At Launch Leadership Development, we encourage everyone to make daily to do lists. We hope you have practiced this valuable productivity tool. We also know that there are often items that keep getting shoved to the next day’s list. And then the next day’s list. Or perhaps it is finally ignored and just left to live on an old list. THAT is procrastination, my friend.
In David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” and on his podcasts, he speaks of this problem of procrastination, and today I would like to share with you three of his suggestions to beat procrastination.
- Renegotiate the task
- Intelligently dumb it down
- Trick your mind into engaging before it can freak you out
Renegotiate with yourself. If this task has been on your to do list a very long time then you need to ask yourself if it still deserves a spot on the list or does it need to be moved to your “someday/maybe list”, or even plain thrown out! There is no point feeling burdened by a task that has passed its time.
To determine if it is still a worthwhile task ask yourself why you put it on your list in the first place. Many times, you forget the WHY and once you trace back to the original reason you find your motivation. David Allen gives the example of cleaning the garage. Why do you want the garage organized? So there is space for the exercise equipment you want to buy. Why do you want to set up exercise equipment? Because you want to start being more proactive with your health. Why do you want to be more proactive with your health? Because my blood test results and the scales say I need to make changes. Now you decide that cleaning the garage is definitely worth staying on the list and you are reminded of why.
Intelligently dumb it down Our brain can work itself into a frenzy looking at a to do list. It invents all kinds of reasons for why we can’t deal with it.
Complex things, especially, are often hard to start. They can feel overwhelming, and so it’s much easier to say you will deal with that later.
One mind trick is to break it down into the smallest possible steps and tell yourself you are only going to do one little step today. Maybe you will stop there, and that’s a great achievement! That confidence will propel you to do the next step when you are ready. However, it is just as likely that once you start you will do more than you planned. The power of momentum!
Trick yourself into physically doing it before your mind can freak you out. Get your brain engaged by putting on the type of clothes you need to wear to do the task, or setting up the environment, such as putting your laptop and a cup of coffee on the table. Your brain will fall in line, saying “I guess this is what we are doing”.
David Allen describes the situation of cleaning out the refrigerator when all you were doing was trying to make a sandwich. But there was something disgusting there, rotted lettuce, expired mayonnaise, whatever it was, and suddenly you find yourself going through everything and throwing things away. You did not intend to clean out the refrigerator that day, and if it were on your list, you would likely have cringed. But there you are!
What is on your to do list that you have neglected? Perhaps it hasn’t even made it to a list yet! It’s a task that has just floated in the back of your mind, hanging there, making you feel this burden when it comes to your attention.
Run through these three suggestions and see if you cannot triumphantly check that item off your list! You are going to feel soooooo much better!
For more on beating procrastination, check out David Allen’s video: