Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

Breaking ToDos into smaller chunks

Just a quick post as I'm conscious I want to procrastinate [Normy stops to put timer on, just in case!] but I don't want to lose this thought.

I've always had a Big List that I work from, but just lately I've been grouping the ToDos into groups of three. My Big List is organised using the Covey categories Urgent/Important; Urgent/Not-important (not got any); Not-Urgent/Important (this is where most of my Fun things are); and Not-Urgent/Not-Important (none - binned them). So I'm nibbling through the list mostly top to bottom, focusing on the ToDos in the following way: a 'Stinky Thing', a 'Neutral Thing', and a 'Fun Thing'. The Stinkies are either categorised as such because I either just don't like the task but need to do it to reach a goal I ~do~ want, or because they are oppressive in some way - they make my heart sink. The Neutrals again help me towards my goals, but I don't have strong feelings about them either way. The Fun Things make my heart sing, and feel like a reward for doing the other jobs. They also give me a break, and allow me to gather resources and energy for the next three. It's working well.

I've noticed a couple of things:

*Only having three things in front of me stops me feeling overwhelmed. My Big List has literally thousands of things on it (gets it off my mind so I don't forget - a relief in itself), and I decide what from that list I'd like to focus on just for today. Then from the today list I just choose the top three (based on a combination of importance and stinkiness - they often seem to go together).

*Things change category. I wasn't expecting this. Things that were Neutral yesterday that I didn't get to, I really want to do today, so they've moved into the Fun category. Now that the Stinkiest, most urgent and important things are done, the other important things are looking far less Stinky. This means my entire list is looking a whole lot more pleasant, not only because I'm getting rid of the 'worst' things first (expected), but because what's left is having less of a negative emotional reaction (a pleasant surprise!).

I'd be interested to hear of other's little experiments and share some more ideas. Beepers gone - time to go shopping! (That's still pretty Stinky, LOL!) ;)

GTD and short lists

I use David Allen's "Getting Things Done" method of workflow management, and one of the basic tenets of GTD is to break things down to the very next physical action that could be done to move them forward. Instead of having "Redesign Web Site" on my list, I might have "Photoshop new header image" or something else focused like that.

Even so, keeping too many projects "active" at once can lead to lots of actions stacking up on lists. This is what happened to me, and what drove me to finally focus on procrastination.

In one of my GTD weekly reviews recently, I went through my project list and got agressive about moving items to "Someday/Maybe" -- admitting that they weren't going to get done soon. This also had the happy effect of giving me permission to stop worrying about them and take their actions off my list.

Keeping a shorter list has made it easier for me to make decisions about what to do, which has helped me to get started on items and actually get things done.



I'm quite ruthless about maintaining my S/M list. If I've not done an action on a project for a while it's obvious I'm not doing it now, so I make a decision to either do it or admit it's a 'Someday' thing. Once the decision's made either way, it's a weight off my mind. The thing about DA, though is I still see the whole list rather than just the next three (or four, or whatever's manageable at the time).

DA also doesn't make explicit how to handle the 'emotional weight' of the tasks. He ~does~ talk about picking off some of the easier ones if you need a break from the difficult ones, but this assumes that we all have the discipline to actually do the difficult ones first, and to not time-binge (either on the ones we enjoy or the ones we don't). This is what I'm just learning now, so hopefully it will help me DA system run even more smoothly.

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GTD is not a motivational system

I've become fond of saying that GTD is not a motivational system, for just the reasons you mention. Some of us aren't able to look at individual actions without thinking of the whole project, and sometimes that whole project is just too heavy to want to tackle.

Making a smaller list, either through moving stuff to Someday/Maybe or through pre-selecting actions to do in a day, has made it easier for me to actually get some things done.


GTD and Motivation

I agree it's not intended to be motivational, but (after getting My Life in order generally with FlyLady) it was GTD that made me think I could actually ~do~ something positive about my procrastination problem. I ~was~ getting things done, and that in itself is motivational. However, I was lacking some of the steps of how to get from one point to the next which is implicit in the system. I may have known about them intellectually, but now I'm beginning to discover them.

I knew and already pratised the 'next action' thing - it's breaking it down into things I don't like, am neutral about, and do like, that is making the difference now. I could try doing Hard, Medium, Easy someday, if I find it starts wearing thin (I seem to need to rotate my little techniques or they go stale and don't work any more). As it is, I'm getting my rewards throughout the day, and it buoys me up ready for another onslaught of something I donwanna!

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I need to do that, too.

I need to make better use of my Someday/Maybe list. Too many of those things are on my Active to-do list, and that's not good. Thanks for reminding me of this.