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Ellie Wishes It Were Done!

2008-07-08 Done!!!
Creative Commons License photo credit: royblumenthal
What do you do when procrastination is PLAGUING you?

In three of my recent posts I explored various topics surrounding procrastination – Have Fun NOW, The Yes… Damn Effect, and Just Git-R-Done.  In this post I will grapple with my own inclination to procrastinate.

A short while back I was suffering from terminal procrastination. I decided at the time to draw myself a motivational picture depicting a reward for finishing.  I drew this little caricature of myself in a hammock on a desert island, enjoying the satisfaction of being done with my duties.

— Roy Blumenthal

I, Ellie, have decided that procrastination isn’t going to keep me down.  I’m declaring a truce with my To-Do List.  I’m going to shift from procrastination to productivity.

I have my ways… For instance, in the past I often tagged my To-Do List with the title: Wish-It-Were-Done.  Why? Because one day, when I was resisting doing my expense report, I sighed “Gee I wish this were done!”  And that simple thought shifted my emotional state from discouraged to motivated.  I subsequently whipped out the expense report in record time.  I also had the good sense to recognize that I’d stumbled upon a good idea: rename that darned list to Wish-It-Were-Done-List!  It’s time for me to do so again.

Here are some other techniques that have worked for me in the past…

Back to Basics?

How do I make my peace with procrastination?  Well, I think I need to get back to basics:

  • Know my WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
  • Prioritize my work.
  • Say “no” to non-priority tasks as needed.
  • Have confidence in my SKAs – my skills, knowledge and abilities to Git-R-Done.

WIIFM & Concrete Next Steps

Just knowing in my gut why I want specific outcomes to happen helps me to shift into action and stay the course through to completion.  Author David Allen ([amazon-product text=”Getting Things Done” type=”text”]0142000280[/amazon-product]) agrees and adds another element to the mix with this recommendation:

Define actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps.

Long lists can be intimidating, especially if each task is listed as a “whole”.  I’m thinking it would help me move forward if I break each task into “concrete next steps.”  Hmmmm… that reminds me of something I used to call “Action Items” …I think I’ll supplement my Master Wish-It-Were-Done-List with a Weekly Action-Items-List and see if that keeps me working productively.

Prioritizing My Work

Still, facing my seemingly endless Wish-It-Were-Done-List (even when it’s appended with a Weekly Action-Items-List) can be discouraging, disconcerting and downright destructive.  It can tip me into a funk… I’ll never get it all done!  What’s the use? (Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow…)

In the past, when that’s happened, I’ve used Stephen Covey’s Quadrant Chart to prioritize my tasks.  Here’s an example of his chart:

covey_quadrant_chart

So I guess it’s time for me divide my Wish-It-Were-Done-List into the quadrants shown above, and then devote my most productive times to the Action Items for the top “Important Row” stuff… Because, Mignon McLaughlin is right in proclaiming:

Don’t fool yourself that important things can be put off till tomorrow; they can be put off forever, or not at all.

And, when I feel myself starting to slip into the clutches of procrastination, maybe I’ll do some of that “Not Important” stuff in the bottom row just to keep moving along.  (Some might argue that we should never do anything on the bottom row, the Unimportant row – what do you think?)

Saying “No” to Non-Priority Tasks

In my recent post, The Yes… Damn! Effect I learned from the recommendations of researcher Gal Zauberman that before agreeing to do something I can:

Simulate that future date as if it’s really happening tomorrow.  Then ask myself these questions:

  • Could I do it tomorrow?
  • Is it worth clearing my schedule for tomorrow?
  • And, if so, is it worth doing?

And I’ve concluded from his counsel that even though saying “no” is not easy for me to do, IF I answer “no” to Zauberman’s three questions, then I’d best say “no” to taking on the task.  Guess I’ll work on that too.

Confidence in My SKAs

Sometimes I have the skills I need to do a task.  Sometimes I don’t.  The hard part is admitting that what’s keeping me from moving forward is that I don’t know what to do or how to do it.  It’s a weird conundrum – how do you figure out what you don’t know??? Well, I’ve been told I’m good at researching so I guess when I don’t know what to do, I’ll use that skill to figure out what to do – and that includes asking for help. I really don’t have to have all the answers – I just need to find the somebody who has more/better answers than me.

Moving Right Along

So here’s my take on how to manage my inclination to procrastinate:

When I know in my gut why I want to do something, when I get my focus wrapped around what’s important, when I know what not to put on my list, and when I figure out which concrete steps to do next, well, THEN, the doing makes it done and I can truly say I know how to Git-R-Done.

In a previous post I quoted life-coach Nigel Griffiths’ recommendation that we “Get over” our inclination to procrastinate.  Admittedly, at the time I found his admonition a bit simplistic. That’s what spurred me to write today’s post.  But now, having moodled (i.e., long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering) on how to manage my procrastination, I’m inclined to see his advice in a different light.  Yes, I need to get back to the basics that have worked for me in the past.  And then I need to remember something even more basic:

We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going… Concentrate on something useful.

— Arnold Bennett

Perhaps it’s true after all:

The best way to get something done is to begin.

— Unknown

How do you begin to get things done?

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