Could “working” be the most dangerous form of procrastination?

Are there times when you’ve put off work under the disguise of being busy doing “other important” work? Do you find that most of those times the “other important work” is not as important?

If you’re honest with yourself, you can probably remember times when you had done that.  I know I have.  Since the work is not so glamorous or I don’t really want to do it, I find other things that I also need to get done to stay busy and avoid the work that I know I need to do.  Some times, the work I avoid is the most important one that would give me the greatest return. Eventually, I either complete it or I become a victim of the law of diminishing intent.

Law of Diminishing Intent
“The longer  you wait to do something you know you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.”
~ John C. Maxwell

One of my mentors used to say, “You’re always busy. What are you busy accomplishing?” In the case of using work to avoid doing not-so-glamorous work, we can sometime answer this question positively. The problem is that what we choose to do is not the best  thing we could be doing right now.

To overcome this, I use two questions to help me prioritize and clearly understand the value I get from completing the work I’m consciously trying to avoid.

1. Which work (task) gives me the most return?
The busy tasks are important but are  they moving you in the direction you want to go? Are they giving you the “bang-for-your-effort”?

2. Is the task something that nobody else should nor could do for me?
If the answer is “yes”, then I know I need to get to work quickly. Otherwise, it will soon become an emergency that I have to pay attention to right away.

I love the way Gretchen Rubin, author of the book The Happiness Project, puts it. If you can combine her approach with the one I described above, you have tools that will help you be more intentional in completing your project tasks and help move you closer to your desired goal or future.

Below is Gretchen’s post:

When I have to do something I don’t want to do, any other task seems irresistibly enticing.

Sometimes, this tendency can be productive. I may not have gotten that piece written, but my office is clean, my errands are done, and I’ve cleared out a lot of email.

The problem is that—yes, I’ve been productive, but not in the right way. That piece still isn’t finished!

These days,  I’m careful to be honest with myself about what “work” I need to do, and I recognize the work-as-procrastination excuse. I’m also wary of the related tendency: busy-work-as-procrastination excuse. Re-formatting a document isn’t writing! Unfocused reading on the internet isn’t research!

When a task is truly horrible, I sometimes tackle it with the resolution to Suffer for 15 minutes.

We would love to hear from you. Have you kept yourself busy to avoid doing work you know you should do? “Do you procrastinate by working—by cleaning, organizing, answering emails, cruising the internet, making plans, or the like?”

Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

By the way, I don’t charge for typos. They are my gifts to you… :-)

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