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Un-Procrastination: The Next Step

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.  -William James

A couple of weeks ago, I invited you to make an “Unprocrastination List” – a master list of things long procrastinated - and to start tackling it, one thing at a time.  

Completing long procrastinated tasks can free up enormous amounts of energy - the energy that you are currently using to beat yourself up for not having completed those tasks.

But that list sure looks daunting!  Here's how to get past the overwhelm and get going:  chunk it down.

Look at your list and identify the very next step you need to take on each item.  I discovered this technique in David Allen's Getting Things Done book a few years back, and (when I remember to do it), have found it to invaluable for managing projects large and small.  And for things I have procrastinated, it is essential. 

For example,  the first item on my Unprocrastination List was “new pair of pants.”  Now I know that for many people, getting a new pair of pants would be a simple retail transaction.  Go to the store, take a pair off of the rack, and go pay for them.   But I have trouble finding pants that fit and flatter, and can try on 20 pairs and not find any I like.   I had been thinking about getting a tailor to make me a pair using my favorite (now battered) pair, but dreaded both the cost and the thought of parting with my pants for a week or two.  What would I wear then? 

So, on my list, I identified the next step as “call the tailor and get a cost and time estimate.”  But then I realized that that wasn’t the very next step.  The very  next step – the first step toward completion of this project – was to look up the phone number of the tailor.  So I did that right then (2 minutes on the Internet) and wrote it on The List.  The next step was to call the tailor.  I procrastinated that until the following day. ;-) 

I called the tailor and found out that the cost was much more reasonable than I had imagined.  The next step was to go to the fabric store to buy the material.  Done when I had a chance to shop, two days later.  Next was to take the fabric and my current pants to the tailor, which had to wait a week because that was the first opportunity I had to get there during the hours they are open.  Then I had to wait another week – not because I was procrastinating, but because the tailor’s daughter had a baby.  Remember that there is a difference between delay and procrastination. 

I invite you to take a moment right now to identify the very next step for each item on your Unprocrastination List.  Then when you have a free moment, you can scan the list and tick off one of the “next steps.”  Instead of a big chore, you’ll have one small task to complete.  Slow and steady wins the race.  This will also allow you to bunch errands that can be efficiently done together, rather than going to the office supply store to get folders and realizing after you get there that the dry cleaner is right next door and your dry cleaning is back at home.

So:  what’s the next step?

P.S.   If you've been procrastinating taking a One Hour Retreat, do it before you tackle the other items on your Un-Procrastination List! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cheryl,

    I just found you through your comment on my post on Solitude, and it looks like we're kindred souls!! I really like this post on breaking tasks down, it's exactly right on. I learned to do this over the last few years and when I do the next little step in a bigger task, I give myself a pat on the back and credit for actually accomplishing something. Like looking up the phone number. It puts you that much closer to getting the whole task done. I love it! It's good to be good to ourselves, that pat on the back feels good even when it's ourselves doing it for ourselves. Great stuff. Look forward to reading more of your blog.