To do lists are daunting. It’s easy to arrive at your desk in the morning already overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. So productivity experts suggest spending a little time every morning identifying the most important thing you need to do that day. At least then you’ll make sure that the most important stuff gets done.
That’s a great idea. But, as I found out today, there’s one thing that can make sure even this doesn’t work: productive procrastination.
If you’re not familiar with that phrase, it’s a good one. Everyone needs to know about it, but I find it particularly important for students everywhere. It’s the one thing most likely to keep you from finishing your research paper.
According to the urban dictionary productive procrastination is:
n. Doing stuff to keep busy while avoiding what really needs doing. When all is said and done, your room is clean, your laundry is folded — but you haven’t started your English paper. (via )
Productivity experts say you can defeat this problem by identifying your most important goal first thing in the morning. Today I realized that this isn’t enough. Here’s why.
10 Steps to Productive Procrastination
- Start the day knowing the most important thing you need to do.
- Get intimidated by that thing’s importance and decide to do something smaller/easier first.
- Check the smaller/easier thing off your “to do” list.
- Realize that it feels good to check things off your list.
- Select another relatively easy and unimportant thing to do next.
- Feel good again.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until all easy and unimportant things have been successfully accomplished.
- Look at the clock.
- Realize that you have reached the end of the day and haven’t even touched the “most important thing” on your list.
- Go to bed.
Yep, it’s that simple.
Identifying the Important Isn’t Enough
We all know that we should avoid obvious time-wasters: Facebook, watching TV, making your bed, etc. But productive procrastination is sneakier. There’s something devilishly tempting about getting things done. Accomplishment feels good. And, since some things are easier to accomplish than others, it’s easy to start with what you’re sure you can achieve.
Just knowing what’s most important isn’t enough. You need to commit to avoiding those things that are easy to do, those things that provide that little thrill of accomplish, those things that offer a false sense of productivity.
Those are the real distractions.
I didn’t do that today. So I can only go to bed with a false sense of productivity. It’s better than having wasted my day on unproductive things. But it’s far less than I’d hoped.
Tomorrow will be different. Please.