Sometimes, when faced with unpleasant task that have to be done, the best way to get it done it is to just push away the unpleasantness you feel and do it. Like holding your breath when you have to take nasty-tasting medicine: you need to take it, you don’t want to do it because of the taste, but you do it anyway. And then it’s done.
Now, there are a lot of things we can feel ‘icky’ about. And sometimes — well, a lot of times — those feelings help paralyze us into not doing anything at all. By actively feeling them, we can blow the negative feeling out of proportion so they block the energy we need to get things done, and then drain that energy so nothing gets done. That’s why avoidant behavior is seen to be unproductive.
In a business, being non-productive is a liability. Procrastination is a solid example of how putting things off can hurt us. We push things off, we forget, we lose focus — and small things can turn into large problems. How do you deal? identify the contributing factors.
It doesn’t help that the internet gives you access to massive repositories of data and countless options. Paralysis by analysis, anybody? You want to make the best way to fix it– whatever ‘it’ is?
There are specialized forums, customer reviews, and whitepapers. There are first-person videos, how-to’s and comparison charts. You could dip a toe in that pool and not come up for air for days. You can lose time, lose perspective, and have your judgement affected by the sheer amount of data thrown at you.
Usually when we make goals we assess our time commitments and the weight of goals. Colin Powell’s “40-70 Rule” (Lesson Fifteen here and explained a bit more here) gives a ballpark figure on how much data you really need to make a tough decision. Less than 40%, you don’t have enough to make a well-informed choice. More than 70% means you’d taken up too much time.
More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. You need to be nimble — you can’t move fast when you’re busy weighing yourself down with data.
We can think more clearly before the actual commitment pressure is on– a cold look, not a heated glare, so to speak. This helps you dispassionately assess what needs to be finished. Finished, not ‘in process’.
Pulling the trigger is easy when emotions aren’t clouding your judgment. A rather cold-blooded, image, yes, but it does get the point across. Make the plan in cold thinking, pull the trigger even when —especially when — you don’t ‘feel it’ at the time you are supposed to act.
Now, how did procrastination ‘pay off’ for you in the past? More likely:
- It increased the intensity and the level of your stress.
- Added the number of open loops fighting for your attention.
- Added guilt, ate at your self image, and reinforced a negative one.
- Gave you _more things to worry about, like additional fall-out and possible areas for screwing up.
This is trading in short-term relief for longer-term discomfort.
You already know this.
You also know you just want to get things done and over with so you won’t have to worry about them anymore– leaving you free to go and do stuff you like and want and look forward to doing.
The shadow side of ignoring stuff is that it’s like crawling under the rock of misery and staying there since it’s so familiar it feels like home.
Resistance is the silent killer of momentum.
You have enough small stuff to capture your current attention, those small things become hooks that you catch on. They latch onto you and slow you down with ‘false dilemmas’
For example: cleaning papers in your office, whether on your desk, or filed away….somewhere. “Do I need this? Can I still use this later? I have to decide now? Maybe I have to keep this for tax purposes?”
And before you know it, you’re sitting on the floor with yellowing papers strewn out in ‘To-be-classified’ piles instead of actually getting the clutter out
‘Fake dilemmas’ are artificially inflated busy-work. Sure, you can attend to them but the net gain to your end-of-day productivity is negligible.
“But I need to make the most out of this decision.”
No, you don’t. There are things that definitely need to be optimized, but these things are distinguished by their value and pay-off. Give the heavy stuff their due, not the light stuff.
“I need to get New Thing before I can start New Endeavor.”
Assess your resources. Can you make do with Old Thing with New Endeavor to start with the New Habit or New Process? Sometimes getting new stuff can keep the happy, but happy fades and you still have to do the work. And with business, keeping track of expenses is a good thing.
Don’t fall for the belief that New Thing will revolutionize your life and make New Endeavor an cinch. Work needs to be done, and if you can make do with your resources, cool.
It isn’t the newness of tools that get the work done, it’s what you know you will do with the tools you have. Try to make the new thing work with what you have, where you are. Unless you have very industry specific tools, the habit of practice comes from action and presence. It’s not always contingent on new stuff
“I want to do good!”
Yes, but you won’t do good right off the bat. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to suck on the first few attempts or sessions. Waiting until you’re good without practice is impossible. A nice daydream, but impossible in real life. You don’t get to perfect on the first day, you just have to get it done for today. And that should be your finish line .
This thing you’re putting off is important enough for you to plan and execute with the aim of getting it done. You don’t get it done now, you’ll still be the person to deal with it later, or tomorrow. Plus, the weight of disappointment and the blow to your expectations and self-esteem for not having done it will be the interest.
When you’re calmer, think of what situation or event triggers you most often.
You don’t want to do A Thing.
Why not the Thing?
Why anything but The Thing?
Emotion is blocking you and your mind seizes any available outlet to explain why you don’t — won’t– do it.
Like, you could get a better outcome if you do a little more research. So you do that instead.
Or, you might need these files for tax purposes so you’ll sort them out later.
Where and when do you put off things the most?
Like any doctor, take historical data. Where have you screwed up by putting things off for so long they mutated and bit you on the ass? Filing important papers? Following up on projects? Where?
Be honest here, anything you hide will just fester. The areas in your work where you slack off may have secret minefield that you have to deal with, or else trip over at crucial moments .
The nature of your complaints can show you a connection you may have not been able to see, and show you a picture you might not want to face. You still have to — if not now, when? Until it’s too late (again)? How will you pay when that happens? In missed opportunities? In a missed-out life?
Bulling through is still reliable when doing so gets the job done.
— Do the task, being as present as you can.
— Remove temptation — use Leechblock, close the door, make sure you have a glass of water, and had been to the bathroom.
— Plant your as and begin until you finish. Not-feeling-it can fade away when you push through the I-don’t-wanna phase and find the groove.
Finding your personal relaxed best.
Have you figured out your personal rhythms yet? People have an optimal time for when they are relaxed and yet alert, so they can be fully present and immersed in what they do. Planning your work for the best time that you can do that work is a rare and treasured skill.
It takes testing, awareness, tracking, and knowing your productivity cycle: whether you’re a night owls or morning lark or somewhere in between, or needing the morning to gradually ramp up your processing power, etc.
What circumstances help you focus? What helps you brainstorm?
Find that spot, look at the circumstances that make it: a quiet room, closed doors, noise-cancelling headphones or your favorite inspirational, calming, or energetic playlist — whatever makes your environment conducive to get you into the flow.
Work at a coffee shop. Work in the library. Just make sure that what you’re doing is actually the work you’re supposed to be doing, and not just busy work, which is a stand-in for the real thing.
The point is to get this done so you can leave it behind.
The point is to close this loop so you can take the next step.
The point is to start so you can stop when you’re done.
Procrastination is a common habit, and a maladaptive one. It will take uncommon work and discipline to fence off and box in, as we are still only human, and sometimes, we need to have the freedom to put things off.
When you know you have a good handle on the things that are important to you, you can take that time. Until then, getting things done even when you don’t feel like doing them is one work approach that is sure to keep you on the right track.
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