“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?