Discipline Systems & Tips

Why I Disagree with the Experts on Living out Priorities

We’ve looked at how busyness can be a sign of laziness. But how do we solve this? How do we keep ourselves from filling our schedules with low-value tasks?

The Experts’ Advice

The common wisdom is to get better at prioritizing in the moment. Be so aware of your goals and your priorities that you just automatically choose the best task to do at any time.

When confronted with the illogical nature of procrastination, the experts simply want your inner logic to yell so loudly that you overcome any urge to procrastinate.

It’s not a bad approach – if it works for you. But it doesn’t for me, and I’d imagine it might not work for you either.

Recognizing the Real Problem

The issue isn’t that we don’t understand our priorities. It’s that we’re just simply bad at deciding in the moment what to do.

We have all these thoughts and emotions swimming around. We may not even fully be aware of these drives, like the urge to procrastinate. The unpleasantness of that major project is right there in front of us, and it feels more convenient to “take a break.”

But you know what I’ve noticed? I don’t really have those same emotions when I’m deciding what to do next year. I don’t have those same emotions when I’m deciding what to do tomorrow.

The Diligent Planner and the Lazy Doer

It’s as if I have two personalities inside me. There’s the inner procrastinator, my lazy doer, that has to decide in the moment what to do. He’s the one that is on the front lines and actually has to pull the trigger and perform in the now, but he’s also the one that’s facing all the emotional resistance. He’s not that great at making decisions.

Then there’s my inner planner. He can only issue orders and plans for what the lazy doer is to work on. But, he makes much better decisions and isn’t the lazy, emotional wreck that my inner procrastinator is.

The key is figuring out who’s going to be the boss. If you can get your inner procrastinator to follow the orders of your planner, you’ll be much more effective.

Make a Plan

And how do you get your doer to listen to your planner?

The first step is obvious: make a plan. I’ve found that the more I plot out my day in advance, the more I work on those high value tasks.

The second step is to track what you’re doing throughout the day. The act of tracking motivates you to be diligent. There’s enough pain in writing down “Spent 15 minutes procrastinating” that you don’t want to do it much.

You can also sit down at the end of the day and review how you did. You can look for areas of improvement or strengths to build on.

The third step is to adapt as necessary. Sometimes things come up during the day that rearrange our schedules. That’s OK.

Finally, make a game of it. Don’t stress out. Don’t think of your schedule as inflexible and guilt-inducing.

Have fun with this and make it a competition with yourself.

Ultimately, your inner doer and inner planner can get to the point where they spend less time arguing and more time high-fiving each other.

What are your thoughts? Are you good at deciding in the moment what to do?

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