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A teensy procrastination tip

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  • A teensy procrastination tip

    I don't know how many of you procrastinate, but it's one of my problems now and again. I recall a thread here a few days ago which had some interesting points, so I thought I might share one of mine, and see if anyone else had any similar hacks.

    We all procrastinate for different reasons, that's true. The GTD system actually ameliorates quite a bit of that procrastinating urge, but there's one thing it doesn't deal with: when you've got an action that has unhappy connotations. That could be because the action itself is boring, or because there's something that makes you feel bad about the project. It might require you to deal with a particularly truculent piece of software, or to do something you don't like doing or aren't good at. Whatever.

    I've found something that works for me, or at least it helps. I keep my action lists in 3 drawers of a 5-drawer plastic stationery tray. And I have those 3 action trays categorised as Nice, Numb, and Nasty. So I know that, if I reach into the Numb tray, I'll find work that's just work. If I reach into the Nice tray, I'll find something that has a positive meaning attached. And I know that I won't find anything unpleasant unless I reach into the Nasty tray.

    Now it's quite true that I did this because I'm a complete coward who's liable to hide sobbing in the wardrobe rather than risk an unpleasant surprise. But I did get a couple of surprises from this system. The first, and most surprising, is that I'm actually getting much more of the Nasty stuff done. Weird but true: I find that I sit down, gird my loins, and reach in to grab something nasty and throttle it into submission. Usually early in the day.

    The second and less surprising thing is that, when I take something out of the Nice tray, I may have forgotten why I put it there. So I have to think about it. So I remember what made me feel good about it. Which wouldn't have happened if I hadn't put it in the Nice tray to begin with. And that's a lovely big glob of positive reinforcement right there.

    I see this as an extension of the 'corral your thinking' aspect of GTD. We need to nail down our next actions specifically. We need to collect all like actions into a context list so we can do them when in context. And this adds one extra wrinkle, which is a specific accounting of my psychological resilience. I know that I'm more likely to procrastinate if my NAs are all lumped together, because I've done it. The minute I think "I'll make some calls", my sad little mind says "Oh, but there's that icky one..." and I whimper and pull the blankie over my head. But when I know that I won't have to face the nasty things unless I actively choose to, I'm far more likely to get things done.

    Actually, the one category that doesn't move as fast as the others is the Numb stuff. Not sure why, but when I'm feeling brave I dive straight into the Nasties, and when I'm not I seek solace in the Nice. I never want to go for just Numb.

    Oh well, maybe that's something for NNN v1.1

  • #2
    Eating the frog

    Merlin Mann in 43Folders has a great post on similar issues, which he called "cringe busting" your to do list (http://www.43folders.com/2005/05/23/...ur-todo-list/). The idea is that you explicitly identify the items that repel you (make you cringe), then commit to knocking some of them off. It's similar to Brian Tracy's book called "Eat That Frog" (http://tinyurl.com/yezjn9). The metaphor is for doing those things that may be unpalatable but have high impact on our lives.

    Good summary of the book at:
    http://amit.chakradeo.net/2005/09/05/eat-that-frog/

    Cheers, David.

    Comment


    • #3
      I've et the frog

      Thanks for that, David. I've read "Eat That Frog", and just didn't find it that useful. Perhaps I need to look at it again, but I felt that most of the strategies weren't things that would work for me.

      As for the Merlin Mann reference: well, now I feel very special. Merlin's a bit of a legend in that area. Although I do think my system works better for me than his, given that the presence of cringe-worthy items on my list might prevent me from looking at it at all.

      If anyone else has any anti-procrastination tips, I'd be interested to hear about them. No knowledge is ever wasted.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it's a great idea. I could see it being a pitfall for some (me, for instance--I think things that were "nasty" because I hadn't committed to thinking them all the way through would creep into the nasty drawer, and then back into my subconscious). But I do like your style; this adds a dimension most people don't bother to track.

        One things caught my attention:

        Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
        Actually, the one category that doesn't move as fast as the others is the Numb stuff. Not sure why, but when I'm feeling brave I dive straight into the Nasties, and when I'm not I seek solace in the Nice. I never want to go for just Numb.

        Oh well, maybe that's something for NNN v1.1
        DA often says that every piece of "stuff" in our lives is either attracting us or repulsing us psychologically--and he makes the either bit very clear, saying there is no "neutral." So, maybe NNN v1.1 might be "NN," just Nasty v. Nice.

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        • #5
          Whenever Iím feeling too lazy to work, I would give myself permission to choose whether Iíd want to work or play first. Then Iíd use an alarm to time myself for say 20 minutes. Whichever I chose, I would have to stop once the 20 minutes are up, and then get to the other activity. Usually I get amazed by how much I could get done in those 20 minutes.

          Comment


          • #6
            My procrastination comes when there is one nasty task that I know I need to get done in the next few days and is very unappealing. I say "I HAVE TO WORK ON THIS TODAY" and then I stare at my screen and don't have the courage to start. So then I get in this funk where I don't want to do anything and I surf the web, or read through personal emails...just the run of the mill procrastination stuff.

            What I have found since starting with GTD about a month ago, is that if I start working on little quick-and-easy tasks and knock off 4 or 5 of them I get out of my funk and into a "productive" mode. Once I get into this productive mode it is much easier to attack the big nasty task that I was avoiding.

            -Jeff

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by maxleibman View Post
              I think it's a great idea. I could see it being a pitfall for some (me, for instance--I think things that were "nasty" because I hadn't committed to thinking them all the way through would creep into the nasty drawer, and then back into my subconscious).
              snip...
              DA often says that every piece of "stuff" in our lives is either attracting us or repulsing us psychologically--and he makes the either bit very clear, saying there is no "neutral." So, maybe NNN v1.1 might be "NN," just Nasty v. Nice.
              Thank you. As for The Creep Of The Nasties, that doesn't seem to happen. Could be because once I get something out of the inbox to Process, I'm pretty good about giving it a well-defined NA.

              Err, if that's what you're saying.

              On Nasty vs Nice: good point. I guess I've just got a tendency to go for ternary divisions, rather than binary.

              Actually, I started writing a para to justify this, but then I looked at what's in my Numb tray, and you're quite right. Everything in there can be described as either Nasty or Nice. Thank 'ee.

              Now two of you are saying very similar things:

              Originally posted by GTDer88 View Post
              Then Iíd use an alarm to time myself for say 20 minutes.
              and
              Originally posted by Jeff Kelley View Post
              What I have found since starting with GTD about a month ago, is that if I start working on little quick-and-easy tasks and knock off 4 or 5 of them I get out of my funk and into a "productive" mode.
              The combination of working in short bursts and getting some runs on the board seems to do the trick, at least sometimes. And I've discovered a clever hack on Merlin Mann's site which has elements of both.

              Originally posted by Jeff Kelley View Post
              My procrastination comes when there is one nasty task that I know I need to get done in the next few days and is very unappealing.
              You might be interested in the hack I linked to above. I like that I can do a couple of rounds of it, and I don't need to complete what I'm working on when the timer goes off, because I know I'll get to it in the next round while I'm still fresh. And it's all about lessening the pain associated with working, so that next time it's a little easier, and so on.

              Comment


              • #8
                "Work first" works for me

                Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                Weird but true: I find that I sit down, gird my loins, and reach in to grab something nasty and throttle it into submission. Usually early in the day.
                I have much better luck getting work done in general when I start the day with work, as opposed to anything else that might be time-filling but less productive.

                Even processing my inboxes first thing in the morning seems to set up a less productive state of mind. Tackling work at the beginning of the day builds momentum that keeps me going and gets more stuff done than if I finally get going later in the day.

                Do you think that there is something useful about the "early in the day" part of that habit that is useful aside from the NNN box technique?

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's all about lots of little hacks, I think

                  Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                  I have much better luck getting work done in general when I start the day with work, as opposed to anything else that might be time-filling but less productive.

                  Even processing my inboxes first thing in the morning seems to set up a less productive state of mind. Tackling work at the beginning of the day builds momentum that keeps me going and gets more stuff done than if I finally get going later in the day.

                  Do you think that there is something useful about the "early in the day" part of that habit that is useful aside from the NNN box technique?
                  Definitely. Although I do find I get better results if I start the day with a dash, or the (10 + 2) * 5 thing, both on Merlin Mann's 43folders.com: check his archives by category for procrastination. There's something that settles my mind about whizzing through and getting some quick runs on the board, rather than facing an epic first thing.

                  Also, I find I do better when I interlace brain work with physical work. I can only do this because I work mainly from home, of course, but it's effective in keeping me alert, and preventing the achey-breaky syndrome from sitting too long at the computer.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Actually, my system evolved into something like that of Merlinís (10+2)*5. The only difference is I donít follow a strict timeframe. If Iím feeling confident, Iíd set myself up for a full one hour work. But if Iím feeling real lazy, I would only time myself for as little as 5 minutes of work. But whatever it is, I would HAVE TO alternate between work and a reward (30 minutes max). The work period is relative to my energy level, while leisure is allowed for a maximum of 30 minutes only.

                    Another twist that I added recently: I would HAVE TO do at least one persistently lagging NA everyday for at least 5 minutes. So far its been doing wonders to my lists. I precede my NAs with a date, so I know which ones are being neglected.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by unstuffed View Post

                      Also, I find I do better when I interlace brain work with physical work. I can only do this because I work mainly from home, of course, but it's effective in keeping me alert, and preventing the achey-breaky syndrome from sitting too long at the computer.
                      I do that too. That is why I separate @pc from @home list even if I work at home. It feels great to have some sort of pace change. It's even better for my deteriorating vision.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GTDer88 View Post
                        Actually, my system evolved into something like that of Merlinís (10+2)*5.
                        snip...
                        Another twist that I added recently: I would HAVE TO do at least one persistently lagging NA everyday for at least 5 minutes. So far its been doing wonders to my lists. I precede my NAs with a date, so I know which ones are being neglected.
                        Yes, I think all procrastination ideas come down to dipping your toe in the water, and getting something done while evading the bad feelings. That's the essence of the suggestions that Neil Fiore made in "The Now Habit".

                        That lagging NA idea is a good one, I might give that a go. I already date everything, so that I can keep track of what's lagging. Makes me wonder why I haven't thought of your trick already...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GTDer88 View Post
                          I do that too. That is why I separate @pc from @home list even if I work at home. It feels great to have some sort of pace change. It's even better for my deteriorating vision.
                          Oh, yes, that's another thing. After a long day at the computer, I feel as though my eyeballs have been sucked out of my skull. It's useful to have some outdoor things-to-do, so I can look at distant, non-glowing, things for a while.

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                          • #14
                            How about the BANJO method:

                            When you start work you: BANg off a Nasty JOb - and feel motivated afterwards.

                            (I just realised I was procrastinating on something else by typing this post).

                            Howard

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              You are still procrastinating

                              Unstuffed,
                              I suggest you read Davids book again... You ARE on to something with understanding your energy required for tasks, but simply putting them in to a tray is not the most efficient way to do this. You are numbing yourself out to what is in each of these. I dont think that you are in any way following GTD, but simply making stacks.

                              Perhaps I am misunderstanding your method.

                              -Erik

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