Admit it. There are occasions when you have a task to do, and you spend more time and effort in avoiding it than you would have done in doing it. Everybody I know does it, even the most productive people of all. But those last examples don’t do it anywhere near as often as most of us.
Of course, you ‘ve all heard of procrastination, so I won’t insult you by defining it. That would waste time. (LOL) You already know the meaning of something you routinely do.
The most effective answer is to apply a rule outlined by Getting Things Done author and productivity expert, David Allen. His rule is – if it will only take 2 minutes, just do it now. One caveat – if you have a 5-minute task, then do that if you have five minutes. Basically, the time span of the rule is dictated by your personal circumstances.
“But the things I do will take longer than two minutes!” I hear you cry. I know you thought that because I thought it, too. But here, as Shakespeare would say, is the Rub.
Starting anything always takes less than two minutes. The decision to stop procrastinating and to start taking action is instantaneous. Let me illustrate by example.
If you’re like me, you have a hatred of taking routine statements from witnesses – particularly the routine drivel that the CPS memo has demanded from you. The one that’ll take an hour but has no evidential, procedural or practical value whatsoever, but because the lawyer has stretched a reason for wanting it, you’re stuck with having to take it. You procrastinate. You find excuses to put it off because of more urgent tasks. Then there are night shifts, court commitments, training days and other reasons, and before long that one hour statement has taken two weeks and you haven’t even put pen to paper.
But then you decide to apply the two-minute rule. First moment – decide to do it. Next – find the contact number and call the witness to arrange a time. That’s the job progressed a short way, and you haven’t even left your chair. You have also created an appointment, thus managing that period of time. You are now in control of the job. That is enough to make you feel better about what you have to do. When the time comes for the statement to be made, you assemble the necessary documentation (if you haven’t already organised your ‘stuff’ so there’s always a S9 form to hand), travel and start, and it’s done.
I’ve written before about how small, unfinished joblets like this mount up, and that is one cause of stress. But “I’m too busy” is a poor justification for procrastinating, if procrastination is the reason you’re busy. Work doesn’t go away: left undone, it builds up.
You want to be known as a productivity wizard? Apply the 2-Minute Rule to get progress on all of your tasks and the rest happens almost by magic. (Metaphor stretched, sorry.)
In my book, Police Time Management, I tell of how CID colleagues made a critical mistake in terms of putting work off because more important work came up, thus creating unnecessary personal stress. I always organised my time so that my own work never got put aside for something bigger. I just organised myself so that I could do both. And it wasn’t tiring or tiresome. In fact, it was easy.
It only took two minutes to plan.