks, and then, if I had time and inclination, would attack the other tasks. So long as I got through my starred list, I could go to bed with peace of mind that I was staying on top of everything.

Since “arrange smash repair” didn’t have to be completed by a certain date, it was never starred. I would just keep putting it off. Weeks turned into months.

On Friday, however, I dinged my lovely new car again. This time on the rear. I was backing into a space and caught the edge of a garden bed which had a brick border only 3 bricks high. I just couldn’t see it from my rear window. I now have a scrape on the rear left corner of my car to match my scrape on the front right corner.

I realised I couldn’t put the repairs off any longer even though I didn’t want to face them. That’s when I admitted to myself how I’d been procrastinating over the last few months.

Forcing myself to deal with the damage was difficult. I felt like such an idiot for damaging my car twice and I didn’t want to admit to anyone that that is what I’d done. I also didn’t want to have my car off the road for repairs, and I wasn’t looking forward to paying the excess (with 2 separate incidents, its become very expensive).

I couldn’t face the whole process, so I decided to just face the very first step – ring my insurance company. I’d deal with the rest of the process later.

Breaking it down like that made it easier. I booked the assessment. Now that that is out of the way, I’m actually looking forward to the rest of the process. I can’t wait to have my car restored to the beautiful condition it was in when I bought it last year.

So here is what I’ve learned:

My tip for avoiding procrastination

(Based on Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done)

  • Ask: What is the very next action I have to take on this task?
  • Just do the very next action.

This helps me, because I can ignore the enormity of a task, especially one that is overwhelming, and, as I start to chip away at it, it gains momentum and becomes less daunting.

Sometimes in life, the difficulties we face are only difficult because we make them that way.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do sort of tasks to you procrastinate, and how do you beat procrastination?

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Holiday Reading – an Assortment of Memoirs

It’s no coincidence that my absence from blogging occurred at around the same time I joined the library. I’ve been reading a lot over the last 6 months. Most recently, I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs.

First was Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness which focused on her battle with anorexia and bulimia. This was a surprisingly well written, raw and honest account that provided a fascinating window into the mind of someone struggling with anorexia. Her unhealthy relationship with food had me reflecting on my own habits I don’t have any sort of eating disorder, but I found I could relate to her quite easily. The book provided an even more fascinating and slightly disturbing insight into the workings of Hollywood. It’s well worth a read if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Next was Hipstermattic by Matt Granfield, in which he self deprecatingly documents his attempts to become the ultimate hipster. It was fairly light and amusing, and for a moment I was pleased to discover that I might be hipper than I originally thought because I like to drink cider and knit. But then it occurred to me that since I know those things are hip, they’ve no doubt become mainstream and therefore incredibly unhip.

Following this was  Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Well, clearly that’s not true, because he’s written them all down in a book that anyone can read. I found his memoir entertaining and intriguing. It was interesting to read about his childhood experiences and his efforts to break into the acting world. Much of his life since his early fame has been well documented, but it was great to read it from his perspective. There were echoes of some of the disturbing insights in to Hollywood that I encountered in Portia de Rossi’s book as well. There is so much money to be made and the drive to make profits seem to out weigh other important consideration such as the health and welfare of employees. Lowe did gloss over a number of things, most notably that incident with the underage girl. I enjoyed the book, but I don’t think it was as honest as Portia’s. I always had the sense he was trying to present himself in the best possible light.

Finally was The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. De Waal inherits a collection of netsuke, small Japanese figurines. They have been handed down through his family for five generations. De Waal traces their history and movement through his family and in doing so manages to write a family chronicle that takes us from Paris to Vienna, England and Japan all at pivotal points in those countries’ histories. The netsuke were rescued from his great grandparents’ home by their maid, after their house and assets were seized in the Nazi occupation of Vienna. As well as a family chronicle, the memoir is a history of art, of war and antisemitism. While de Waal’s family were almost destroyed by the Nazi’s, they could also be considered some of the lucky ones because they survived. It’s a challenging read, and not to everyone’s taste, but I recommend it highly.

Oh, by the way, I’ve updated my About page. If you’re curious about this blog, click on the link.

Hi Everyone

It’s been 6 months since I posted here. Sorry for leaving without explanation.

An untended blog is a strange thing. It sort of has a life of its own, independent of the writer. I notice now I’m back, that I still have visitors to this site, almost daily. In the past month a couple of people have been good enough to comment on posts I wrote months ago.

That’s what drew me back. I feel responsible for this little piece of living cyberspace now.

This blog has been a learning experience for me. It started as a personal reading journal that I didn’t expect others to find. When I discovered people actually were reading it I felt uncomfortable at first. They’d found me through search engines, looking for information related to whatever I was writing about. I was fairly certain they would have been disappointed when they stumbled across my offerings.

As the blog evolved I started writing about other topics and then it became this sort of diary of random thoughts.

I had a structure for a while with different topics for different days of the week. I liked that, but I couldn’t keep up the pace and some topics ran their course.

Then life became just so busy. I joined a band, took up yoga, oh and was working really long hours, so I dropped the blog for a little while.  It turned into 6 months.

Well, I’m ready to come back now, but this time with no silly rules. I won’t be compelled to post daily or weekly, and I won’t have the same structure. I’ll just see what  2012 brings and how it all evolves.

 I’ve missed blogging, and I’ve missed you guys. I’m looking forward to being a part of this world again.