Categories | Getting Things Done | GTD Toolbox | Implementation | Inspiration
Procrastination. I hear about it all the time. My clients confide in me, “I am procrastinating on sending in the contract/mailing the gift/fixing the appliance/etc.” You name it, I’ve heard it. And just between us, I used to think I was the ultimate procrastinator.
Then I heard David Allen say that creative, bright and sensitive people procrastinate the most. I perked up and thought to myself, “Hey, that’s me, smart and imaginative! How did he know? And how very kind of him to describe us (people who procrastinate) that way.”
The GTD methodology resolves procrastination. An example happened to me many years ago. The engine light flashed on in my car. My first thought was, “This is going to cost me thousands of dollars and that’s not in my budget.” I didn’t want to think past the doom and gloom of how much it was going to cost. Also, the idea of getting my car fixed meant figuring out so many other logistics: Do I take it to the Subaru dealer or my own mechanic? How do I coordinate carpooling for my family and myself? The general inconvenience and the unknown overwhelmed me. Every time I got in the car the engine light went on and triggered all those thoughts in my head. For a couple of seconds I would feel the anxiety, but then I distracted myself with something else and forgot about it.
Three months later, after seeing the engine light go on yet again, I thought to myself, “OK, this is ridiculous. I need to practice what I preach.” I took out some paper and asked myself what I would like the SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME to be. Just like the engine light went on in my car, a light went on in my head. I wrote down: R&D engine light in car. Then I asked myself, “What’s the NEXT ACTION to get there?” So I wrote down: Call the car dealership and ask them about the engine light. I noticed that even though I hadn’t made the call and didn’t know what the outcome of that call would be, I felt so much better. I took a moment to reflect on why suddenly I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and stressed about my engine light.
I realized that the two things I did that caused me to procrastinate were:
1) I had a negative definition of the outcome (too much money that I didn’t have in my budget).
2) I focused on the complexity involved in getting it fixed, which overwhelmed me, so I did nothing.
The two things I did to get it moving were:
1) I changed the negative definition of the outcome to a positive definition that motivated me. (R&D engine light in car.)
2) I clarified and defined the next action that simplified what I needed to do so I could relax about the complexity around it. (Call dealer about engine light in car.)
All this required was a few minutes of focused thinking. Within two weeks my engine light was handled, costing a whole lot less than what I had imagined. Now, this is just one small example from my life. But it has had an enormous impact on me because it is magnified by the professional and personal decisions, possibilities and responsibilities that come my way each day. It makes sense that this methodology can handle any amount of volume or intensity.
What can you unstick by simply asking, “What’s my desired outcome?” And then asking, “What’s the next action?”
Meg Edwards is a Senior Coach with the David Allen Company. You can read more articles like this in Coaches’ Connection on GTD Connect.