Are you doing the most important thing first?
Published: 9th of November 2020
After months of juggling childcare and working from home, this morning I had a whole morning to focus on my business!
So, what did I do?
- Relished a quiet breakfast on my own
- Put some washing on
- Went upstairs to have a shower….caught a glimpse of some grime in the corner of the shower, started thinking about how I could clean the whole bathroom, empty the bins, clean all the floors…..
Just as I was reaching for my ‘cleaning toothbrush’, I stopped myself.
I’d already filled my morning and hadn’t even picked up the laptop to start work.
I’d manage to create a whole plan that felt totally valid and necessary and was, of course, procrastinating!
Essentially, I wasn’t doing the most important thing first.
So why is it so easy to procrastinate?
- You like a quick win
Putting the washing on is an easy routine act that is either done or not done. No complicated grey areas, no emotional investment, no need to step outside of your comfort zone
- You convince yourself that it needs to be done
So, yes, my bathroom is a bit grubby. We could do with cleaning it over the next few days. But, heck, we don’t have any visitors coming today (one good thing about lockdown that I’ll miss!) and we’ll still come out of the shower cleaner than when we went in!
- You don’t know what the most important thing is
What can you do to stop yourself procrastinating?
- Catch yourself when you are procrastinating
It may sound easy but sometimes we can get pretty far down the line before we even realise that we have derailed ourselves. For me, the question, "Am I doing the most important thing first?" works well as a reminder.
- Figure out what is important
Put aside 10 minutes to think about what you are trying to achieve, whether it be in your career or home life. For example, thinking about your career ambitions, is the most important task signing off annual leave and checking emails or will moving forward on that longer-term project get you closer to promotion and skills development.
- Make a plan
You might well be filling your day with other tasks because you haven’t thought through what you want to achieve. It’s very easy to feel busy all day but get to the end of the day feeling like you haven’t really achieved anything.
I know planning can feel dull sometimes but find a way that works for you. For me, that’s colours and post-it notes. For others it may be a spreadsheet or list.
- Consider what is holding you back
Perhaps you haven’t started working on that project because actually you don’t really understand what is expected of you or you need to have that conversation with your colleague that you’re dreading. Or maybe you’re not feeling confident in taking on something new so are procrastinating with the tasks that feel familiar and comfortable.
The likelihood is that you’re using a lot of headspace thinking about the thing that’s holding you back and worrying and that can feel exhausting.
- Find a supportive ally
Sometimes it’s hard to conquer that important thing that you’ve been holding off doing on your own.
Making yourself accountable by telling someone else that you’re going to do something or talking through with a friend or colleague, what you’re finding challenging about a particular task, can really help. I used to have a colleague who called it an “ugly toad” when she was avoiding something important and in team meetings, we’d all confess what our “ugly toad” was that we needed to face! (I think she said it came from a Chinese proverb, but she may have made it up!)
- Take baby steps
Once you’ve figured out what you need to do, what’s holding you back and sought support, the best thing to do is to start taking action.
However, often part of the reason we aren’t doing the most important thing first is because it feels too big.
Break down that goal into a few achievable actions to start, or even just one. Once you’ve started and created some momentum, you’re likely to feel ten times more motivated to continue.
Sometimes the most important thing is simply YOU.
Looking after yourself might be the first thing you need to do. Whether that’s a walk around the block to refresh, a nice cup of coffee or a chat to a friend when something is feeling overwhelming.
Self-care may get muddled with procrastination but is often the key to getting you in the right headspace to be able to tackle whatever is holding you back.
This week, try asking yourself:
“Am I doing the most important thing first?”
If you’d like support with move forward in your career and homelife, feel free to make a free 20 minute appointment with me to discuss how coaching could help you clarify your priorities and make a plan to achieve your ambitions.
P.S. Have you joined my FREE Career Clarity for Working Parents Facebook group? It's packed full of top tips to keep you motivated and on track for moving forward in your career.