Procrastinating tasks is like eating apples that are past their best. If only you had done them straight away they would have been fresher and better but no, you left them until they were almost too late, or even perhaps virtually inedible!
Why on earth would a person choose to eat wrinkly apples when the world is full of fresh ones? Why on earth would a person choose to do most of their jobs when they are nearly overdue - it's worse customer care and much more stressful to do it this way.
The answer is that the jobs queuing up for your attention are the same as my apples. They arrive all fresh, and ideally you would do them straight away while there is no time pressure. But for various reasons (laziness, fear, being too busy) you put them off until they have become wrinkled and unattractive. But vitally you'll still have to do (eat) them at some point...
When you have a mixture of possible jobs to do, some wrinkly and some fresh, you have to do the wrinkly ones first because they are on the point of going off. But while you're doing those, the fresh ones are getting older. So you have to do them in order, and every job is done just before its deadline (wrinkly, nearly going off) and you never get ahead, you can never seem to do a job well in advance of its due date (eating it while still crunchy). You'll live a life of nothing but wrinkly apples! Nothing but last minute jobs.
How can we get out of this vicious circle?
One solution would be to not buy any apples until all the old ones have been eaten. But restricting the work arriving onto your desk / in-box is not possible in real life.
The only other option is to have a work binge (or get help for a short while) and clear the backlog so that you have no apples in the bowl and you can eat any newcomers as soon as they arrive. You only have to do this once, and then you can stay ahead by working at the same rate as you always did, just without the queue of jobs becoming more and more urgent.
You then have to have the self-discipline to resist slowing down because you know you can – you don’t have to do the jobs right now. But remember that the cost of procrastination is that once a queue has built up every job will be almost overdue when you do it. Much better that every job is done as soon as it arrives, and then every job is done with no stress, and done to its proper level of quality.
The detail of how to overcome one’s natural tendency to procrastinate will be the subject of another blog to follow shortly, but ideas include:
- promising the job to someone else by a date
- starting each day with the worst job you’ve got
- breaking big horrible jobs into chunks and starting just the first bit
- putting time aside in your diary in advance so that at least you’ve got the time you need
Whatever way works for you, find it!
Be a Do It Now person!
May every apple you eat be crunchy!
If you're looking for ways to get more out of your day you may be interested in reading my blog "10 Brilliantly Effective Time Mangement Tips for MDs"
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