There's a difference between being always busy and having a lot to do and not enough time to do it in. You probably know at least one person at work who seems to always be stressed out and busy, but you know they don't have as much on their plate as other people do. If that person is you, or you're stressed out because you're having trouble managing your to-dos, the problem may be simple: procrastination.
Over at GTD blog Next Action Associates, they point out the many ways that procrastination can work its way into our day and convince us that we're actually busy and active when we're wasting time in reality:
Here's the thing: when we're busy we can easily trick ourselves into thinking that all of that activity means that we're not procrastinating. We're busy, sure, but we're not focused on the things that should really have our attention. If someone were to tap us on the shoulder and say, "that thing you're doing, is that the best use of your attention right now?" we would hesitate to agree.
We're busy procrastinating.
It's a bit of a backhanded suggestion, but the impact of being "busy" doing all the wrong things instead of focusing on the things that are most important or really need our attention is clear: we work longer hours, and our health and relationships suffer. We've talked about how to say "no" without wrecking your career, how to say "no" without being a jerk about it, and even how to prioritise when everything is important and nothing can come off your plate. Those are the keys to making sure you're working on the right things in the right order.
Next Action Associates offers up another tip:
Ask yourself: what are the odds that that e-mail at the top of your inbox is the best thing to focus on next? If not and you choose to deal with it anyway, then you're being driven by "latest and loudest," letting your channels dictate your priorities.
Or maybe your procrastination looks like this: you're snacking on quick wins. This is what I quite often see when people say they're "cleaning up email." They're scrolling down into the older strata of their inbox, looking for things that can be handled quickly, ideally without much thought or energy. But in doing that I'll often see them scroll right past something that's strategic, critical even. But it's too big, or too complex. So it doesn't get any attention.
If you're struggling with procrastination, then what's to be done? To get it under control, we need to make getting moving on the right things as attractive and friction-free as possible.
All of this is a double-edged sword though -- the quest to be productive should be focused around giving you more time to do the things you want to do and optimising the things you have to do, not just getting you to stop procrastinating. Remember, procrastination can be essential to your health, and taking breaks helps you do more and stay creative. Hit the link below for more tips.