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If I had a penny for every time someone came to me and asked me to help them get organized, figure out how to make a schedule, or learn how to optimize their time, I’d likely be able to cure world hunger and then some. And while I never mind helping people with this task, it confuses me more and more each time that people are still struggling so heavily with this topic.
After answering many questions and talking to countless people about how to make the most of their time, I’ve come to this conclusion: It’s not your fault! We’ve been taught to be expert procrastinators, and it’s finally catching up with us.
If you think back to your high school years, and maybe even beyond, it’s easy to see that we were almost groomed to become expert procrastinators. You were taught how to binge study while also being in sports, trying to have an exceptional run as class president, make the perfect grades so you could get into the perfect college, and then have no employer ever ask you what your GPA was.
It was nearly prescribed to us that in order to succeed, we needed to do everything possible, and if that meant procrastinating to get some of it done, then so be it. While this might have worked in high school, many people have carried their expert procrastination skills over into their adulthood and are slowly finding out that procrastination quickly leads to burnout and decreased success in the long run.
Related: Just Do It: How to Work When You Really Don’t Feel Like It
As adults, we’re taking procrastination into our businesses and our relationships, and rather than spending time completing the tasks that actually matter, we’re pushing everything off. Nothing matters quite as much as our free time, and we’re willing to lose a lot to keep it. This “it can wait” mindset has made people think that everything can wait, when in reality, some things can’t. People no longer have the ability to pick three things each day and make sure they get done, and because of this, their time feels less special and more sparse.
Imagine what your days, weeks and months would look like if you picked three things each day that were non-negotiable to get done. After one week of being consistent with yourself, you would have checked off 21 items on your list, and after a year, over 1,000 tasks would be completed.
More often than not, people pick a few things to get done each day but then don’t wind up doing them, because they feel like they can wait until tomorrow. Yes, it’s true that the sky won’t fall if you don’t go to the grocery store today and push it off until tomorrow — but it’s also true that if you continue to push things off for days, weeks, or even months, it’s much less likely that they’ll ever get done at all.
Just because the sky won’t fall doesn’t mean you should wait to complete the tasks that are important to you today.
In addition to getting less done, we’re also heavily contributing to burnout when we don’t have a list of tasks to complete and stick to it. For example, if I don’t have a list for each day, it never feels like I’ve completed enough. I might get to the end of the day and have completed 15 tasks, but because I never had a goal in mind, my first thought was “should it have been 16 instead?”
By creating a list of three things that must get done no matter what, your brain knows exactly when it’s completed enough tasks for the day and when it can comfortably take a break and go back to other less important activities (i.e. binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram).
If you want to gain self-confidence, you must start doing the things you told yourself you would do exactly when you said you would do them. At the end of the day, if you can’t trust yourself to complete the tasks you set before yourself, then who can?
Creating a list of three key things to complete each day is the number one tip I can give you to produce long-term, sustainable growth within both yourself and your business. You see, while it’s true that your cycle of procrastination isn’t entirely your fault, it’s also true that it will be your fault if you don’t decide you want things to be different.
If you begin each day by making a list of three things that must get done no matter what, you will end each day feeling accomplished and proud that you were able to follow through with yourself and for yourself. It’s the art of breaking the procrastination cycle, one task at a time.
Related: 8 Ways Successful People Beat Procrastination