Nike is onto something. Just Do It. Sometimes we waste so much mental energy procrastinating that it’s easier to do the damn thing.
David Allen published a bestselling book in 2000 called Getting Things Done. It popularised a Two Minute Rule as follows: “If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.” The reason is that it would take longer to organise and review the task than it would to actually do it.
Also not only is that task done, but in the meantime we gain momentum and move towards a ‘bias for action.’ That feels good. Habits and rules are important because they get shit done without decision fatigue and without huge reliance on accountability.
Just Do It – Case Study 1
You devise a filing system for all your various bills and paperwork that come in. Mail comes in and sits unopened in the fruit bowl, then when it’s opened, it goes through a protracted process of where to file it, until a magical time when you can sit down and tackle life admin. Should I file this bill under Kids or House? It doesn’t matter.
Sometimes it’s easier to just cut out all that mental gymnastics.
- Bring the mail in from the letterbox.
- Open the mail.
- Throw recyclables in the bin.
- Pay that bill now.
Just Do It, and then you never have to think about it again. If you are rushing out the door, place that bill on your computer keyboard and pay it the next time you are at your desk. Because otherwise, by the time you repeatedly see it, move it and tell yourself to do it, you have wasted brain bandwidth that you could have spent elsewhere. Like on paying the bill and then binning or filing it.
You can set up countless organising systems to tackle every complex situation life throws at you, or you can just do it. Sometimes organising processes are more hurdles to jump and end up as tools of procrastination.
Just Do It – Case Study 2
You have clutter all over the table. A torn book to tape up, laundry to put away, some batteries to recycle, a garment that needs mending, a recipe to try, and a used light globe.
Some of these jobs don’t take long. Taping up a book is much easier than having to grimace at it every time you walk past the bench. Putting away laundry is best done right away, so it doesn’t need ironing or rewashing after the cat sits on it. And for how long has that pile of stuff annoyed and burdened you?
Once you get into the mindset of just do it, you will realise how much mental energy you save by doing small jobs right away.
But for now you are drowning in clutter (and by the way you also have to walk the dog, cook dinner and do some work). How about you take a photo of the recipe? How about you walk the dog to the supermarket get the ingredients and a lightbulb and drop off the batteries too. So that’s a few things ticked off already.
Self care is important but
- Self loathing because nothing gets done is counter-productive.
- Self care is not all about sitting on the couch while everything turns chaotic.
- Self care is not just for current you, but also future you.
Some of this just do it mentality relies on organisation to begin with. Knowing your passwords so you can pay your bill. Knowing where to find the tape to fix the book quickly. So I know it’s not always easy.
But once you make the first step, everything gets better.
Here are some examples of household annoyances we put up with due to procrastination.
I have some other staying tidy strategies here.