We’ve all got at least one.
Most of us have a whole list smashing around in our heads, possibly not even written anywhere. They hang there like laundry on a line in a slight drizzle, threatening to never quite dry and thus hang there forever.
You know what I’m talking about. Not the to-do’s that are written down and checked off. Not the dozens upon dozens of items we do get done everyday and without even thinking. I’m talking about the important stuff. The items that haven’t become so urgent that if you don’t take care of it now, you’ll see the impact. But you feel the impact. It’s the item that you keep wanting to get to but other more urgent things always seem to take your attention.
When I was but a wee little business owner, I hadn’t yet registered my company for GST. I was going to do that on Monday. This went on for a long long time. It would be in the back of my mind, I’d know it was important, but Monday was paper work day, so I’d put it off until Monday. Of course there was a lot of other paper work to attend to when Monday rolled around. As it turns out, this is really important. But when you’re 19 and coming to terms with the enormous responsibility you just took on opening a business, that simple task seems like too much to handle.
Of course, two years and $20,000 GST bill you find yourself paying out of pocked is enough to remind anyone that getting those important and daunting tasks done is not only what will move your business forward, but will bring an unimaginable amount of peace of mind.
What are you putting off and why?
Why we put off a particular item: Missing information, Lacking skill, Emotional disturbance or Shiny ball syndrome.
Missing information: In a culture obsessed with knowledge, confronting that we don’t know something can be painful. Often we don’t know where to start. You’ll know that something needs to get done, that you want a particular result, but you need more information in order to do this. Information is more accessible to us than ever before and yet getting the info we need to get the task done remains a challenge. This is because the task goes from one item, to possibly multiple items since we just don’t know how long it will take to get the information. The blindness we feel about the missing info can cause a sense of overwhelm.
The solution: Break down the task into items for gathering the info needed as opposed to getting the task done. There may be a few steps. Pledge to do one a day. Often our impulse is to do it all and the hugeness of it leads us to do nothing.
Lacking Skill: This one is huge. Something needs to be done and we don’t know how to do it and acquiring more information isn’t going to do it. We actually need to learn a new skill and thus nothing happens. I see this all the time when it comes to Entrepreneurs managing the finances of their companies. Yes, a bit of information would help, but learning skills, expanding capabilities in a new area is often what’s called for. What makes this reason for putting something off so popular is that learning new skills takes time and energy and if the skill is in an area you’re actually not interested in, you’ll be hard pressed to make it happen.
The Solution: Hire someone. Really. We think we should be able to do it all. If there’s something that needs doing that is outside of your area of expertise and interest, hire someone else to do it for you. Alternatively, get trained and get support. If you decide that you will do it on your own, get a buddy or a mentor to support you through acquiring these new skills. Going at it alone when you’re not interested in doing it but feel you have to will make it excruciating.
Emotional disturbance: Most usually fear or anxiety but can be others as well. In the case of registering for GST, the longer I put it off, the more trouble I knew I’d get into and the more money I would likely owe. Our emotions guide most of our decisions, despite how rational we like to tell ourselves we are. If we are afraid of how something will turn out, we’re likely to have a harder time doing it. Often we’re afraid of doing something wrong or being rejected or looking like an idiot. Whenever we think of this task, we’ll likely get a rush through our solar-plexus, telling us that what we want to do is not safe and we’ll find something else to put our attention on.
The Solution: Expand your ability to be with challenging emotions. Sit and feel the feeling. You want to write that e-mail or make that phone call to that hot new lead? But whenever you think about it, you barf a little? Sit and breathe and feel the sensations moving through you. What happens is when uncomfortable feelings arise, we will unconsciously and automatically find a way to move out of these feelings. Being able to sit with and fully feel them while getting to know that they are not constant and won’t destroy us will support us in taking action in the face of them.
Shiny Ball Syndrome: Other more urgent tasks keep coming up. If this is happening, one of the above reasons for putting of the task is likely happening as well. But this is all too common. When we have something that is important, but not totally urgent, there will always be items that seem more urgent that need attention. For me the urgent items tend to be requests from others. I will put off doing stuff that’s important to me that is just for me in order to attend to the needs of others.
The Solution: Pick one thing to get done today. Just one. Not the whole bloody list of stuff you’ve been putting off, but one item. Have it be something you can get done in 45 minutes or less. If it takes longer than that, then break it down. DO THIS ITEM FIRST. Before you check your e-mail, before you answer your phone. The shiny, urgent items will be there and you will get them done. How do I know? Because you always do right? Stop telling yourself that if you get the urgent things off your plate that you’ll feel less stressed and able to tackle the item you’ve been putting off. Pick one item and do it.
Get R done.