Chances are that if you’re still engaged with this program on day twenty-four, you’re someone who considers yourself a bit of a procrastinator. But what I’ve seen over the years is that procrastination is not a mental or physical ailment, but simply the label we hang on any situation in which we disapprove of the way we’ve chosen to prioritize our time.
For example, if I watch an episode of The Great on Hulu and I think I should have been working on my next book, I call it “procrastination”; if I don’t disapprove of watching the show (or I don’t have a book to work on), I call it “watching a show”.
The number one time management trick I’ve seen over the years to help people “overcome” this mythical thing called procrastination is to use some version of an A, B, C priority list.
Generally speaking, A’s are “must dos” – those things that are both urgent and important. B’s are usually “should dos”, in the sense that they’re either important but not urgent or urgent but not all that important. Finally, C’s are “that’d be nice to dos” – they’re neither important nor urgent but they do sound fun!
The problem with this kind of ABC prioritization is that most of us have developed the habit of trying to trick ourselves into getting things done by creating imaginary or self-inflicted consequences for not completing a not urgent and/or not important task. In other words, we take something we either want to do or think we should do and tell ourselves we have to do it.
Here’s the test:
Are there any real-world consequences to not getting this done today?
If the answer is “yes” and it’s a consequence you want to avoid, like losing your job, paying a fine, going to jail, etc, then by all means leave the task on your urgent list and get it done.
If the answer is “kind of”, what that usually means is that the potential consequences of not completing the task are psychological and/or emotional – things like “I’ll feel bad”, or “it’ll mean I’m lazy”, or “it’ll prove that I’m not motivated and disciplined enough to succeed”.
And hey, nice try – pat yourself on the back for trying to motivate yourself through self-inflicted mental and emotional pain, but know that you will almost certainly continue to “procrastinate” on this task until it either becomes genuinely urgent or you genuinely want to do it and/or get it done.
While it might seem like being honest with yourself about what really needs to be done each day will lead to avoiding things even longer, it actually goes a long way towards feeling better about what you do accomplish over the course of a day.
In addition, when you allow yourself to spend as much time each day on what you actually want to do (as opposed to what you keep telling yourself you need to get done), you may well find yourself taking the right action at the right time in the right place with the right people.
Have fun, learn heaps, and give having fun a try! 🙂