If you Want to Be Productive You Have to Make Decisions

I’ve already introduced this Key Concept when I talked about pushing problems off on future you. Tim Urban has a hilarious blog post on this type of procrastination as he talks about getting ready for his TED talk on…procrastination.

It ends with February Tim needing to do all the work to get ready for the TED talk. All the Tim’s of the past came up with great excuses for procrastination on the talk and figure that at some point in the future things would magically get better and that future Tim would be able to deal with the problem.

This is a featured excerpt from my new book Analogue Productivity: Bring more value to work with paper and a pen. Members get it for free.

Future Tim was screwed.

You keep screwing future you.

When you take a task and move it forward three times over the course of a month, what you’re saying is one of two things.

The first thing you’re saying is that the task isn’t a priority. You want to talk like someone that cares about it, but you don’t want to do it.

In mid-2017 I met a guy with a great story. It involves a gun to the face and a few years of recovery. He still has the scars to go with the story and he calls himself a writer. The thing is that the more you drill down into what being a writer is to him it means that he wrote one chapter of the book about a year prior to meeting me.

He’s self-employeed with a business that does well. He has people that work under him. He makes his own schedule and he doesn’t make sure there is time aside for writing. He introduces himself as a writer and speaker but he hasn’t written in a year and has never spoken at an event.

He’s not a writer or a speaker. He’s someone that likes talking about being one. He enjoys the looks he gets when he tells people he is a writer and speaker and they don’t bother to question further.

You do the same things with your tasks. If you keep pushing a task forward and not doing it what you’re telling me is that you don’t want to do it. You just want to think of yourself as someone that would do the task.

If you really wanted to, had to, do it the task would be done.

The second thing you might be saying is that you’re terrible at any type of prioritization. You know what is important to get done, you can’t set aside the time to do it though.

You always get stuck in email for 2 hours dealing with mundane crap. You forget that work will expand to fit the time allowed for it or you don’t care so you’re going to let it keep happening.

Before you look at choosing a new productivity system you need to decide to decide. My rule is that if I move a task three times I must cut it or do it in the next week. If I can’t get it done in the next week, then it goes off to me next 12 week planning cycle or gets dropped.

I give myself permission to not worry about it again in the next 12 weeks. It’s now a problem for future me, but not in a bad way. I ask myself the question we’ll address in the Key Concept of Planning to Now.

I don’t care if it’s 3 touches or 4 but it better not be 6. You need to enforce a limit on how many times you can touch a task before you force yourself to realize you don’t care about it and you need to make a hard decision about it’s importance in your work.

Stop pushing problems down the road. That’s not the path to success.

Actions

  1. Decide what your limit is for pushing tasks off.
  2. Look at the tasks you’ve pushed off in the past. Do them this week or schedule them. You can’t push them off again, you must cut them if you push them off again.

Photo by: hjmediastudios

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