Watching Tim Urban, a self-proclaimed master procrastinator, present his hilarious TED talk on the subject of procrastination gave me hope for resolving procrastination in my own life. If you missed the video watch it here.
I have spent the last two years asking why I can’t organize my days and accomplish what I want to accomplish in the time I have to accomplish it.
You are too busy is the answer I get most often–yes and no. A move and a job change for my husband allows me to work less; my kids attend school and my living situation requires the bare minimum in care taking. At my disposal is 25 hours of time a week to devote to my new craft–blogging.
I am busy–learning, writing, getting sucked into social media. My darling husband will come home and look at the destroyed house with piles of laundry, dirty dishes and kids in front of the TV and say,
“So it was a great day blogging, huh?”
Most bloggers dream of the day they can afford this kind of time to write. How does it quickly turn into lots of work without a lot of importance?
Busy Does Not Equal Important
Busy does not equal important. Measured doesn’t mean mattered. – Seth Godin
Leave it to Seth Godin to boil down the subject of resolving procrastination into a one-liner. This is a guy who answers his own stream of email. He has no assistant, answers it himself one by one. How do I know? I emailed him and got a prompt response. This is the hero quality; I want to emulate. How do I find the time?
Putting First Things First
The Eisenhower decision-making metrics were made famous by Steven Covey. I highly recommend listening to his audio book of the same title on Audible (the first free book and 30 days are on me). An hour’s worth of listening to First Things First by Steven Covey embeds this easily absorbable concept in your mind.
Covey used a quadrant system designed by President Eisenhower. The president divided his day into 4 quadrants.
According to First things First, all your time spent in quadrants 1 & 2 will produce results and a life you want to live. Running like a silly monkey between boxes 3 & 4 is Bananas!
What falls into these categories you might ask? Do an exercise and print our your own quadrant here. Now take 30 seconds and line up the tasks of your day with each quadrant. Where do you spend your time?
PIn For Later!!
Attention Vs Devotion: The Difference in Resolving Procrastination
While category one requires our attention, it is category two that deserves our devotion. The items in Box 1, finishing projects, caring for a hurt child, paying the rent are important requiring our time and attention at the moment.
Box 2 is the real work. Writing the book, nurturing the child through the year of family dinners, prayer, growth and the creation of an authenticity for you and your work.
Box 3 is a reflection of Box 1. this shadow box appears to be important but could easily be hired out or delegated. This is the Busy Box–lots of activity but very little productivity.
Box 4 drowns our lives in matters that don’t matter–social media, small talk at conferences and cocktail parties. This is the Dark Playground, as Tim Urban calls it; where all though we are doing pleasant activities they do not bring joy. It is the “me” box. For example, I really wanted to have a piece of cheesecake, but the cookies were available so I ate them.
Resolving procrastination requires us to stay out of box 4 all together. To actually move through Box 3 with speed and to spend most of our creative productive time in Box 2. Oh, Box 1 will call us on the cell phone, but by delegating out from Box 3, the phone calls will be truly necessary and urgent.
Where Does the Instant Gratification Monkey Spend His Time?
OK, all of this sounds awesome, right? I am sure you will implement it tomorrow right after you and the monkey finish learning how to re-screen the porch windows by watching YouTube videos. (It is ironic that you don’t even have a porch.)
That’s OK. As I was writing this, I forgot to have Siri place the computer in DO NOT DISTURB mode. I accepted a Google calendar notification. Wondering if my Google calendar is working right. I thought, “I will just hop over there and see”. (I forgot an appointment last week (that should have been on my calendar) until the person I was meeting emailed me to say I had missed the meeting.)
Will fix this issue today! Right now! It will be fun! Plus, I will eliminate the further embarrassment of missing a meeting–no more time illiteracy for me! Whee! said the instant gratification monkey “lets go”.
Down the rabbit hole I go with my instant gratification monkey leading the way. Thirty minutes later, I emerge having reorganized much of the calendar. That was 30 minutes and 2 tutorials ago to change the whole Google calendar for the next month. Defiantly box 4 with a little twist of box 3. I really do want to meet with the person on time.
This escape robs me of 30 minutes of writing time (box 2) and makes me 30 minutes late for breakfast with my son, also box 2.
As Tim Urban points out clearly in his Procrastination Matrix Your instant gratification monkey will override the rational decision maker and spend all your time being busy, busy, busy in box 3 &4. Unimportant, not satisfying work that produces little
Planning Does Not Resolve Procrastination
Did I mention Procrastinators are great planners? We love to plan! It makes us look organized and busy–follow the plan? No just plan and ignore. That should be our mantra.
In creative, relationship, and growth style work, there often is no deadline. Building a relationship with your spouse or your child seems infinite. They’re not going anywhere right? There is time for that later. It often reminds me of the song written by Harry Chapin, Cat’s In the Cradle
“My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, dad”
You know I’m gonna be like you”
Planes to catch and bills to pay often keeps us away from most fulfilling human tasks–connecting. In box 1 we have a deadline that wakes the panic monster in all of us to get up and complete the task. The deadlines for relationships are graduation, illness, death–much too late to be on time. Chapin again:
I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
I can shrug off being late all the time, when my time literacy only extends to appointments, meetings, and social engagements, but what about the broken sense of time in relationships and important personal work. Do I want kids just like me?
Resolving procrastination begins with self-understanding and self-acceptance. “Make friends with the monkey,” my son said, “be a team.”
OK, how? I think to myself.