There are many ways to beat procrastination, and I have dealt with quite a few in my books and on this blog. Here’s one which I don’t think I have written about before.
One way to get yourself moving on a task you don’t want to do is to use it as an avoidance activity for a task you are trying to avoid even more!
So for instance let’s see what happens if we have a hard task to do and several easy tasks. Our task list will look like this:
Easy Task 1
Easy Task 2
Easy Task 3
If we only have time to complete three out of the four tasks, there’s no prizes for guessing which task will get left undone!
But what happens if our task list looks like this?
Incredibly Hard Task
Extremely Hard Task
Very Hard Task
Which task is going to get done first? Yes, suddenly the Hard Task seems relatively easy and becomes the most attractive. The difficulty of a task is relative to the difficulty of the other tasks one has to do.
We can take advantage of this to process our to do list. The simplest technique is to start at the top of the list and do either the first item or the next item. We are presenting ourselves with two items, and chosing one. One will appear to be easier relative to the other, so we will do that one. Once we’ve done that item, we move on to the next item and compare it in the same way with the following item. Again, we make a choice between the two items and do the one we prefer. We carry on in the same way to the end of the list.
Once we’ve reached the end of the list we go through it again. This time of course the items are the ones we rejected the first time so they are more difficult than on the first pass. However we continue to compare one item with the next item, and do the easier. We are constantly doing the easier or more attractive of two items.
The mental effect of doing it this way is that we fool ourselves into thinking that we are always doing the easy item. They may in absolute terms be getting more difficult, but relatively they are the easy ones.
This technique is designed for use with an open list to which you are adding new items as you go along. There is of course no need to use it with a closed list because you can simply do the easiest items first anyway.