My last 2 posts were about my continuing battle against perfectionism. A big effect of my perfectionism is procrastination. My subconscious mind uses procrastination to prevent me from doing mediocre work. My mind has tricked me into thinking that anything less than perfect would be mediocre, and that mediocre would be unacceptable. It’s an ironic predicament because doing nothing is even worse than doing mediocre work. Furthermore, perfect is unattainable.
While my subconscious mind uses procrastination against me, my conscious mind has many tools to stop procrastinating. I am discovering that my perfectionism and its tool, procrastination, are deep-seated. They go back many, many years. They are habits that are hard to break. It takes a multi-pronged approach to battle this war.
Tools I use to stop procrastinating
Trello is a pretty cool tool for organizing workflow. It’s a visual interface organized into “boards” and “cards” that you can just drag between boards. The cards can have color-coding, checklists, deadlines, and other super handy things. You can let your team access your boards. I use it on my iPhone and I also view the projects on the web. When I’m getting real serious, I print the cards to post on my wall. Download it free for the iPhone or for Android.
The Storyline Productivity Schedule
I heard super bestselling author and movie writer, Donald Miller, on Beyond the To-Do List podcast. He was talking about taking 4 years to write a book when it used to take under a year. He started studying the psychology of procrastination and came up with a one-sheet tool to help him plan his daily tasks. He wrote his next book in just 4 months and the writing was better!
I downloaded the free Storyline Productivity Schedule and got more done in the first 30 days than probably the previous 6 months.
“Nothing changes the world if we don’t finish it,” says Donald.
The Storyline Productivity Schedule helps me finish things.
Do Not Disturb on my iPhone and Mac
My iPhone has given me ADHD. There I said it. I mean, not to deflect the blame or anything, but all I do is pick up my phone to check a word definition, lookup a date in Wikipedia, or some other quick task, but before I can even get to it, there’s a TXT message, so I reply, and then I see that red little dot on Facebook, then I might as well check to see whether I have any activity on Vine, but all the latest posts are so entertaining and outright important, and before I know it, I put back down the phone after 30 minutes and I’ve forgotten what I was doing.
Distractions are brutal. Sometimes it all starts with a simple chime telling me there’s a TXT message or a phone call.
I use Do Not Disturb early, I use it often.
I haven’t read this book, but it looks like I should:
Is It ADHD or My iPhone: Transforming Your Brain From Scattered to Centered by Dr. Alicia R. Ruelaz.
Remind myself to not procrastinate
A lot of time, I just have to remind myself not to procrastinate. Easier said than done.
I saw this nifty meme, A Field Guide To Procrastinators, and I saw myself in nearly every one. So I printed it and put it in a prominent location.
A quote by Niccolo Machiavelli has been inspirational in my battle against procrastination. I came across the Renaissance philosopher and founder of political science after Tupac Shakur’s passing the year after I graduated high school. I was curious what all the hubbub was about between 2Pac’s switching his name to Makaveli and the actual Machiavelli.
Years later I happened across the latter’s renowned book, The Prince (Penguin Classics), in a second-hand store and bought it. It wasn’t until I quit my job last year that I had enough time on my hands to give it a read.
If you’re a king (or prince) planning to invade the kingdom (or princedom) next door, you will certainly want to thoroughly examine this treatise. For me, however, at that time of turmoil and resolve, the most captivating part came in the last few pages.
I wrote this on a large piece of paper and taped it to the inside of my door:
“For although these men were singular and extra ordinary, after all they were but men, not one of whom had so great an opportunity as now presents itself to you. For their undertakings were not more just than this, nor more easy, nor was God more their friend than yours…
“What remains to be done must be done by you; since in order not to deprive us of our free will and such share of glory has belongs to us, God will not do everything himself.”
I still read it often when I leave the house.
What remains to be done must be done by you… God will not do everything himself.
Post big lists on the wall
Like most task-oriented people, I make lists. Plural. I have many lists. Some are posted on my wall below Machiavelli’s quote. I scratch things off of lists and consolidate lists into one. I make short-term lists, long-term lists, and dream-lists.
I admit that it’s kind of crazy making, but it’s what I do. They say, what gets scheduled gets done; what doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. Lists remind me to schedule the tasks.
To Do, Doing, Done!
At Startup Weekend earlier this year, I learned about To Do, Doing, Done. At the 2 1/2 day business plan competition, they advised the teams to write the many tasks onto post-it notes and organize them into these 3 categories:
- To Do
All the team members can see what needs to be done and what stage the task is at. Any task in the To Do column is waiting to be taken on. A good sense of accomplishment is felt from moving a task from one column to the next.
Trello also organizes the boards into these lists by default. When I print and post them on my door, I keep them organized by this structure and it has helped to keep me on track.
The war wages on
These are the latest tactics and tools that I use to combat procrastination. Because procrastination is rooted so deeply in my psyche and actions, it takes a multi-pronged approach to beat it. Each method looses its efficacy after a while, so I rotate new tactics into my arsenal.
I pine for a day when I have just one to-do list. A day when the walls of my home are not cluttered with lists, tasks, quotes, and fliers, just to remind me to finish things. But God will not do everything himself.
Share some of your tools against procrastination in the comments below.
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