Don’t let procrastination steal your destination
One of the first things people teach you on time management courses is to make a list. Now, I am not about to tell you to stop doing that, but I would like to point out some of the destination-limiting problems with list-making.
There is always more to do…
The first one is that psychologically you will never be quite satisfied with your day unless you have completed all of the tasks on your list. And we all know that is rarely likely to happen. By its very nature, a to-do list is almost always bigger than the reality it is supposed to quantify. So if you do make a list of things that you intend to do on any given day, remember the golden rule: Make it achievable!
Expect the unexpected…
Lists have a tendency to grow. Unless you happen to work in a box with no access to the internet and are completely free from the possibility of visitors or any sort of human contact, it is pretty certain that someone will ask you to do something else. Everyone has their own agenda and the interactive world that we live in today means that agendas interrelate and overlap constantly. So at some point in your day, an email or text will arrive, or someone will pop their head through the door and say, “could you just…”
Cherry picking is easy…
Now I am beginning to close in on the major problem with working to a list. Most people are not disciplined enough to do the tasks that they don’t like – usually the most important ones. It is too easy, enticingly so in all honestly, to simply do the tasks which are simple, enjoyable or at the very least palatable. So that is how most people treat their list, and the vitally important (but often difficult and unattractive) tasks are perpetually pushed onto tomorrow’s list.
Beat procrastination to death with a fork!
In Brian Tracy’s fabulous book ‘Eat That Frog’ he makes the analogy that the one task which is the most important for you to accomplish each day is like a live frog. It is not overly appetising; it is certainly not the first thing you’d choose from the menu, but it is important. All you have to do is eat the frog. Then, as Mark Twain once said, “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
The point here is two-fold. Make a list by all means; it will give you clarity in your mind to see all your intended actions for the day written down, and ensure that nothing gets forgotten. But be absolutely sure to make your list in order of priority. Do the most important thing (the thing which moves you towards your greater goals or will make the biggest difference to your day) first. Just do it!
The second point is that the longer you look at an unattractive task (eating a live frog), the more difficult it becomes to get started. Putting off, soon becomes procrastination, and procrastination will eventually rob you of the satisfaction of reaching a rewarding destination.