Productivity: The Power of Planning and Review
(Written on Sunday October 14th)
This morning I woke up early and enjoyed the Sunday treat of a guilt-free read in bed. What added to the experience was the fact that it was raining hard and there is little in life that will make a person feel so warm and content. This, of course, only lasted for about 20 minutes when the guilt began to set in. As my brain started to come back online, I remembered, with a kind of quiet dread, that there was something to do. I had made a plan.
The plan was to write for thirty minutes. I had failed on the plan yesterday because I was with my son and had made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to waste any of our time together (compulsive checking of YouTube views aside).
That decision was clearly bullshit, as taking half an hour to write wouldn’t have impacted the day at all, but there is never much of an excuse needed to send the gears of procrastination clunking into action. And so I realised something: I was actually using my child as an excuse not to write. For thirty minutes!!
It was a form of procrastination as fascinating as it was ridiculous. I was like a teenager pulling a sickie, coming up with the most believable and worthy excuse for not handing in my homework. The only difference was that the excuse was given to me…by myself, and, depressingly, that self believed it.
As important as acknowledging when it’s happening is the working out what we can do to avoid such procrastination having the severest of consequences. If not kept in check, this is the kind of behaviour that can result in the abandonment of a project, the quitting of every journey we take to fulfil our dreams and the getting to the end of it all with nothing but a big old bag of regret.
So the plan - to write - hadn’t changed much from yesterday but today it was carried out, which is why I am writing (and you are reading) this post - all the more impressive when you know I’ve also been to IKEA, which comes close to my idea of hell (but we got a chair).
And the only reason today was any different?
Because I monitored, reviewed and then made a more specific plan.
Continually monitoring and being aware of our responses is the first step to behaviour change. Procrastination had led to my feeling tired and negative - a small thing you might think wouldn’t need any intervention. But to sit with this and consciously acknowledge such feelings, goes a long way towards creating behaviours that avoid such negative emotions in the future (and ultimately stem those larger feelings of regret and failure).
I then reviewed, in a journal, the entire day and realised how much time I had wasted, not with earned rest, but with lethargic inactivity. I had indeed made a plan but there were no specifics. I dread writing, meaning that I’m open to procrastination, which at the time, I’m convinced isn’t procrastination at all. Had I not reviewed, all this information would have remained a brief passing thought. The review process brought it all into consciousness, and therefore helped created a plan of action.
Yes, I did plan to write on both days. The only reason I did it on Sunday, and not Saturday, was because I had reviewed, course-corrected and made a more specific plan. On Saturday, I planned to write, but on Sunday I planned to write for thirty minutes at 9.00 am. This time slot, in the morning, made me get straight to it and ‘eat that frog’ so to speak.
There is nothing new for me here, as I teach these ideas and provide models to aid their implementation. But even with this knowledge and these tools, it’s still easy, for many of us to become derailed. I think we underestimate how difficult it can be to keep at bay those voices that tell us to veer away from our best-laid plans.
If like me, you are especially vulnerable to procrastination, and your work is essential to your happiness, I suggest trying this and letting me know how you get on.
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Steve Faulkner provides dynamic, engaging and enjoyable leadership training programmes that actually work.