Getting Tasks Done Before They Get On A List?

In previous diary entries, ‘lists’ have been a prominent topic in its relationship to procrastination. They tended to evaluate ‘lists’ negatively, as they seem to work against, instead of aiding, efficiency and productivity.

So far, many entries, and writing seem to emphasize a lot of details concerning experiences which are frustrating, though humorous, and methods that are not working. In an attempt to find some balance, and also give those visitors looking for ideas to overcome procrastination, I decided to reference another site/blog that gives some good tips.

The site is at (Please copy and paste into another browser window because direct linking to this blog slowed down our site) and is titled: “Seven measures of productivity tips and tools.” You can look in the April 2008 archives (April 21) to find the post.

Harvey Schachter gives some concise, easy to understand points, that are optimistic in tone and encouraging to put into action. Having just come across the article earlier this week, I haven’t had a chance to put it into action much. However, already, I found one tip particular useful in attacking my initial procrastination.

It concerns acting right away especially on tasks that can be accomplished in under 5 minutes. That means these tasks I shouldn’t even let get to my official ‘to-do’ lists. It sounds simple, not radical, but effective in reducing my lists. Because they don’t make to any list, I don’t have to think about it, order, or debate it – they just get done before my thoughts start to interfere. Before long, after knocking off many of these mini-tasks, they start to add up, and I realize I already got some chunks accomplished before even getting to a list.

On a emotional, and psychological level, it provides a boost. The feeling is similar to having a productive warm up prior to a workout. The circulation is going, the mood is elevated, and the focus is right there. After a good warm up, it’s easier to get going on bigger and more time consuming items on a list or scheduler.

Before I get too excited at this slight hint of progress, Mr. Schachter warns that there should be a time limit on these mini-tasks that you do right away. I certainly can understand why as it’s quite easy to loose track of time and spend almost half the day on email!

To continue with the workout analogy, the main thing I’ve improved since reading the article is that instead of using my warm up time to plan all the intricate exercises in my main workout, I actually use the warm up time to directly warm up and do exercises that prepare me for the main workout.

Overall, I guess it’s a strange way to look at it, but I’m trying to do all I can to prevent tasks from even making it to my ‘to-do’ lists, by finishing them so I don’t have to write it down and remember to do it later. Of course this won’t always work, but this kind of reverse psychology results in some more explosiveness during the mornings.




Filed under Procrastinator Diaries (Pat)

5 responses to “Getting Tasks Done Before They Get On A List?

  1. Yeah, people have a tendency to use lists as a form of self-torture, when all they really are is a tool, a servant to help you accomplish what you value. There are probably quite a few items on most people’s to-do lists which they shouldn’t bother with today, tomorrow, perhaps not ever.

    It’s amazing how we both indulge and punish ourselves unreasonably.

    But I understand all the inclinations: the tendency to put off the tasks, the need to feel busy/productive while also somehow avoiding the difficult (we place so much of our value on our productivity, sadly), and the desire to indulge ourselves that is mixed with guilt for doing “nothing”. But isn’t that why we work so hard? So we can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor a bit before we plunge into hard work yet again?

    I’ve written a book about this – it’s called “Productive Procrastination – Make it Work For You, Not Against You” It’s available at

    Wishing you optimal procrastivity,

  2. Thanks for taking time to visit this blog. Certainly hearing from someone who wrote a book on this topic will give us all a boost! I’ll definitely have to take a look at your book as we’re interested in exploring procrastination from all angles.

    This blog is into its second week now and as it builds, more sources will be added into the ‘Further Reading’ section relating to this topic. If you have other good recommendations for good reads, keep passing them along.

    Great points about lists. Looking at my desk today, I notice some items on a list are ones I would never get to this week, so why write it on a sheet with tasks that take a minute? Perhaps it’s also to reassure myself a bit in that if it’s written down somewhere, I tend to think less about it. Maybe. The battle goes on. Or maybe borrowing from your perspective, it doesn’t always have to be a teeth grinding battle.

    I surely must visit your site and learn. Thanks and hope you come back often to share your experiences.


  3. Great thoughts, Pat. About to-do items, I suggest that instead of making a list, enter them directly in your calendar for a specific date and time slot. You’re more likely to follow through, at least if you follow a calendar/diary at all; just writing them into your schedule makes you more committed.

    Of course, these items have to be worthwhile enough to spend your precious time on – they have to fit your values enough to be entered in the first place.

    This fits not only the inspirational goals, but also the mundane, every day ones. Yes, if you value your appearance and your dental health, you’re much more likely to floss. If you don’t, don’t make yourself wrong about it, just accept that you haven’t made that a high enough value to make the effort.

    Don’t bash yourself, just accept that this is the decision you’ve made today. It doesn’t mean that’s the same decision you’ll make tomorrow. Actually, not making yourself wrong for your decisions (and they are all decisions, even if we “decide not to decide” or think we’re ignoring or abdicating responsibility) is ironically more likely to net you a positive behavior change than making yourself feel guilty and ashamed for making decisions that you’re less happy with.

    Enough for this day…enjoy, and be at peace with yourselves,

  4. Thanks again Keru for your words of wisdom. I especially like your emphasis on the ‘decision’ aspect, in that there’s nothing wrong with making a decisive, conscious effort to put something off or to knock it down in priority level.

    This kind of logic reminds me of an expression I heard somewhere that I really like: “Even if you do not believe in any philosophy, that’s a philosophy in itself.”

    I guess the same can be applied to politics or a host of other subjects. In our case, even if put something off or delay, that is something we chose to do. I guess the problem comes when we prefer not to delay, but choose to procrastinate regardless.


  5. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Baseness!!!

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