A Prescription for Procrastination - Next Action Associates

Gundula Welti is a certified GTD® Trainer and has 21 years of experience in both buying and sales roles within a large international corporation. She is highly specialised in sales and negotiations and uses GTD in all aspects of her life. She says that GTD helped her conjugate the businesswoman, mother, wife, cook, maid and carpool manager; while taking singing, tap-dancing and yoga classes as well as getting certifications as GTD Trainer… all while starting her own company six years ago.

Sometimes I feel like I deserve a PhD in procrastination!

Those who know me well might be surprised to hear that.

Why surprised? Well, I am a certified GTD® trainer, and after a few years of refining my toolset, I’m equipped with a state-of-the-art system that is synchronised on my phone, my tablet and my computer at home. Anywhere I am, I can whip out my phone, review my lists, and decide exactly what to do based on where I am and how much time I have.

Given all I have on, any outside observer would simply see a whirlwind of productivity. On top of the often mundane tasks that come with being wife and mother, I run a successful company and spend half my time travelling to serve my clients. Into that mix, I’ve added studying for a master’s degree and writing a book!

It’s the book that has me thinking I’m a top procrastinator. Recently, I observed myself finding the most brilliant excuses NOT to work on the book. I didn’t recognise at first just how much energy I was expending to avoid moving things forward on my writing project.

For instance, last week I had three full days in the office, which is rare. As a bonus, I had my intern with me, eager to give me a hand. Plenty of time to move the book on to the next stage.

On day one, I sat down with the best of intentions. What did I do? Well, first I answered all of my quick emails, just to get them out of the way. And then there was that bill to send; one doesn’t want that kind of thing hanging over one’s head when trying to write. Oh yes, I also wanted to scan Shutterstock for illustrations for my blog. And then there was my overdue GTD Weekly Review®, to clear the decks, during which I noticed that I  needed to review my calendar over the next six weeks to see if I needed to book tickets for any upcoming trips. Wanting to make some notes about that, I went to grab a pen… and noticed my desk drawer was long overdue for an in-depth tidy-up. On it went. Was my Facebook page up to date? LinkedIn?

You get it. I was in full creative avoidance mode. I was creating excellent excuses for not putting the manuscript in front of me and just getting stuck in. This is my most important project, for which I needed a few hours in one go in order to re-read the chapters and get clear where to weave in the stories, examples and anecdotes I had gathered on my topic.

On Wednesday, my third and last day in the office and at the end of the ‘deadline’, I grinned sheepishly at my intern and admitted with a sigh that I couldn’t find anything else for us to do. It was time to finally surrender to actually writing the book. She smiled back and disappeared behind her computer screen, careful not to offer me any possible excuse to not start my reading.

Three hours later, 15 new pages of material had found their way into the book, bringing the theory to life with practical examples. I fairly glowed with pride. But why didn’t I get on and do this earlier? Why had there been all these oh-so-urgent-things I absolutely needed to do before working on the book?

The answer came a couple of days later, in David Allen’s Friday Weekly Review reminder:

Dear Gundula,

Do you need to be scheduling blocks of time for yourself in the coming two weeks? Do you have any actions that require more than an hour of uninterrupted time, and which are “heating up” now in terms of urgency? This is a very important benefit of your Review – giving you tactical perspective and permission to bracket valuable space for yourself to get some of those things done. 

….

Hmmmm. Thanks, David, but couldn’t you have sent this reminder last week? I would have been done with the book by Monday at noon –  had I committed to that time slot with an entry in my calendar.

Had I done that, I’d have made a conscious decision about where it should be scheduled in the three days and then stuck to it. Instead, I had this manuscript glaring at me reproachfully, nagging at my conscience and making me doubt my own productivity for the better part of three days.

That said, the experience was not without value. After all, I cleared most of my other next actions in the process, which is a welcome side effect of all that avoidance.

If that ain’t worth a PhD in procrastination, then what is?

 

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