Just f*king do it.

I finally did my German tax return, and for good measure, my UK one as well. At least until there was an XML fail in the E&Y web app which could not be overcome in either Firefox, Safari or as a last resort, Internet Explorer running on Windows via our corporate Terminal Server.

It’s been on my todo list for six weeks, and in the end both returns only took about an hour each. So how come I didn’t do it, even though I knew it was due back to the accountant by the 15th of June.

I think it’s our old favourite, procrastiflation. I never had a name for it until I was reading a post by Ben Casnocha musing why tasks seem to get harder the longer you leave them.

For me, running always springs to mind. At one point I ran 5km every morning before work – and after a month or so I started going again in the evening pretty regularly. But, after a weekend on the sauce and some lazy mornings Monday comes around quickly and you know, you just don’t feel like it. I’ll go tomorrow I think. But by Tuesday you’ve had 3 days off and for some reason (particularly when it’s barely light and you’re under a duvet) putting it off for one more day doesn’t seem so bad.

So now,  a year or so later, I thought I’d give it a go again 😉

But anyway, for me and I’m sure many people are the same, if I’m not that interested in a task then I find it much easier to procrastinate. And of course, with the invention of twitter, facebook, and well, the Internet, this has got much, much easier. In fact, surfing for an appropraite image for this post wasted a good 15 minutes, and turned up this gem by Ricardo Vidal..

twittercurve

And yes, each day that that document goes unwritten, tax return unsubmitted, bill unpaid or code (and unit test) unfinished the easier it becomes to delay yet further. As Ben states, procrastination + inflation (of the ease of delaying) = procrastiflation.

dYeah, there are plenty of techniques for getting things done – honestly, prioritization is not the issue (ignorance trumps priority every time) it’s more about motivation. If I start to fall behind I have a couple of techniques that work for me..

  1. A TODO list. My old business partner Steve always imagined this as a air-traffic controller’s deck of planes. They had them on sliding wooden or metal cards for each holding pattern. You could reorder them any time and pick them off in order. This often does not work for me as I tend to have far too many items in the list and then am disillusioned when I don’t achieve them in a day or so.
  2. Time-boxed TODO. This works much better for me when the crunch comes. I take my top priority tasks and estimate them. I allocate a start and end time to each with suitable breaks, and stick to the time. Once your estimation skills get better, this is a great technique as it tends to prevent ADD-type wikipedia or twitter distractions.
  3. Rewards. If I do my tax return straight away I can have a beer afterwards. Once I write this document I can go for coffee. It I go to work I might get paid.
  4. Just f*king do it. Really. And stop whining. This one works pretty well too.

So let’s see how long I can keep running for this time.

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