Elizabeth: The Jar of Life

Justine talked about procrastination in one of her recent posts.  That’s a topic that always resonates with me since procrastination is a skill that I have honed over the years.  Really, if procrastination was an Olympic sport, I’d totally be a multi-gold meadalist.  I’ve posted before about my efforts to combat my natural procrastination tendencies, but I think I’ve learned to work within my existing style more than I’ve actually changed.

 “I’m not procrastinating; I’m prioritizing the most appealing tasks first.” ~ Me

Periodically, however, I take a step back, look at my To Do list, which is only exceeded in length and breadth by my To Be Read list, and think, “I should make some changes.”

Coincidentaly, when that thought reared its ugly head the other day, I was right in the middle of a leadership training program at work where we were working on a “priorities” module.  While priorities and procrastination are two different things, it made sense to me that prioritizing certain tasks could lead to procrastinating about others.

The video that really got me to thinking is the one I’ve included below.  It’s only a little over 2 minutes and provides a really good visual about what happens when you proioritize your big, long-term, personally relevant tasks first, and then add in the other, smaller tasks, when resources permit.  It then provides an even better visual about what happens when you do it the other way round.

At Ye Olde Day Jobbe, we constantly spend a vast amount of time focusing our efforts and resources on the “little things”, even while insisting we’re really working on the bigger, important issues (spoiler alert:  no, no we’re not).

At not-work I have fallen into that same trap.  After a long day with limited bandwidth and energy left, it can be easy to focus on small tasks that can be quickly done, providing at least some sense of accomplishment.  But lots of those little tasks are things that need to be done again and again and again.  A clean kitchen today is very likely going to be dirty tomorrow and need cleaning again.

Spending that same amount of time on a big-old-goal, say . . . I don’t know . .. “writing a book” maybe . . .could result in being several hundred words closer to the goal of typing “The End.”

But those small, quick wins can be addictive.  Crossing half-a dozen little tasks off the list makes it feel like something has actually been done, whereas looking at a tiny increase in the words-written counter may not.

But, as I said above, I’m thinking it’s time to make some changes.

First up is deciding exactly what are those big old goals that I want to accomplish.  It has been several years since I’ve really thought about that and now is probably a good time to re-evaluate.   I’m pretty sure that the majority of those things that have been sitting on my To Do list are there because they have nothing at all to do with my true priorities.

We’ll see.

So, is your Jar of LIfe full of big goals with a sprinkling of other things or, like me, are the plethora of little tasks getting in the way?

2 thoughts on “Elizabeth: The Jar of Life

  1. Although I sometimes suspect I was born without a procrastination gene–my bias for action leads me to leap head-first into tasks I’m really not ready to take on–the truth is, I’m as good as anyone at letting urgent but not critical tasks absorb all my time.

    As you say, if I’d let some repetitive tasks around the house wait, I’d get a lot more words on media, but I find living in a clean house with pretty flowers outside so soothing I doubt if I’ll change.

    • I too find living in a clean house with pretty flowers outside to be soothing but I have found, over time, that I don’t need to hold myself to quite such a high standard of perfection as I may have attempted early on.

      I think it helped when my son was little and some wise person asked, “what do you think he’ll remember most when he’s grown – that there were never dirty dishes in the sink or the time that you spend together doing XXX?”

      Your bias for action seems like a nice counterpart for my lets-wait-and-see-if-this-task-will-go-away-on-its-own bias. I have found that, if something is really important to me, I’ll find the time and the inclination to do it. I just need to get better at focusing on those tasks and not getting distracted by the shiny, quick-to-do, little tasks that clog up my To Do list.

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