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Creative Procrastination [Audio]

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Creative Procrastination

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Thanh: Hey you are listening to a podcast by My name is Thanh.

Aaron: I’m Aaron.

Thanh: And today we are going to talk about creative procrastination. What exactly is creative procrastination?

Aaron: Creative procrastination refers to how you use procrastination to your advantage. The fact is, you are not able to do what you want to all the time. An extreme example of this are people who think that it’s possible to be efficient and work productively 24 hours, 7 days a week. The reality is people need to sleep, eat, rest, and downtime. It is just not possible to do everything at full capacity at all times. So at some point you will have to procrastinate, that’s just the fact of life. Now creative procrastination is a way to go about doing that while still doing it somewhat effectively.

Thanh: I agree with that. The reality is everyone procrastinates even though in an idea world nobody does. It is a really big myth that everyone or anyone can work 8 hours productively every single day. That is just not the case. So if you have to procrastinate, do it on things that are not important. Another way to look at creative procrastination is basically prioritizing. When you procrastinate, what you want to do then is to procrastinate on the tasks that aren’t as important. You do not want to procrastinate on tasks that are important. You really want to build the skill of choosing and picking the right tasks you want to procrastinate. Most tasks that we want to procrastinate on, are usually what we call low value tasks. These are in nature not urgent and you can usually do them at any time you want. These tasks have little importance but at some point they do have to get done. You want to try to eliminate those low value tasks as much as possible and only focus on the big ones. But everyone will have low value tasks. It’s just that you want to procrastinate on those as much as you can so that you always keep on working on the important tasks.

Aaron: We have an article on the blog about eating that frog, which is taking the most important tasks you have and doing it first thing in the morning. The reason for this is because you will procrastinate during the day. If you have done your high priority tasks first, what is left over are your low value tasks that you can procrastinate on and be less effective on.

Thanh: What are some examples of low value tasks?

Aaron: Low value tasks are essentially things that aren’t urgent and they are usually things you can do at any time you want and they don’t have a set due date. They are things that they would be nice to do, but they are not pressing, somebody isn’t waiting for you to get back on something regarding this task. It is just something that little importance but still needs to get done at some point.

Thanh: Chores are a good example of low value tasks: doing laundry, cleaning folders on your computer, clearing your inbox, or doing gardenwork.

Aaron: I would add to that all the links, articles and pieces your friends send you that you want look through at some point but aren’t immediately pressing, for example, youtube videos, articles from business periods. You should be using tools like Instapaper or Omnifocus to save these as low value items that you can look through later.

Thanh: Another characteristic is anything that you are not good at. Aaron has written a great article on personal outsourcing, where you try to delegate those tasks as much as possible, because most of the time these aren’t worth your time.

Aaron: Exactly. Another category of low value tasks are tasks that aren’t directly aligned with your goals. If you have a task management system setup with a proper structure, aimed towards your goals, most of your tasks you’ll find fall somewhere tangentle towards the goals you are trying to get to. But that being said, sometimes there are things that you have to do that aren’t directly aligned with your goals. As an example, if your business is making over 7-figures a year, then anything related to your business would be considered a high value task. Actually, even if your business isn’t making 7-figures a year, anything directed towards your business when you are building it, is still high value tasks for you to do. Therefor, other things in your personal life such as cooking, driving, or cleaning are really things that you should outsource or delegate as low-value tasks because they areally aren’t worth your time.

Thanh: Another example of that would be for you to lose weight as a simple example. If you want to lose weight, what some of the things considered important and what some of the things considered not important. Anything considered important would be for you to reach the goal of losing weight; making sure you have the right foods in your house, making sure you have gym membership and exercise. These are all things that align with your goal of losing weight. Anything besides that is relatively unimportant and low value. For example, vacuuming your house, picking up laundry, or things like that, are considered low value because they are not aligned with your goal.

Aaron: Another way to look at it, a simple question you can ask yourself: is this particular task taking me towards my goal, away from it, or am I just standing still and running on the spot.

Thanh: And if you can ask yourself this question every single hour, that will really keep yourself in check.

Aaron: Another thing to consider is, if you have low value tasks to do, when should you do them.

Thanh: Sometimes you have to do them, no matter how much you dislike them or how unimportant they might seem. I usually like to do them when I’m kind of low energy and I feel like don’t doing anything, but I know that it won’t take that much time to do. For example, cleaning my room, my closet, doing the dishes, or maybe running a quick errand like picking up laundry.

Aaron: Those are things that you just have to do and they we actually do things at Asian Efficiency is that we have a very specific list for low value activities and in our task manager we call this the low energy list. We have a separate perspective that we load up every single time we are not feeling partcilarly productive and just want to get through a bunch of brainless, essentially mindless tasks that we stil have to do.

Thanh: If you use Omnifocus, that can set contexts and perspectives, what you want to do then (and this is something I’ve learned from Aaron) make list a of items that are considered low value and put the context of low energy there. Then make a pespective that will focus on this context. Anytime you feel like not doing anything, you can just go over this perspective and you will a list of things considered low value and anytime you will like not doing any work, but you know in the back of your head that you have to do something productive, you can always look at this list and see what are some are easy things I can do right now, that are low value and at some point still have to get done.

Aaron: Exactly.

Thanh: This was a podcast by and thanks for listening.

Photo by Mykl Roventine.

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Posted by Marlon  | May 7, 2011 at 8:33AM | Reply

Thanh & Aaron,

People often associate procrastination with certain sense of guilt. We procrastinate for so many reasons – personal, professional, romantic…wait, romantic?

It’s ok to procrastinate if, and only if, you negotiate your priorities.

Posted by AE Thanh  | May 8, 2011 at 4:59AM

@94b63db5e8f9feb41f051b266739895c:disqus , that’s a good point. We kind of subtly hinted at that but it’s good to point that out. In terms of romance, I know tons of people who procrastinate on that area. Aaron and I have talked about this many times and we are planning to zoom in on that topic in the near future.

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