When it comes to getting stuff off of our getting stuff done lists, it’s sometimes helpful to delineate between things that have to get done, things you want to get done, and things you think you should get done.
1. Have to
When we say we “have to” get something done, what we usually mean is that there is some real-world consequence to not getting it off our list that we would prefer to avoid. Those real-world consequences are either real-world practical (like getting evicted for not paying your rent or mortgage) or mental/emotional (like getting stressed out because you still haven’t done something you promised someone you’d do and worrying that they’ll be mad at you).
For the purposes of this 30 day challenge, I recommend only including “have to’s” that have real-world practical consequences. We’ll talk about the mental/emotional ones in the “Should” section below.
2. Want to
Nobody else can tell you what you actually want to get done. It’s a simple feeling of desire with no particular story about why. Simple desire seems to be one of the ways we are designed to navigate life, but because most of our have learned not to trust it as sufficient motivation, we tend to try to turn all of our “want to’s” into “have to’s”
One way we do this is by adding in a scary story about the consequences of not doing it; the other is by adding in sexy story about the benefits of doing it. While it’s not always obvious to us what stories we’re telling ourselves about the things on our list, the fact that we continue to put them off is a pretty solid indication that we’ve got them.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb:
The number of reasons you have for doing something is inversely proportional to how much you actually want to do it.
Generally speaking, when the imagined consequence of not doing something is that we think we’re going to feel bad about not doing it, we tell ourselves that it’s some-thing we “should” do, even though we don’t really have to or want to.
I will admit to a strong personal bias against people “shoulding” all over them-selves. Generally speaking, I’ve seen more people procrastinate on their “shoulds” than over any number of simple desires or genuine needs.
Here’s today’s mini-experiment:
– Go through your list of things you’ve been putting off that you want to get done during the course of these 31 days.
– Put an “H” next to the real-world practical consequence “have to’s”, a “W” next to the ones you’d simply like to get done, and an “S” next to the one’s that you feel like you should do but you don’t really want to and there are no real world practical consequences to not getting them done
– Consider just removing all the “shoulds” from your list without doing anything else about them. If you happen to get them done anyways (or at some point you find yourself actually wanting to get them done), by all means do them
Having said all that (and as I will be reminding you throughout our 30 days together), I’m suggesting using a fixed outcome, variable means approach to getting things done and off your list. So if you find yourself easily moving forward on the things you “should” do, by all means feel free to leave them on your list!