And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Brilliant New Anti-Procrastination Technique

I think I’ve found the secret to overcoming procrastination. And yes, I think it’s going to change my life. Would you like to hear what it is? Okay, here goes—are you ready? Picture a drumroll . . . here it is . . .


Make a list, and . . . (here’s the brilliant part) . . . don’t put anything on the list that you dread doing!


Now, I can just imagine what you’re thinking . . . That is such a dumb idea. How will you get anything done if you only do the things you want to do? Somehow, that doesn’t seem very brilliant—or responsible, for that matter.

Well, let me put your fears at rest and tell you that I’m not suggesting you stop doing the things you dread doing. What I'm suggesting is this: take the item that you don’t want to do and break it up into small steps—then, and only then, put it on the list—but don’t put the whole job on the list, just put the small step on the list! Now, do you see what a brilliant idea it is?

Let me show you two different lists, so you can see how it works. First, I’ll show you the list I actually wrote yesterday. Then I’ll show you the list I would normally have written.

List #1
Unpack: Computer case, suitcase, red bag, black bag
Put away suitcases
Weed: 20 weeds in carrot patch
Tidy: Living/dining room, kitchen
Do dishes
Look for graduation card for Sterling (I hadn’t come up with my brilliant new plan yet a month ago when I should have sent this card).
Paperwork: Take care of 5 pieces of mail.
Rhubarb: Pick 5 pieces and chop them up for freezer.
3 hours writing

List #2
Tidy house
Send grad card to Sterling
Freeze rhubarb.
3 hours writing

See the difference in the two lists? The second one is shorter, but it’s much more intimidating. Why? Because I know very well that it would take hours and hours to bring the paperwork, gardening, and housework up to my perfectionist standards. In fact, the idea of it would be so overwhelming that I probably wouldn’t even bother trying. Instead, I’d force myself to tidy up and unpack, but that would be about all I’d get done.

The beauty of the first list is that it takes perfectionism out of the equation. When I see that all I have to do is just a little bit, all of a sudden, I don’t mind doing it. And what usually happens is I do much more than is on the list. But the really great thing is this: I complete the list. I don’t get discouraged. And slowly, but surely, I get those dreaded jobs done.

If you struggle with procrastination, why don’t you give this method a try? Make your list, but don’t put anything on the list that you’d likely procrastinate. If it’s something you don’t like doing, just put a small step on the list even if you really have to do the whole job that day.

Here’s an example. Today I had to make rhubarb cheesecake bars for a potluck we’re going to tonight. Instead of putting make rhubarb bars on the list, I put find rhubarb bar recipe and get ingredients out on the list. It may sound simple, but it really works. (My rhubarb bars are sitting in the refrigerator as we speak.)

Now, you may wonder why I didn’t say write one sentence instead of write three hours on the list. That’s because it’s a daily job that I don’t really dread doing. What I do with a job like that is to put six different “30s” on my list. Then each time I write for 30 minutes, I check one of the 30s off. It often takes me until late afternoon to get all of my writing done, but it’s not something I put off and never do like some of the other things on my list (thanks to hours and hours spent truth journaling when I first started writing).

Anyway, I hope this idea helps you as much as it has helped me. I’m still in the early stages of it, but it seems like it will be life changing if I can just remember to keep making a list each day.

Well, I better get going. I still have to pick out a card for Cheryl and address the envelope and write a message on the graduation card for Sterling. I better get busy. After all,who knows? I might just go wild and decide to finish both cards and mail them today!


Anonymous said...

You meant a graduation "card", not a "car" in list one, right?
I tried a list once after reading it somewhere you wrote on it and it worked. I like this idea. Now, if you could write some more suggestions on perfectionism. thanks,
Kathy (it may come up anonymous.

Unknown said...

Hi Kathy - yes, definitely card instead of car. It would be nice to be able to give cars to the kids' friends for graduation, wouldn't it? I better change that in case Sterling reads my blog and gets his hopes up! Perfectionism - yes, that's hard. It's my biggest reason for procrastination. I think this list idea will actually help with perfectionism. Oh - and those two cards are in the mail. They were enjoyable to write once I started on them!