I just finished an online course on how to put an end to procrastination and in return increase Productivity.
From an early age, I was interested in how to be more organized, how to work more efficient, or faster, or how to make my life easier, in short to be more productive. In all these years, I was always more focused on the how, what, when, on the doing part. Most books and courses on productivity also explore mainly the how, what, when, and focus less or not at all on the why. This course was different.
I got great insights on why we procrastinate and what kind of tasks we procrastinate.
We all have a gazillion things to do, and especially as business owners we deal with an overflowing to-do list, scraps of paper and/or countless Post-It notes, that remind us in all kinds of places of what we need to do.
Have you too had the experience that a task is on your list, or a Post-It note on your monitor, right in front of you, every day, for weeks and you were still not doing it?
Have you ever wondered why? Why does it not appeal to you to do this task?
If you are like me, you probably come up with all kinds of excuses on why not to do it, or why not to do it just now. We can always find a task that is (supposedly) way more urgent and/or important. This seems to be the reality even for somebody like John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University. He achieved international fame in 2011 by winning the Ig Nobel prize for Literature for his Theory of Structured Procrastination.
Structured Procrastination he explains on his website means, that we seldom do things because we found some uncommitted time. On the contrary, we do things to avoid doing other things. He goes on saying that:
If all a procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
All procrastinators put off things they have to do, but according to John Perry structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. With an appropriate task structure, the procrastinator can become a useful citizen and even acquire a reputation for getting a lot done.
I had a big Aha moment and got a good chuckle out of reading his post. Can you see yourself in it too?
It sounds great in one way but after further investigation I realized that I would feel discontent and unhappy with an approach like this. Perry says it right at the top: deceive yourself.
I would have to spend (waste) time figuring out which projects are really important and not put them as the top priority but find other not so important tasks and mark them urgent and important (even if they are not) just to make sure the really important ones are not on the top of the list so they get done. An exhausting thought.
That is not how I would like to live my life and run my business.
Most of us entrepreneurs want to make a difference. We have (had) a dream, a vision for our life and our business. Unfortunately if we loose focus of our vision, we get overwhelmed, and we become too busy doing stuff without accomplishing what we really want to accomplish. We are left feeling depleted and despaired. Not a nice place to be.
Focus on your vision
According to the course I just took, the way out is by focussing on our vision. When we set our priorities to support our vision, and align our actions with our goals, even tasks we don’t particularly enjoy can become pleasurable because we can see how they contribute directly or indirectly in achieving our dreams.
So from now on, make sure you do every day at least one task that supports your vision and gets you one or more steps closer to your goal. You will feel much different at the end of a busy day when you prioritized your vision and goals. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
The motivation and momentum you gain from prioritizing your vision and your goals will have the side effect, that you put an end to procrastination because you are fired up and even tasks you consider chores will get done so much easier.
I just started with this system, but I can already tell a difference, I feel less overwhelmed and more focused. I would love to hear what you think and how this approach is working for you. Let me know in the comments below.