Who are the biggest procrastinators?

The biggest procrastinators are usually the most sophisticated, sensitive, creative, and intelligent people.

Nailed you, did I? Well, I assume you’re in the sophisticated, creative, and intelligent category. That probably means you have large numbers of things stuck in your mind, in your briefcase, and on your desk about which things are not moving forward quite as consistently as they could be.

Major reason: the precise next physical visible activity (next action) has probably not been decided on the to-do’s. The bright people usually have some sort of reminders about their projects and things to do on lists, in piles, or lying around, so they won’t forget to think about their commitments. Bully. But every time they catch the briefest glimpse of any of them, they instantly race forward in their mind, rapidly and intelligently creating images of all the possible pieces that have to fit together and all the things that might have to be involved in getting them to happen and all the possible negative consequences if any one of them slips (and all the things that they might be forgetting in all this). Whew! Freaked themselves right out. I’d quit, too.

Three solutions: (1) frontal lobotomy, (2) bottle-in-front-of-me, or (3) figure out the very next action required to move each of those projects forward. Each will take some of the pressure off, but I recommend option #3 for the most permanent and elegant fix.

I was recently reminded about this again graphically, coaching several executives on Wall Street one-on-one. You couldn’t find many savvier, more creative, industrious, successful folks, yet each had varying degrees of “stuckness” about many important projects and issues. They simply hadn’t thought these things quite through enough to get to the very next action step. When I got them to make that decision, tons of things uncorked and their own peace of mind went up dramatically. What amazed them the most was that it only took a few seconds to decide the next step, and that they didn’t have to have the project totally figured out to get moving on it. Big surprise.

Don’t just decide that you need to set a meeting—decide whether that’s an email to send or a phone call to make, and to whom. Watch things move…and how much more deserving of the “sophisticated, sensitive, creative, and intelligent” label you’ll feel!

–David Allen

This article appeared in David’s monthly newsletter, Productive Living. Subscribe for free.

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  1. Hello Dear David Allen,

    I like your article written above. I am in that position or better told I am finding in that would I describe “illness”. Anyway i have to confess that after 2010 starting with Insight Seminars it´s going better, as I a have arrived today from madrid taking part from an Insight I.
    Was very good due I am finding a schocked moment and not finding how to go forward.

    Best regards

  2. It appears you have been living in my head rent-free. I would give most anything not to be the person you described. I get so frustrated with myself; and I’m sure others do too.

  3. StoryD, I feel for you BECAUSE I’m one of them too. I feel so low and frustrated because of this. It’s always one step forward and two steps back.

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