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Throw a lifeline to your future.

Throw a lifeline to your future.
A lifeline

    It can be pretty discouraging when after a long week of hard work you realize you are not one inch closer to the future you want.

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    Sure, you’ve worked all out, chopping through tasks left, right and center, fulfilling all your (conflicting) roles for various people in your life, and here it Friday, your brain feels like boiled mush and you’re bone tired. What’s worse, you know in your heart of hearts (or Weekly Review) that nothing you’ve done this week is connected to who you want to be, what you really want to achieve, what you really, really, really want your future to look like.

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    There was just too much stuff from now to deal with – too many looming deadlines, urgent requests, upcoming milestones, all those web sites and emails and decisions, choices, alternatives and options. Not to mention all the past stuff – things you wish you had done better, things you wished you’d not done at all. At least, that was my week – how about you?
    Now before the suicide hotlines and liquor stores start seeing a surge in business, I’d like to suggest there’s a solution to this very discouraging problem. It’s simple, but not easy: Throw a lifeline to your future.

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    The purpose of a lifeline is to pull someone from where they don’t want to be – quicksand pit, raging seas, icy pond, the messy present – to where they want to be. In the movies, the brave and valiant rescuers provide the muscle to pull the limp victim to safety; this isn’t the movies. It’s going to be up to you, buckwheat, to throw that lifeline, hook it onto something solid and start pulling with all your might if you want to get into that really nice future.

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    Here’s how I think you can throw a lifeline to your future:

    • Know what future you want. So what do you really want? Look in your heart of hearts for that really big thing you want. Maybe it’s making a million bucks a month, or fulfilling your lifelong ambition, or finding The Right Girl or The Right Guy. Be honest – there’s only you and me here – and I won’t talk. Now write it down where only you will see it. That’s the big beautiful future you want to get your lifeline around so you can pull yourself to it. Refer to it often. Look at it when you go to sleep, look at it when you wake up.
    • Let go of your luggage. That’s right, stick all the emails decaying in your inbox into a new folder, move all the hundreds of documents littering your desktop and My Documents folder to a new folder, drag all those bookmarks and favorites you just had to mark to a new folder, delete all your saved voicemails, bag every task lingering on your to do list older than a week. Heresy! Blasphemy! Nope: Reality. If you want to get to the future you’ve got to let go of the past, and besides, to be brutally honest, what are the chances you are going to deal with all those dead open loops? Slim to none. Lighten your load. So let go.
    • Know that if other people have done it, you can do it. Go visit a bookstore or library’s biography section – find someone you like, that you admire. Get that book and read it. Odds are good it’s going to be a recounting of someone who had it worse that you, who struggled like hell to pull themselves to the life they wanted, the things they believed in. If they did it, so can you. Not convinced? Go buy or check out another biography.
    • Every single day, do one tiny doable thing to make that future happen, and do it the very first thing. You want to write a bestselling novel? Spend 30 minutes a day writing the very first thing you do. Want to run the company you work for? Do one tiny step to towards that future before you do the rest of you job. Want to write a great app you can be proud of? Spend the first 30 minutes learning what you have to learn and doing what you have to do to make that happen. What about all the things you’re supposed to do? They can wait for all of 30 minutes while you do some tiny, but constructive, step for you.

    This last one – doing one tiny thing to make the future you want happen, and doing it first before all the now stuff, is your lifeline to the future. Grab it!

    Bob Walsh writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

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