Procrastination was once something I thought of as a personal failing. That I somehow lacked the willpower and energy of those Type A personalities who achieved goal after goal as they strove for productivity mastery. Luckily, it turns out, that I was very wrong.
As I progressed through my career as a Management Accountant I noticed that some days my procrastination was crippling while other days I was incredibly productive. In fact, my quest for personal productivity and self-improvement formed the basis of the Mastery Programs that I have assembled for my consulting business. One of the most powerful tools I adopted was designed to battle my pervasive procrastination and has the simple moniker of the To Do Today List.
The world has changed.
We are wealthier, healthier (for now), and better educated than any other period in human history. We can hop a plane to travel to nearly any part of the planet and we have access to the sum of all human knowledge at our finger tips and on our phones. At some point soon I’m sure even the sky won’t be the limit as space tourism grows. We have endless options for what we can spend our valuable money and priceless time on.
And when we have too many options we can freeze.
The human brain is an amazing device that uses a lot of energy for everything that it does, including decision making. Every decision we make takes a little bit of energy from the brain and when it runs out then the autopilot will take over with whatever habits you’ve built up over your lifetime. So every decision you have to make drains your mental battery.
Did I mention that we live in a world of endless opportunities and choices to decide between?
So, how do we fight this decision paralysis and procrastination?
The short answer is limit your number of choices.
STEP ONE: Prepare your To Do Today List the night before
At the end of your workday, before you shut down your computer and run for the car spend 5 minutes following these steps.
Get a sheet of paper and draw three circles on it for your top three tasks for the day with some space for notes at the bottom. Alternately you can download my To Do Today pdf here. Get whatever you are currently using as a task or to-do list now and have it handy.
STEP TWO: Find the Frog
Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog recommends that the very first thing you do in a day should be the biggest, hardest, and most important task you need to accomplish. As Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen for the rest of the day.”
So, go ahead and look through that to-do list and find a frog, something that you’ve been putting off, feeling bad about, or generally been struggling with. Take this task and put it in the first circle. Write a time for early in the morning tomorrow that you are going to work on this. Commit to an hour if you can.
STEP THREE: Identify two more important things
Once you’ve identified your hardest item, choose two more actions from your task list that are important to get done tomorrow. Write tentative times next to each of them with a lot of time in between. You know you are going to get derailed and interrupted.
STEP FOUR: Write down other notes
If you have any appointments, or other must-do tasks that didn’t make the top three scribble them down on the page as well.
Example of To Do Today
Now you have a completed To Do Today list (well, technically it is a To Do Tomorrow list at this point but why quibble?). By limiting the number of options for you to choose from, you will reduce the decision paralysis and inevitable procrastination that comes along with it.
I know it seems too simple but this really does help destroy procrastination. While some people, myself included, also have procrastination due to anxiety and fear, getting rid of decision paralysis can go a long way to improving our situation. In fact, I found it to be the single biggest help for combatting my procrastination and that’s why I chose it as my first blog post!
So, go get a To Do Today list right now.
Find your frog and get things done tomorrow!
Then come back here and tell us if it is worked.
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