OK, I may be the only person advising that procrastination is a good thing, although certainly others have perfected it as an art. In the dogma of time management, putting things off is seen as one thing you definitely shouldn’t do. Eat that frog.
Let me explain how the strategic art of procrastination has helped me clear my Space to Smile.
As women, we have always had way too much on our plates. And somehow, evolving to the 21st century where so many things can be automated or cheaply outsourced has only made it worse. More and more is expected of us, and the irony is that the fastest computers cannot hold a candle to the intricate, divine organizational database that is in our heads. Our families and coworkers would indeed be lost without us.
But that’s a ridiculous burden to bear. I ask you, as I ask myself every day, does everything on your to-do list need really to be done today?
I ask you again, does it really REALLY need to be done?
What are the absolute minimums that need to get done?
And what cans can you kick on down the road?
Only you can answer the specifics, but for each thing on your to-do list today, ask these 6 questions:
Should I Wait and See?
Try putting it off or asking around, because maybe someone else will do it or has already done it.
Example: I listed “Have Ivan make a birthday card for his teacher over the weekend” as his teacher’s birthday was Monday. This would have involved about 20 minutes of cajoling, putting up with whining and crying, getting out the paper and supplies, listening to more whining (he loves his teacher but hates to write), testing my patience, pushing my buttons, etc. So I kept pushing it to the bottom of my list until Sunday at 7:00pm, when just before his bedtime, I panicked and told Ivan he needed to go ahead and do that. To which he calmly replied “I already did, Mommy. When our teacher was out of the room on Friday our assistant teacher had us work on our birthday cards.” Click – that’s the sound of me checking off another box on a hard day’s work.
This tactic also works at your job when you are not the sole person trained to do something. Sometimes, with or without a little nudging, a person more enterprising than you (at the moment) will answer the email in that annoying, not-urgent chain you’ve been following all day, and you can cross off your list “reply to Jill’s email request.” Yay!
It also works as a reason to take any nagging / “check on” tasks off your list. Just get other things done while you have total faith that the person you’re depending on will come through. Usually, they do. If not, depend on someone else next time.
Can this marinate?
In a similar vein, sometimes a person (like your boss) will give you a task or project that’s not urgent but “a good idea.” If you have a boss who’s a visionary, big-picture type (as most are), let that good idea marinate on your list for a while and see if it doesn’t get replaced with a “better” idea that would have negated it altogether. (If I had a nickle for every time this happened to me, I’d own a lot more Tesla stock right now.) Then just quietly file the “good idea” task under “No Longer Relevant,” smile and move on. Trust me, they will have forgotten all about the original idea.
What are the ACTUAL repercussions of waiting until tomorrow or next week?
Obviously, if you’re on a non-negotiable deadline, repercussions are more serious (this INCLUDES deadlines you set to help you attain your vision – they are non-negotiable, because you are worth it). But get real and quit flogging yourself. If your deadline has wiggle room, like getting the car washed or taking something back to the store, be kind to yourself and push it back. Don’t run all over town like a bat out of hell on Saturdays. Relax with your family for at least a couple of hours. The receipt says you have 60 days.
Wait, isn’t every deadline non-negotiable?
No, and I’m begging you to stop thinking that they are.
Now, I’m not condoning acting unprofessional or irresponsible. I once had a boss who canceled a business webinar the day of the webinar because he had too much to do. THAT looks irresponsible, makes the company seem untrustworthy, and lets a ton of people down: the webinar registrants who expected to learn valuable things, and the sales people depending on those leads (not to mention the marketing team who worked so hard on promoting it as a top priority!).
But if you really think about it, you can separate the deadlines that are truly non-negotiable, that affect your family, your health, and your finances (like a cancelled webinar), and those that affect your silly perception of what others think of you, your need to prove something, or your ability to live up to someone else’s unrealistic expectations. It’s a tough call, but when you can say No to any of those latter tasks, you’ll feel instantly better about it.
BEFORE accepting a task, especially one accompanied by drama, say to the hands-wringing task giver, “Wow, what are you going to do about that?”
I love this one. My husband taught me this, and he uses it daily as a head of operations. Basically, someone else’s urgent problem is not your problem unless you let it be. So don’t shoulder their garbage. This procrastination method lets you hit the ball firmly back into their court. Be wary of taking on these tasks in the first place. It might seem hard at first, because I get it, you don’t want to let people down, but if you take on a bunch of these it’s a GUARANTEE that you’ll be letting people down later. You’ll be so frazzled, angry and exhausted, you can’t possibly deliver your best assistance on anything. Just say NO and leave to someone else all the drama, the things that are so out of your wheelhouse they would require you to spend hours learning them just for that one task, and things that people are trying to guilt you into doing.
Am I the only person on earth who can do this?
Such a simple question, yet so hard for us women to let go. Like I said above, if it’s on your list but it’s really out of your wheelhouse and it’s just not valuable for you to learn, then suggest a person for whom it would be easy and enjoyable.
If you keep saying “I can’t afford to hire someone” or “I don’t have time to teach someone” then guess what – you’ll just keep WOmanifesting that into reality. Find a way to start delegating something. I started with grocery delivery service at $8.95 a month plus modest tips. Ninety minutes of grocery shopping and driving every week – CHECK. Done. Worth it. Hire your first assistant, you’ll typically start making more money. Hire a good accountant, a good housekeeper, order your meals pre-cooked and delivered by a commercial chef. Even doing one of those things will pay back huge for you.
So, what would you do with all that extra time? Start building your dream life? Own It, Be It, Rock It? Strategic Procrastination, my friend, is part of creating your Space to Smile.
Procrastinate strategically today and see what happens.
If you want more actionable tips on how to use that extra time, or how to make even more of it, get started today with my handy checklist of 10 creative ways to Start Clearing Your Space to Smile This Week: