Hey friends,

Do you ever find yourself offering a friend some really great advice, but then completely fail to take notice of it yourself? I’m totally guilty of this. So, here’s some of my own advice from a previous issue that I definitely needed to take notice of this week! 

In Getting Things Done, David Allen teaches us a simple 5-step system for… getting things done. It goes: (1) Capture, (2) Clarify, (3) Organise, (4) Reflect, (5) Engage.

This week I began to really appreciate that the secret to beating procrastination lies in the second step – Clarify.

Often, when we’re repeatedly procrastinating from doing something, it’s because we don’t have enough clarity about the thing.

We might write “Physiology Revision” or “Website Redesign” on our to-do list. But when it comes to sitting down to work, we see the list, and our brain says Nope!

It’s saying ‘nope’ because there’s just not enough clarity. What the hell does ‘Physiology Revision’ mean? We’re unlikely to revise the entirety of the field in one sitting, but we write it on our todo lists as if we’re going to.

And when we see things like ‘Website Redesign’, our brain conjures up the mountain of work that would involve, and we continue to procrastinate from it.

David Allen’s excellent advice is that we should break our to-do lists into Projects and Tasks. A Project is anything that requires more than one Task, and has some sort of (ideal or enforced) deadline for its completion.

“Physiology Revision” and “Website Redesign” are therefore Projects. And the Tasks within them might be “Do 20 practice questions on respiratory physiology” or “Plan website navigation”.

The point is that every Project should have a defined Next Action. And if we find ourselves procrastinating from a particular task repeatedly, often what we need is more clarity. Once we’ve broken the project down into smaller tasks, we realise that it’s not that bad and get cracking.

Or alternatively, we realise we’re still procrastinating from it, in which case we figure out what emotional response we have to the task that’s stopping us from doing it. But that’s a topic for another time.