A couple weeks ago I was in a workshop lead by Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach and the topic of procrastination was brought up. The common theme was how all of us feel so burdened by all those projects and to dos that we don’t get to. Basically, behind the procrastination is a tremendous amount of suppressed or under-utilized energy. Never a good thing.
During the workshop I began looking at the things that I personally procrastinate about and I made some distinctions. I have to admit, I’m not a big procrastinator. Like everyone I sit on some things longer than others, (longer than I should even), but I really get a lot of stuff done. So how have I managed to keep things off my procrastination list?
One of my first insights was that some of the things that I’m “procrastinating on” are simply things that I have been unwilling to say a powerful no to. So in fact I’m not procrastinating at all. I’m never going to do them, but I haven’t been willing to just say no.
Once I realized this, I was perfectly fine with taking those items off the procrastination list. Simply making that distinction and taking those things off the table frees up energy and mental space to do other things.
I also realized that one of the skills that I’ve developed over the years is to categorize my tasks. So, of the procrastinated items that are left over (after you’ve said a powerful no to some) it’s important to make sure all of the tasks don’t take on the same level of urgency, because if everything is urgent, nothing is urgent. You can accomplish this by sorting them into two different categories.
The first category is “Urgent” because there are some things that need to get done right away. These tasks are the ones that if you don’t get moving on them you are holding up other people, moving deadlines or even losing money for the company.
The second category is more of a regulated “To-Do List”. These are tasks that need to be accomplished, and they don’t have the same level of urgency. Here’s the catch, you often still feel like you are procrastinating when in fact you just need to put these tasks off for a different period of time. You are not saying a hard no to them, they are not as urgent as your “urgent tasks” and they still need to be completed by you. This second distinction about procrastination begins to free you up from the “piling on” of stuff simply because you think you are procrastinating.
My suggestion is to list these less than urgent tasks somewhere that is convenient and in a form that works for you. Are you someone that needs to see your list in front of your face? Then maybe it’s on a white board in your office. Maybe you are someone who needs to write out the list in a notebook so you can feel the satisfaction of physically checking off the tasks as they are completed. Or perhaps you use a project planning software and all your tasks are located in the cloud. Whatever your system these tasks should be listed with clear deadlines and next steps so you don’t procrastinate because you don’t know where to begin.
To re-cap, if you look at the things you are currently procrastinating make the distinction about where have you been unwilling to say a powerful no…then say no! Then, look at what is left and decide what is urgent and needs to get done immediately…and do them! Lastly, put what is remaining on your “To-Do” list for a later time…and don’t procrastinate!!