When you see the word procrastination what do you think of?

  • Laziness?
  • Poor work ethic?
  • Lack of care?

OmniFocus Completed

Those things can be true — but let’s face it — the fact that we’re skimming an article like this this is a form of “care” and therefore a pretty good sign those things are mostly untrue of us. What I believe happens more often than not is that our brain gets in the way. I’ll give you a quick example of something I’ve been neglecting lately, my expense report.

That seems like such an easy task. It’s a task that benefits me directly, with money! Why on earth have I not finished my last expense report? I’ve seen a reminder in my trusted system that tells me “do expense report today”. The issue is “do expense report today” — while seemingly actionable — is not. My brain knows that there are more steps to that task that I haven’t defined; It’s actually a project. Maybe I know I need to print off receipts, but I have no idea where I put them. If I don’t know what the next well defined physical action is to achieve the goal of a submitted expense report, my brain provides resistance to working on it. Let’s fix this.

The project “Complete Expense Report” has several physical action steps that might look like this:

  • Find receipt from OfficeMax inbox purchase
  • Plot mileage from the office to our recent vendor meet-up
  • Find last months mileage email on my Mac to find current reimbursement rate
  • Calculate mileage owed and enter into expense report spreadsheet
  • Print cell phone receipt for on call reimbursement
  • Enter data for printed receipts into expense report spreadsheet
  • Print expense report spreadsheet
  • Attach receipts to expense report spreadsheet
  • Sign expense report and turn in to my boss

That sounds really fancy and unnecessary Chad. Oh really? How many nagging things do you have on a list or floating in your head that you feel bad about because you haven’t done anything about them yet?

Here’s my challenge to you: over the next week find one thing you’ve been putting off that you feel is important and figure out what the first or next physical action is that is required to get you closer to completion. If you do this for even one item on your todo list that isn’t getting done, I promise you’ll make more progress than just ocassionally thinking about it or feeling bad that it isn’t done yet. In fact, it looks like I’m all set with a set of super simple yet very well defined tasks that will lead me to finally get my latest expense report finished.