- Someday Lesson: If you’re a procrastinator, taking on more tasks might help motivate you to actually get stuff done.
Don’t simplify. Don’t reduce the number of tasks you have to do.
Increase your to-do lists.
Take on more stuff, the more important the better. Then while you’re procrastinating about the most important stuff, you’ll get all the rest done and be highly productive.
That’s the message of Stanford University’s philosophy professor John Perry. He believes that procrastinators will avoid doing whatever is most important. If you have only a few tasks on your to-do list, when you avoid the important stuff, you end up doing completely trivial things like clean the toilet bowl or channel surf.
In contrast, if you have lots of things on your to-do list you end up getting a whole lot accomplished.
I can attest to that. I have a huge to-do list and I’m always adding to it. But instead of feeling overwhelmed, I’m amazed at my productivity! Over the last few weeks, I’ve been timeblocking – moving as many as 14 different tasks forward each day in half-hour chunks.
The key, Perry says, is to choose as your most important tasks things that only seem important, but aren’t. For me, unfortunately that’s been my fiction writing. I get a whole bunch done on my business each day all in the name of avoiding on what I consider the most important part of my life right now, which is writing the first draft on my next novel.
Perry suggests that choosing the right task as important will get you working on the things that actually need to get done. This requires a bit of self-deception, however, and a real belief in that self-deception. For example, as much as I might tell myself that something else is more important than my fiction, in my heart, I know that writing fiction holds the place of honour as the most important task to work on and so I avoid doing it, like the good procrastinator that I am.
Fortunately I’ve discovered a way around it. Perry calls his form of avoiding tasks structured procrastination (and he even sells a t-shirt!), but for me to be really productive and touch everything I’m working on, I need to get even more structured.
I need to get rid of the importance of everything. Nothing I work on is important. It’s only another piece of the timeblocked day. Half an hour here, half an hour there. That’s it.
When I get hyper-structured like that, then I plow through a multitude of tasks, including my fiction because it has no importance whatsoever.
It’s like working on an assembly line. In a factory there are certain processes that are more important than others, but because it’s all systemized and measured out on the assembly line, all tasks have equal importance – it’s just a matter of doing them in the right order.
It’s the same for my to-do list. As long as I don’t put any more importance on any one thing than on any other, I can work step by step to advance them all, half an hour at a time.
And speaking of which, I have five minutes to get this post published, so I better get a move on!