Everyone procrastinates. More so in this day and age of distractions where you can easily get distracted by a beep of your phone, a TV show, emails, and cat videos. It’s hard to start doing things that actually matters and be productive. How hard it is to make up your bed, to sweep the floor, to take a bath, or even change into clean clothes after work? The answer, as many lazy people would attest, is very hard. Sure, technically, it’s as simple as, in the words of Shia LaBeouf, “just do it”, but ask any lazy person and they’ll have a million reason not to. After all, who can resist the temptation to watch that newly uploaded Fails of the Week video, right?
I know because I am one of those people you call lazy. I wish that the floor would sweep itself and I wish that my term paper would magically write itself. But this isn’t Hogwarts where “there’s a spell for that”. This is real life where, as unfortunate as it is, you can’t expect things to be done by itself without you actually making an effort.
If you’re a lazy person, this thought will actually make you shake your head in disappointment.
Procrastination is delaying the inevitable
Here’s the scary bit about procrastination. No matter how you spin it, the consequences will eventually bite you in the rear. After all, procrastination is basically delaying the inevitable. That thing—whatever the thing is—needs to be done, whether now or later, or else a chain reaction of bad things will happen.
An example: let’s say it’s Monday and the work is stressing you out. When you get home in the evening, all you want to do is to hit your head onto the pillow, not even first removing your work clothes your socks, let alone take a bath! So, like a robot, you drop your bag on the floor and drone on straight to bed where you just shut yourself down and sleep like a baby. The next morning you snoozed too much and woke up very late. When all you wanted is a peace of mind in the morning to prep yourself for work, you haven’t even gotten out of yesterday’s clothes yet. So you jump out of bed, all sleepy and light-headed, and begin hurrying to remove your clothes. Finally, you leave work not only feeling groggy, but also because there’s simply too much stress in the morning with nobody else to blame but yourself.
And then you remember that you haven’t done that deck for today’s presentation yet. Oh, crap.
First things first!
You can see the horrifying consequences of delaying what needs to be done. So how do you beat it? Well, one method that I do that actually makes me more productive is a method that I call First Things First, or FTF in short.
In a nutshell, FTF means doing the easiest thing first. Easiest can mean things that are the closest in proximity or requires the least effort or the least consideration. FTF shouldn’t make you think too much.
Here are the steps on how I do it.
- Think about the easiest things that needs to be done and make an imaginary list in your head, going from the super-easiest things on the very top to the least-easy things on the bottom,
- say the words, “First things first!” out loud or quietly while still thinking about the aforementioned imaginary list, and, finally,
- do the things in that imaginary list in the exact order you thought of them.
Step 2 may sound ridiculous but saying the words out loud actually makes the whole thing work like a charm. (There’s a reason why the wizards of Hogwarts say a spell out loud before seeing it work.)
Going back to the previous example of that horrible Monday evening, instead of heading straight to bed, you think of the following things first: 1) put down the bag, 2) take off your shirt, 3) take off your pants, 4) change into fresh clothes, 5) put the dirty clothes in the laundry bin. Right before you open the door, you say, “First things first!”. When you open the door, you do exactly the things in that order.
Another example is when you’re writing an article, think about the subtopics that you want to cover going from the easiest to the least easy, say the words “First things first!”, and you do the research in that order.
The two scenarios above are, of course, merely examples to illustrate how FTF works. Again, the point of First Things First is to do whatever things are the easiest first.
Think. Say. Do.
While recovering from procrastination will take time, simply thinking about and doing the easiest things that you can do first helps a lot. When you feel like you can’t do things simply because you don’t feel like doing them, but they are important, remember the First Things First principle: Think, Say, Do.
A little bit of a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert (not even a novice) in psychology nor do I have a sort of scientific explanation behind this so-called “method”. The reason I’m writing, and sharing, this is purely because I used to be a chronic procrastinator and, in my effort in recovering from that, this method has been working well in my case. It’s also worth mentioning that the FTF principle is by no means the surefire way of getting out of procrastination, especially those who suffer from the chronic kind. It’s merely a way of pushing myself to go that extra mile (or kilometer, I guess) in making a simple effort to getting things done, which, in turn, hopefully helps to shake off that extra strain from an already stressful day.
What do you think of the First Thing’s First principle? Do you agree or disagree? Have you tried a similar principle yourself or, better yet, more productive principles or methods? Please let me know in the comments!