Procrastination vs. Postponement and Tracking Our To-Dos – DBR 020

I wanted to talk about procrastination…
I think that we have a fair amount of confusion about procrastination. One of the clear points I want to make is that procrastination is not some moral failing. It’s not some example of ‘lack of discipline’. I believe, in almost all cases, it’s actually a problem with our systems and I’ll talk about what I mean by that.
And then we’ll talk directly about things that you feel get procrastinated in your world. We’ll talk about a couple of potential causes and also solutions.
But I realized that procrastination is merely one way that things get ‘hung up’ in our system or lives. Perfectionism is another. Finally, we think about forgetting that we postponed something. We’ll deal with all of this, get it in its proper order and make you more productive as you overcome the challenges and take advantage of the benefits.
So how do we move things through our list in the grander scheme of things? And how do we avoid things getting hung up in our ‘to-do list’ cycle? How do we keep things from getting plugged up and get lost, so that things move on through it, as compared to this one thing that just sits there and sits there and never manages to move through the system. So that’s what we’ll talk about today.
Perfectionism is also a problem for things moving through our system. Under perfectionism, we delay the delivery of work. We’ll talk about that and how to deal with it.
One primary problem: We’re typically ignoring the lion’s share of what we need to be tracking in our system(s) .
The problem – more to do than can get done
  • Human beings have a large number of things they want to do
  • But we can only do one thing at a time
  • And each thing takes time, so it’s a while until we can get to the next thing we want to do
  • Therefore, there is always stuff we want to do that we’re not doing now (infinite minus finite equals infinite)
Implications – the majority of our stuff is ‘not to do (now)’ but we don’t track that well
  • People tell you to focus on X things, big rocks, etc.
  • That’s not unusual or earth-shattering, but something else is – the vast majority of to-dos are currently being postponed
  • Not recognizing this fact is where our systems fail us
  • How do we deal with the things we’re not going to do today? These represent the overwhelming majority of our stuff
Procrastination vs. postponement
  • What does this have to do with procrastination – define procrastination as ‘unintentional postponement’
  • Contrast postponement – ‘a ton minus one’ things have to be postponed
  • Postponement is intentional and absolutely required
  • In fact, almost everything gets postponed at some point
  • Postponement is always a reasonable approach
  • What drives the choice not to do it now
  • #1 – priority
  • #2 – context
  • Only two choices if context doesn’t appear
  • Good postponement includes planning
  • Most people don’t engage in that planning because they don’t have the right tool/system
  • The tool/system needs to track that we postponed it – otherwise, we’ll forget about it
  • It’s not surprising that we’re making postponement decisions Postponing is not equal to procrastination.
  • Define procrastination
  • Why do we procrastinate #1 – thinking about our feelings
  • Back to feelings
  • Why do we procrastinate #2 – we don’t know what we’re doing
  • Combat this by making tasks smaller
  • Why do we procrastinate #3 – we can’t or don’t want to create the correct context
  • Combat this by postponing or recognizing that it might just be an excuse
What to do about it (good postponing)
  • Things that you’re not doing have a way of lodging themselves in your brain – it needs to trust your system
  • So those three things above really mean that your tool has to be better
  • Attention compass is designed this way – to prompt you to postpone well
  • System = tool to store personal Information
Describing one of the tools
  • The single purpose tool is the tickler file
  • Define tickler (or suspension) based on 43 folders
  • How it works and how it’s used
  • We use it to say “I’m not going to think about this task today” but I’m also not going to lose it
  • Tracking the postponement helps keep us from procrastination and from forgetting It’s a great planning tool
  • Get comfortable postponing and set up systems to do it well
  • Recognize when you’re procrastinating and break down those tasks – find something in there that fits your current context and do it
  • Challenge your perfectionism
  • Implement a tool to track the 99+% of your tasks that get postponed
This will help you understand what postponement is and the fact that it is necessary by the situation(s) we find ourselves in. Postponing and procrastinating are two very different ideas and shouldn’t ever be confused. We need to fight any procrastination (and perfectionism) that creep into our workflow.
Attention Compass is designed to help us manage postponement decisions very well. I suggest you get started with your implementation. Failing that, you need to implement a tickler file. Here’s the link (I mentioned in the episode) for instructions on creating a tickler file, and ways to create it electronically:
You’ll have more calm clarity if you implement a tool to track postponement.
Do Busy right.