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Are you a Productive Procrastinator?

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“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Why do we torture ourselves and create such pressure? When you are supposed to be doing something high priority, like working on a job description for a new role that you will be adding to your team, but first you must organize your desk because you just can’t focus on something important like a job description when your desk is a mess. While you’re organizing your desk, that email you’ve been waiting on from a new client comes in, so you will have to take care of that first.. (and on, and on). We call this Productive Procrastination – when you busy yourself with other “important” things that might be easier, and need to get done, but are significantly less important. The longer you wait on that job description, the longer you are understaffed.

How can we do better?

Let’s look to the story of the rocks, pebbles, and sand. It is an old story that has been circulating for some time, and was popularized by Stephen R. Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A philosopher shows his students a large container and fills it with rocks. He asks his students, “Is this container full?” When they reply that it is, he empties a handful of pebbles into the container, which fall into the spaces created by the large rocks. The philosopher asks his students again, “is this container full?” This time with greater certainty the students all answer, “yes!” At that, the philosopher proceeds to pour fine grains of sand into the container, which fill even the smallest spaces left by the rocks and pebbles. Before the philosopher can even ask, a student calls out, “now that container is full!” Without hesitation, the professor takes a bottle of wine and fills the container to the brim. “Now the container is full, but what if I had put the sand in the container first?” asks the philosopher. After a quiet moment, a student raises her hand and answers, “there would have been no room for all of the pebbles and rocks.”

This is a story about priorities, and it can be applied to the way you choose to spend time in all facets of your life. As a productivity fable, the rocks represent your big, important goals and projects aligned to your values and strategic plan – such as writing a job description to hire a new team member. The pebbles represent shorter term goals of lesser importance – a client email. The sand represents minor tasks that aren’t essential to your success (organizing your desk).

Put your rocks in the container first – really do it; schedule the time in your calendar, and PROTECT IT. As tantalizing as those pebbles and sand can be when you’re staring at a rock, do not let them fill your day. Prioritize what matters, what will differentiate you, keep you moving forward, growing, and being who you want to be. The rest is just pebbles and sand, they will always find space.

What about the wine? That is a reminder that no matter how full your container is, you can always make time for a drink with a friend.

This week’s inquiry…

What Are Your Rocks?

More to enjoy…

“Writer, Blogger Guy,” Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but what is one to do when you have an Instant Gratification Monkey controlling the show?

Watch it to avoid doing that other thing that is less pleasant.

“Actually, let’s read the entire Wikipedia page on the Nancy Kerrigan Tanya Harding scandal because I just remembered that happened!”

Yes – we have recommended this book in the past, but that’s because it’s just so darn good and contains so many valuable lessons!

In his seminal work, Stephen R. Covey lays out a guide to living an exceptional life with principles that provide security amid constant change and uncertainty.

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