If I could go back and teach my younger self one thing, it would be that procrastination sucks.
Don’t get me wrong—I knew I was making myself miserable by putting off what I needed to do so I could goof off. It seemed like every Christmas vacation, some teacher would give us homework. And since we had two weeks of nothing else to do, it was always something big. Something hard. Something that couldn’t compete with four inches of snow.
I just never realized what I was missing out on by not getting it out of the way as soon as I could.
Every day was overshadowed by the fact that I had homework looming. Sledding down a hill with patches of dirt showing through the worn snow, movie nights with microwave popcorn and a borrowed Blockbuster card, marathon adventures of Shadowrun and Vampire: The Masquerade, family dinners on grandma’s fine china, opening presents wearing those socks with treads on the soles… it was all accompanied by one pervasive thought: I hadn’t even started yet.
I should have been working at it a little each day, scheduling time for it before heading off to play. Or even better, front-load it all into the first two days, then have the rest of the break to enjoy myself. I assume my parents tried to tell me this. My kids will probably listen as well as I did.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that I still procastinate, but I do it differently. It’s much more subtle now. I recently launched a Facebook page. I’d been sitting on it for a couple months, fiddling with it, wanting it to be perfect. That endless pursuit of perfection is a form of procrastination. I finally declared it good enough for now and published it. I can still tweak it, but now I’ll have feedback.
(I also just fled into Quadrant 3 for a minute to post a quote to Facebook instead of writing. Important, sure, let’s go with that. But not urgent. Quadrants 3 and 4 are ways of procrastinating the Quadrant 1 and 2 activities that we need to focus on.)
Personal productivity is about doing what you have to quickly and effectively so you can do more of what you love. Identify the most important things you can do today (or tomorrow). Schedule them. Work at them until they’re done. You may not get everything done today, but you can still go to bed knowing that you were focused on the most important things you could have done. That brings peace, too.
Remember to plan for down time, too. Fun time. Time to renew yourself and enjoy life. You’ll be able to enjoy your leisure time without the guilt if you’ve gotten your homework done, or at least have a scheduled plan for it.