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PTPL 078: I'm Beating Procrastination by Asking 3 Short Questions
With a case study to show how I'm applying them in my work day
Welcome! I’m Ellane, and this is a once-a-week summary of things that are helping to simplify and future-proof my digital-analog workflow.
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Procrastinating? Ask yourself these 3 questions
This tip is one I’ve mentioned before, from Anne-Laure le Cunff, the founder of Ness Labs (I’m a member — just paid for a second year). They help me clarify and overcome blockages in my work day, and I think they might be useful for you, too.
Procrastination is a signal that something needs fixing.
Is your lack of motivation coming from the head, the heart, or the hands?
Head: “Is this task really important and relevant to me?”
Heart: “Do I enjoy this task?”
Hand: “Am I good at this task?”
🗣 If it’s coming from your head, you need to reconsider your strategy.
❤️ If it’s coming from your heart, it’s time to reframe your incentives.
✋ If it’s coming from your hand, seek out coaching or training to up your skillset.
Asking myself these questions is most helpful when I have a job to do, I’ve established that it needs to be done, and I’m having trouble staying on task.
I’m working on the 2024 edition of an interactive planner for school teachers, designed for hand-writing plans on an iPad. It’s all laid out, but now there are over 1000 links to proof. It’s simple but intense work, and it’s vital that I keep track of where I’m up to in the process so I don’t have to start again.
You wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would?) how many things my mind suggests ought to be done first, every time I sit down to work on this project! The creativity of the excuses I come up with for delaying or cutting short a work session would be impressive if the deadline wasn’t so tight.
I have the skills to do the job (hand) and I’m certain it needs to be done (head), so this tells me the procrastination is coming from my heart. It’s time to reframe my incentives. Interestingly, my heart is trying to recruit my brain to convince me not to do the work now, as well—so I also need to consider my strategy.
This is what I’m doing to overcome this split personality sabotage:
Breaking tasks into small, clearly defined pieces or sections
Writing a nice neat list of these tasks with checkboxes down the page, which my brain naturally wants to see checked off. This also has the advantage of showing how far I’ve come, as well as what’s left to do. My progress is visually, satisfyingly laid out before me.
Setting a timer, and telling myself I only need to work for that long before doing something else; 15 minutes minimum. I almost always end up working for much longer than fifteen minutes.
Repeating step 3
Using interstitial journaling — if I’m going to skip out on a task, I make myself write down what I did get done, and why I’m leaving it at that point. This is a powerful practice!
And so I am slowly but surely working my way through this project.
I can see my progress, and I know what to do when proofing-related cabin fever strikes. I was going to tell you which of the five points above is my favourite, or which I think is the most powerful, but I can’t choose just one. My brain needs all of them-for this project, at least.
Plain text and paper
I’ve just printed out some grid pages to use as the 2024 calendar in my Paper Saver notebook—keeping parallel digital and analog versions works well for me
Paper-Based Budgeting: I’m finding recording expenses on paper hard, because there’s no auto-sort of columns when I make entries out of chronological order. I either need more discipline, or less fussiness.
Ellane helps simplicity-focused Apple users to plan and learn effectively and autonomously.
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