Advertising
Advertising

Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize

Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
Busy Pond

    Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
    As a new guest author to lifehack.org and an experienced productivity consultant I would like to start by naming and dispelling common productivity and organizing myths. This series will be posted each Wednesday until we cover the top 10.

    Myth: You don’t have time to prioritize because you’re so busy doing the things that you’re responsible to do.

    Reality: You don’t have time not to prioritize because you’re busy, responsible, and want a good balance.

    Advertising

    I call it CEO time – as in Chief Executive Officer meeting time.
    When someone has a meeting with the CEO they show up don’t they? (Distractions and postponements never come from the one invited to meet with the CEO)
    Everyone shows up on time for CEO meetings don’t they?
    If you were meeting with the CEO you’d be prepared, too, right?.

    You are the CEO of your career & life so you should have your own CEO meeting weekly. During that meeting with yourself be sure you’re doing the right things and prepare for the coming week. Schedule your CEO meeting and honor it as the most important meeting of the week.

    Given that you are really busy how do you know that you’re doing the right things? Do you know precisely what you’re responsible to do? Do you consider work and outside work when you think of your responsibilities? Even more poignantly, does anyone complain about how you spend your time? Does your spouse grumble about not seeing you? Do your kids protest about having a baby sitter again?

    Advertising

    This is a reality check – not to make anyone feel guilty. If it makes you uncomfortable, however, thank you for staying with me.

    During your CEO meetings list the things you are actually responsible for accomplishing – the big picture things. This is for your professional as well as personal life. A list of responsibilities would easily be 20-30 long and related to job and home. The list would include the things that show up on an annual job evaluation and family ‘serious discussions’ list. This list will be the touchstone to determining if one is doing ‘the right things’. Somethings you are involved with might be fun, educational, and valuable for building relationships but not really the core of your priorities.

    For example, Marty is a busy executive with an international software firm. He has a couple of kids and has been married 20 years. Although his job responsibilities change every 18-24 months, it is clear what he needs to accomplish. It’s written in his job description and measured. Coincidently he’s given a cash bonus for meeting those responsibilities. At home he and Marsha have job descriptions, too. They came out of a playful ‘what’s my line’ conversation. They include taking care of the kids, taking care of each other, and taking care of themselves.

    Advertising

    Marty has scheduled his CEO meetings Friday afternoon at 1pm. This meeting is rarely missed. Marty isolates himself sometime by working at home, sometime by working in a meeting room at the corporate offices, and sometime he is in his cube and hangs a ‘do not disturb’ sign for the 1-2 hours it takes for the meeting.

    During the meeting Marty pulls out his list and runs down it to make his own review of his progress toward goals, completion of projects, and use of his time. He decides what things need to be wrapped up before the end of the day and writes a list of actions for the upcoming weekend with his family and week back at work. Marty has a clearly charted course and continues to be a success as a father, mate, and employee.

    Previous Myths:

    Advertising

    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be able to leave the country for months at a time. She’s the author at ProductivityCafe and she consults with professionals on their productivity.

    More by this author

    Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need Put yourself on the line Working at Night is for Raccoons – Not You! Where You Are Depends on How You Look at Things How to Use a Notebook to Make 2008 the Best Year Ever

    Trending in Featured

    1 Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed 2 12 Rules for Self-Management 3 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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:

    Advertising

    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

    Read Next