Why you shouldn’t cross off your entire to-do list

I’d be ready to bet your goal might be one of the two following goals: A) that you want to be better at productivity because you want to stop procrastinating. Or B) you want to get better productivity because you have a very long to-do list and you want to be able to cross off every single item on this to-do list. Whether it’s at the end of the day, at the end of the week, or at the end of the month, you want to be satisfied because you got everything done. Except I want to dive into when procrastination is a good thing.

Beating your procrastination or helping you do 50,000 things isn’t actually my job. At least, Not from the get-go. If anything, you can use your procrastination as a tool to help you achieve more … without checking off your entire to-do list.

The reasons why you procrastinate

As a productivity strategist, I will not encourage you or will not push you to cross off every single of the 50,000 items that you have on your to-do list. In fact, I will actively discourage you from it. Your procrastination can be a good thing. Let’s get into why and what I’d do instead.

There is a reason why you are procrastinating. When we dig into what might be causing it, we’re in a position to go to the source instead of fixing the symptoms – procrastination itself.

You don’t have to do all this work

The first reason why you might be procrastinating is related to how you do the task. Perhaps the whole process looks daunting, it’s this huge mountain of work you’ll never get through because there are so many components in it. When that is the case, we can look at how we can facilitate doing this task. For instance, I often see people who don’t like doing their bookkeeping and doing their invoices. 

When this is the case, we look at if we can automate parts of the process so that we are taking parts of this process off of your plate. Say we automate some of your invoices or you have a template to work off of. The same can be done for expenses and bills. Bookkeeping still has to get done, but at least we facilitate elements of it. We can apply the same logic to content creation, elements of your client work and more depending on the nature of your business.

It’s not the right time

Your procrastination is a good thing because it might be a sign you just aren’t doing this task at the right time. Make it easier by changing the time, the setting in or the day in which you are doing said task. This would be best if you struggle with a task because you aren’t in the right headspace to do it. 

Perhaps leaving some of the bookkeeping tasks to the afternoon is something that is challenging for you because you find yourself being in a much more creative space at the end of the day. A simple fix is to switch it with another task and put it on a different day. Another option is to schedule it earlier in the day as you might be more focused then and more detail-oriented. 

I often see people schedule their bookkeeping and admin tasks on a Friday afternoon as well. You might just be daydreaming about your weekend and what you’re going to be doing or all the projects you want to take care of which make it that much harder to focus on things that don’t excite you.

You aren’t primed for this kind of work

Your procrastination might be a sign you just aren’t in the right headspace to do this thing. Change what you are doing either before doing this task or after doing this task. When I’m thinking about what I want to change before, focus on what can you do to help put me in a better headspace to do this thing? 

You might’ve noticed you tend to be tired after lunch. If you are not very good at paying attention to details then incorporate some movement or go for a short walk outside to help wake you up a little bit.

Let’s say you are trying to create content, you want to be more in a creative space. What are things you can do to put yourself in that headspace like spending time in nature. You might also struggle if you have a lot of pressure or feel overwhelmed, then doing a braindump before creating content might help.

When it comes to things you can do after, find something you really enjoy. We’re creating a little sandwich here. Starting with something really fun to help you put you in that creative space, then doing the task and finally something really nice. This could be a work task, a business task that you really enjoy or taking a break.

You just aren’t motivated (and that’s ok!)

Your procrastination might be a sign you have 0 motivation to do this task. Perhaps it’s boring or you need a little motivational kick. Hint – changing when you do a task might also impact how motivated you are to do it! If motivation is lacking, organize your task to get a dopamine boost. This is more easily done than people realize:

  • Wearing your favourite outfit
  • Making your favourite cozy drink
  • Putting on your favourite playlist
  • Having a snack
  • Getting some new pens and notebook
  • or even a new desk accessory
  • Changing your workspace

Sometimes, even if it’s as simple as standing, instead of sitting, working from the couch, from the kitchen table or going to coffee shops. If you really struggled with your bookkeeping, how about you schedule a really nice bookkeeping coffee date to get it done. Bonus points here if you get to do this with a friend to get this done. The combination of accountability buddy and change of setting for the win!

It’s in your head – not in a bad way

How you feel and how you talk to yourself might be why you procrastinate. Internal friction is what I call it. This is related to how you view doing this task or if the thought of this task brings up negative feelings. You might feel anxious, unsure, afraid, or hesitant. Then you are avoiding the task because of how it might make you feel. 

It might also be because of how you think about a task. If you tell yourself you hate doing this task. That is a block in itself where we can reframe the purpose and why we do this task. 

I used to absolutely hate content creation. That was the one thing I would procrastinate and push back over just about anything else in my business. I was in that headspace of “I hate and I HAVE to do it”. I knew that it was super important for me to do marketing, connect with people, and grow my community. 

This block around content creation completely disappeared the moment I reframed content creation as a way to help, educate, encourage and support people who want to be mindfully productive. Some people in my community might not want to work with me for various reasons. It might not be a good time, they may not have the budget, and they might not have the capacity for this work right now. The least I can do is to provide value to still help them achieve their goals.

Reframing the purpose of this task also made a huge difference in terms of my creativity. Being in that space of scarcity, of “I have to do it” made it really hard to get ideas, to feel inspired and motivated to create this content. This is not a problem anymore since I GET TO serve my community through my content.

It’s a lack of alignment

Finally, your procrastination could be because the process itself, the task itself just doesn’t align with you, who you are, with what you want to do. It could also not be aligned with what you want to do in your business or with how you’d like to work. 

While there’s a portion of it where you can’t get around bookkeeping, for instance, you absolutely have a say in IF you do certain tasks and HOW you do them. Especially, when it comes to the bigger projects, the things that you’re trying to launch or how you want to work with clients. 

If these are things that you are procrastinating because they aren’t aligned with who you are and you don’t enjoy them and you don’t have fun doing them, it’ll show. Taking my example before with my content creation – my content now is so much better than it used to be as I’m in a much better headspace. I’m so much more creative and fired up about what I’m creating. 

Therefore, if facilitating tasks and processes and reframing your mindset aren’t working, then I would genuinely ask yourself if this is something that you want to do and that perhaps you just don’t need to do. It might look like 

  • this task isn’t worth your time/effort
  • This strategy isn’t right for you/doesn’t align with your personality
  • The overarching goal you wanted to achieve doesn’t align with you or your business

Doing more by doing less

Part of my role is to help you see your procrastination is a good thing and what we can do with it. Therefore my job is not to help you cross everything off your list. 

  1. The reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day (hopefully eight hours of that you are sleeping)
  2. Even if you were super optimized, you wouldn’t be able to do it all. 

That is a bet that I’m willing to take. 

What does being productive mean?

It’s also important to look at what productivity means. It’s not about crossing off everything on your to-do list but doing the things that are going to grow your impact that is going to move the needle in your business. Or if you take Ali Abdaal’s definition (which I love) it’s about spending our time in an intentional way. 

My job is to help you go through these 50,000 items on your to-do list and help you highlight, which are worth your time and energy and capacity. They are going to have the biggest impact because they will move the needle in your business. You’ll be more intentional about how you spend your time. 

This is where procrastination can be a wonderful filter to identify which of these 50,000 items need to go out the window.

Coming back to your why

Another really, really powerful filter is what your goal and your mission are. What is it that you want to achieve? What is it that, where is it you want to get to you in your, in your life in general? 

Use these questions to create a business that aligns with that vision for your own personal life. Then, use that as a filter for what’s most worth doing in your business. What you love doing and what your interests are and what you’re passionate about and what you find energizing are also wonderful filters. 

Sure, you can’t always just do what you love, but we can get pretty freaking close. Using that as a filter is going to help you highlight what provides value to your community, your clients and your own day-to-day life. Take what you would love to do for self-care, your hobbies, and your interest. Put that in first, then add everything else. 

Cleaning your to-do list

The first step would be to delete tasks off your list. Use the filters and tips above to do this! Once we’ve done that, we can look into automating even more. This is where our computers and programs do simple tasks for us. Look into things you don’t enjoy doing or that are simple enough to be automated. You have enough on your plate already, we might as well take some off!

Once we’ve automated what you could, look at delegating. I talk about this all the time. Delegating can look like so many different things. It can be working with a virtual assistant or giving an entire task or process to a professional to do it for you. This could be like

  • A copywriter, blogger or SEO expert to help optimize your blog posts 
  • a social media manager for your content marketing
  • Someone to handle your podcast if you have one
  • an OBM to help outline your goals and break them down into tasks and keep you organized

Optimizing your work

Finally, once we filtered which tasks were most worth your time, automated and delegated what we could, we can optimize. You look at your routine, your habits and your schedule. You create that week guideline to organize all of your tasks within a week span. We use these modalities, your space, and other tools to be more efficient and in the flow of your work. Your eight-hour workday goes down to a four-hour workday. You’ve created even more time for self-care, hobbies and for all the other stuff you want to do. 

The goal shouldn’t be necessarily to get rid of procrastination. It’s to listen to what it has to tell us where it shows up, and how it impacts your work. Use it as a clue to improve your productivity, see what is most worth your time and boost your productivity.

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