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How I procrastinate

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  • How I procrastinate

    I've recently realized my way of procrastinating. I don't look at my lists and decide what's the best thing to do at the moment. Instead, I randomly think about what I want to do - it could be something on my list, or something that's not, which is mostly the case. I'm sort of like reverting to my pre-GTD self.

    But if I do manage to get myself to look at my lists, I'd be ho-hum at it would usually think of other more interesting things to do… especially if there are no fires to put out...

    I'm thinking of putting everything on my lists, even those things that I use to procrastinate over my lists, so that I would look at and weigh them against all the other NAs. But I don't think this is the right because those tasks should more likely be written at an *Avoid doing list.

    How should I deal with this?

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Timers and Treats!

    I use a couple of tricks to help myself with the problem you describe (and don't worry - you're not alone!):

    Timers
    I set a timer for either 2 or 10 minutes (depending on what I'm doing) and then force myself to do that task for the alloted time. For example:

    Something I enjoy doing and I just love doing - I set a two-minute timer and do it for that period and when the time's up I go back to my NA task list.

    For something that I've been procrastinating about (e.g. start drafting a document) - I set it for 10 minutes and get my head down and work for 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes - I frequently find that I've progressed much further than I thought I would and because of that - the task is easier to pick up later because I've already started it. I.e. I've overcome the fear of starting - and it seems so much easier to just continue what I've already started ...

    Treats
    My other trick is to use my favourite/interesting NAs as treats when I've finished the less interesting ones. E.g. I'll do some R&D on the web for a new laptop that I want when I've finished my weekly status report ...

    Hope that helps - J.
    Last edited by jsturtridge; 03-07-2007, 02:52 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by GTDer88 View Post

      I'm thinking of putting everything on my lists, even those things that I use to procrastinate over my lists, so that I would look at and weigh them against all the other NAs. But I don't think this is the right because those tasks should more likely be written at an *Avoid doing list.

      How should I deal with this?

      Thanks in advance.
      If they are things that you really have to do then put them on your list. If they are just things that you want to do because they are fun, well, you'll probably do those things anyway, as you suggest.

      For me, a long action list is often the reason for procrastination. It's just a pretty difficult thing to look at this long list and decide what to do next. Many people solve this by shortening the actions list by an extensive someday/maybe list. I do this and also make an even shorter list of the things I want to do today or for the next four hours or so. I even put them in order so I don't even have to consider what's next. This isn't really GTD but it works for me.
      Last edited by tominperu; 03-07-2007, 07:03 AM.

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      • #4
        Short lists improve focus

        Originally posted by tominperu View Post
        For me, a long action list is often the reason for procrastination. It's just a pretty difficult thing to look at this long list and decide what to do next. Many people solve this by shortening the actions list by an extensive someday/maybe list. I do this and also make an even shorter list of the things I want to do today or for the next four hours or so. I even put them in order so I don't even have to consider what's next. This isn't really GTD but it works for me.
        I'm like Tom -- if I have a list of 5 things to do, I'll work through the list, but if I have 15 items, I will waste lots of time trying to find the very best action for the moment. I have two suggestions:

        First, start your day with work. If you begin your day by tackling real work instead of surfing the web or doing other less useful things, you get work done while creating a more productive mind-set. Yes, you'll eventually lose that sharp edge and you may run out of energy, but then the more interesting and enjoyable things are there waiting for you as a reward.

        Second, shorten your lists. Your GTD lists probably include everything you are allegedly committed to do anytime soon. Why not cut that list down to today and work on only those items? This frees you from having to choose from so many things and makes actual completion of the list that much easier and more likely.

        You may also want to keep track of how much time you spend on your procrastination activities. It can be pretty scary when you discover just how much of your day you spend on these "harmless" activities.

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        • #5
          I like David Allen's ideas on procrastination. Paraphrasing him:

          * There are only two reasons for procrastination: The task is either a) overwhelming (too big), or b) not motivating (unpleasant).

          As you might have guessed, Allen's solution (typically clear and powerful) is to apply his two big focusing questions, respectively:

          1. What's the next action?
          2. What's the desired outcome?

          More at Some David Allen "twos" - two reasons we procrastinate, and two kinds of problems, if you're interested.

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          • #6
            Yes, yes, yes! Agreed with lots of the opinions on here.

            I used to have "Action Ennui", where I'd stare at my Actions lists and be uninterested in working on any of them. I think this was because the lists didn't change often. Oh, I'd knock off a few things here and there, but most of the content stayed the same for long periods. Once I pared my lists down, Actions flew on and off, and the lists changed dramatically from one week to the next. This has encouraged me.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Brent View Post
              I think this was because the lists didn't change often. Oh, I'd knock off a few things here and there, but most of the content stayed the same for long periods.
              I think you captured my list perfectly. This may sound confusing, but I think I just need to keep on knocking them down so I'll stay excited doing them... Some sort of habit formation I guess...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by flexiblefine View Post
                First, start your day with work. If you begin your day by tackling real work instead of surfing the web or doing other less useful things, you get work done while creating a more productive mind-set. Yes, you'll eventually lose that sharp edge and you may run out of energy, but then the more interesting and enjoyable things are there waiting for you as a reward.
                I've read lots of post on how to overcome procrastination, but this one is something new and I really like. In retrospect, most of my unproductive days did start out with less usefull things such as surfing the web. And those more productive ones started with work right off the bat. This is one good advice. Thanks!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by GTDer88 View Post
                  This may sound confusing, but I think I just need to keep on knocking them down so I'll stay excited doing them... Some sort of habit formation I guess...
                  What if you only had half as many current Projects? What if you moved the rest of them to your Someday/Maybe list?

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