Procrastination, Disguised.

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Doesn't it seem as if every, "How you've been?" these days is met with a, "Good! Busy...but good."

How could we all possibly be so busy? Is there really that much for each of us to be doing?

Actually...I think we all really are busy. And, the reason is...(hope you're ready for this) we like to be busy. It triggers feelings of accomplishment, self-worth, and impact. Being busy is an implication that, because tasks are placed in front of us that we go on to complete, we are progressing.

☝️ But, notice I used the word implication, rather than something like reminder, or signal. Busyness in and of itself does not guarantee any form of success. For instance, you could be busy plotting how to win back your ex. Or, more diabolically, you could be busy doing something that, despite what you may think, is, in fact, not contributing to growth in any area of your life. Busyness does not guarantee success.

It's this second, more hidden form of busyness I'd like to talk about—because it's something I can relate to deeply. Being busy with the wrong things.

Again, we like to have things to do, duties to fulfill, tasks to accomplish. We receive a much-welcomed hit of dopamine at the mere action of crossing something off of our to-do list. So, it'd make sense then that we'd like to keep that to-do list populated, chasing that next high.

But, a chase such as this—accomplishment for accomplishment's, not progress's, sake—is like fleeing from the cops at high-speed in a semi-truck with a flat tire—clearly dangerous and, frankly, stupid.

You may be busy, but what you are in fact doing is procrastinating. That's right. Busyness may seem like the opposite of procrastination, but, at times, it is simply procrastination in disguise.

Now, there are two forms of procrastination, the first being the definition we're all familiar with...

1️⃣ Delaying work on something, instead opting to watch TV, play video games, or chat with friends.

The second is more covert, hiding itself well...

2️⃣ Delaying work on something, instead opting to work on something else less pertinent and important.

And, it's this second form that I, and likely many others—maybe even you—can relate to most. This is procrastination in disguise. This is a prioritization mix up. This stunts growth.

Unfortunately, I do this a lot. I churn away at small tasks, checking boxes, and operating under the façade of progress. Yet, I know deep down—which is partially the reason why I'm writing this—these tasks won't "move the needle." In all likelihood, they won't get me, or what/who I care about where I want to go by the time I want to get there. For example, with Helium Books, I tend to favor planning out social media posts over making connections with school administrators and teachers to grow our Library-as-a-Service program (and business revenue). With limited time, one is clearly a better use of my efforts.

So, why do I (and, we) take this nonsensical approach?

For one, it's easy. Some things are simpler—lower hanging fruit, so to speak—than others and checking off a box does feel good. Also, I've found that ambiguity tends to deter us from taking action. Speaking for myself, not having a clear outcome in sight at times makes the idea of starting more daunting. Taking the example mentioned above, reaching out to local school administrators and teachers, getting a meeting, and winning the business is a long road. It's not like planning out social media posts...a known, clear-cut process.

But, we simply can't afford to act in this manner. Unless we're content where we are. If not, we need to reflect and do the following...

  • Identify the 2-3 tasks that drive progress, be it at our job, in our home life, or related to our personal goals.

  • Determine the time and attention they need each day, week, month.

  • Put them at the top of our to-do list and put all other tasks below them.

  • Execute. Prioritize progress. Keep the vision—the end goal—in mind to hush the noise of any ambiguity-induced friction.

To offer a brief example using this framework, say you have the personal goal of going back to school to advance your career. Two tasks that truly drive progress may be deciding on schools/programs and submitting applications. Now, say you think, given your timeline, that you need to spend 3 hours a week on these tasks to stay on track. Each week, you make a non-negotiable agreement with yourself that this time needs to be spent before you do anything less pertinent, like finding an apartment just off campus or gawking at potential salaries on Glassdoor. Then you go do it, reminding yourself along the way that it's a process and you'll only move into that apartment and obtain that salary by prioritizing what matters now, little by little, step by step.

Now, I'm writing this as much for myself as I am for you. I need to follow these recommendations as much as anyone. I'm tired of being so "check box" oriented. It may feel good in the short-term, but I fear looking back in a year or two and realizing that my busyness was simply procrastination in disguise.

If you feel like you are caught on the hamster wheel—exhausted, but stationary—join me in the journey to kick all forms of procrastination to the curb. It's time to do what matters, not just do, do, do for the sake of doing.

Be busy. But make sure it's the right kind.

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