Are you ready to stop putting things off?
Is it time to finally tackle those nagging tasks?
You know the ones I’m talking about, right?
I mean those projects that you keep putting off from one day to the next…
One week to the next…
One month to the next…
Here’s the truth.
We all have tasks that – for one reason or another – simply remain incomplete.
And today I want to help you discover why you haven’t taken action on them.
And perhaps more importantly, I’m excited to share my simple 7 question formula to help you finally get them done.
Check out episode 60 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, learn how to implement this easy process, and say goodbye to those nagging tasks for good.
Are you in?
You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
Listen To The Podcast Here!
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- Why you’re not taking action on your nagging tasks
- My powerful 7-steps to complete each one
- Action steps to get started today
Links From The Podcast
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Episode 60: How to Stop Putting Things Off For Good (Transcript)
Hey, everybody! How’s it going? Welcome to the podcast. We have reached episode 60! What? Amazing.
And I want to take a moment to give a shout out to one of you amazing podcast listeners who left a review and a rating for the podcast. So a huge shout out to Sarah Joye who titled her review, favorite podcast.
Listener Shout Out
I’m a full-time working mom with a hectic/stressful job and a spouse who also works more than full-time. I listen to I’m Busy Being Awesome every morning before my kid wakes up. Sometimes I even listen to episodes twice. It has given me so many good ideas about how to keep all the balls in the air (the ones I deem important for me, that is!). I’m so glad I found it when Googling “how to get organized when you have too many to dos”!
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave that review, Sarah. It means the world to me. And thank you to all of you who have taken the time to pop over to your podcast feed, leave a rating and a review. I know it might seem like a hassle, but it really goes a long way in helping me get this podcast out to as many people as possible.
What’s Happening Today?
So what’s happening today? What are we talking about? Well, today I want to talk with you about that one task that is sitting on your to-do list it’s been there for weeks, maybe months, possibly even years. You know the one I’m talking about, right? It’s that one that you just keep pushing off over and over and over and transferring it from one to-do list to the next.
I became aware of my propensity to do this very thing – putting off the tasks over and over – several years ago when I started playing around with bullet journaling.
For those of you who haven’t used bullet journaling before, it is a journaling and scheduling and organizational strategy that many people love to use because it involves both creativity and flexibility will also allowing you to stay organized. And one of the practices within bullet journaling is having your daily to-do list, but then needing to migrate the tasks that you don’t complete from one day over to the next.
The simple act of needing to copy the things that I didn’t complete from one page to the next each day really helped to drive home certain projects, tasks, and even general areas of my life where I kept putting things off.
I have a feeling I’m not alone here. My guess is there are some of you listening who also have that handful of projects or maybe a general set of tasks that you frequently push off or keep telling yourself you’ll do “later.” But as I often talk about with my clients and remind myself, when we tell ourselves we’ll do it later, later never comes. Later doesn’t come unless we decide that later means next Thursday at 10 am.
How to Stop Putting Things Off
So what I decided to do today is share with you the step by step process that I use to get those nagging tasks off your to-do list. This is the approach that I have been working with and perfecting for a while now. And I’m at a point where it works quite well for me. And I hope that it will be helpful for you, too. It is a seven-step process. The first three steps are the bigger picture mindset work. And the last four steps are very tactical strategies to get you moving and checking things off your list once and for all.
But before we get into those seven steps, I first just want to quickly talk about why this is actually important. Why is it that we want to work on following through and completing those nagging tasks?
Why is this important?
Of course, on the surface, this may seem very obvious. We want to check off those items from our to-do list. But I think there are even more important reasons underneath that. First of all, if you’re anything like me, seeing those unfinished tasks, and needing to continually transfer them from one to-do list to the next can weigh on you. You start thinking about how you have so much to do, you never get enough done, you can’t check everything off your to-do list. In other words, it just kind of nags at you.
What’s more, it is one more open-loop. It is that unfinished project or task that requires additional energy because you have to keep thinking about it. You have to keep arguing with yourself about whether you will do it or not. You have to keep transferring it from one to-do list to the next. And you are creating more evidence for your brain to grab onto that you never get enough done. You never check the things off your list. You always have more work to do. And for me, there is extra weight from rescheduling the same tasks over and over, day after day, week after week, and month after month.
So today we’re going to learn how to close those loops and move forward.
Step One: Do I Want to Keep This?
So step one may come as a bit of a surprise. But I think it’s a really important step to consider. And this is asking yourself the question, do I want to keep this on my list? So often we put a task or project or an idea on our to-do list either because it randomly popped in our mind, or somebody said we should do it, or we’ve just decided we should do it, but we haven’t really paused to think about whether we actually want to do it. Or perhaps we pushed it off for so long that doing it might not be as important now as when you first put it on the list.
My CSA Box Example
For example, a couple of summers ago, I signed for a CSA box. Each week you get a whole bunch of random vegetables and sometimes fruit and eggs all together in a box from a local farmer. And generally, these fruits and vegetables were a little bit – frankly a lot a bit – unfamiliar to me. Honestly, I didn’t know what half of them even were.
So basically, all summer I kept transferring from one lift to the next, “look up recipes for my CSA box.” And I kept transferring it, but I also kept putting it off. Because I wasn’t making the time for it. At that time, it just wasn’t a priority on my list. And what’s more, because I kept telling myself I was going to find all these recipes, I wouldn’t eat the vegetables because I wanted to “save them” for the special recipe. And then they would go to waste!
So I finally decided that rather than continually moving it from one list to the next, I was going to let it go. I was going to drop at the idealized story I had in my mind of cooking new and exciting meals filled with fresh unique vegetables every night from my CSA box. Because I wasn’t doing it, I had other things that I wanted to focus on. So instead, I decided to just cook the vegetables super plainly without all of the flair. But at least they were used, and I ate them.
So again, step one is getting really honest with yourself. It is asking, “do I want to keep this task on my list?” If not, drop it. No sweat. But if you do want to keep it, then move on to step two.
Step Two: Why Haven’t I Done This Yet?
So step two. Step two is taking a few minutes to identify why you are not doing this task in the first place. And in order to uncover the reasons why you’re not doing it, I highly recommend doing a thought download. So just as I recommend in other episodes, grab a piece of paper or your notebook or you are tablet with a pencil, whatever you use to do your thought download. And spend a little bit of time writing down your answers the question why haven’t I done this yet?
Find Your Thoughts, Obstacles, and Excuses.
The reason why I recommend doing it this way, is you are going to uncover a lot of valuable information. Your brain is going to offer you a whole bunch of thoughts about why you have not taken action. This is going to help you recognize not only the thoughts and excuses of why you haven’t taken action, but it also helps you identify the obstacles that are in your way from following through.
So let’s say you wanted to launch a website. And you’ve had that on your to-do list for months. I’d recommend grabbing a piece of paper and writing at the top of it: why haven’t I launched my website yet?
Then download all of your thoughts on the paper answering these questions. Maybe you have thoughts like: I’m bad with technology. I haven’t had time. I don’t know where to start. Or I don’t have knowledge of WordPress. I don’t have a domain. I don’t know what to put on the different pages of my website. Whatever reasons come up for you, write them down.
And then have a look at them. There is so much value here. First, find the very obvious thoughts. These are things like: I’m bad with technology. I haven’t had the time, and I don’t know where to start.
Question Your Thoughts
After you’ve identified your thoughts, question them. Is this true? For example, are you really bad with technology? Can you absolutely be sure this is true? How could the opposite be true? Where are you good with technology? And find evidence for that. And if your brain really wants to keep the thought that you’re bad with technology, what do you want to do about it? How do you want to solve that obstacle? Do you want to ask somebody who knows how to use WordPress? Could you find some YouTube videos on how to get started with WordPress? Do you want to sign up for a course? Find some strategies to overcome those obstacles.
From there, look at your list again and identify the more tactical obstacles. These are things like, “I don’t have knowledge of WordPress. I don’t have a website domain. I don’t know what pages are best to include in my website.” And just as I mentioned a moment ago, find Solutions. If you don’t have a website domain, what do you want to do about it? What are the steps that you can take to get that website domain? And start as far back as you need to. Maybe it starts with asking somebody what that means? Maybe it means doing some Google research. Figure out the steps to overcome those obstacles.
Step Three: Why Is This Important to You?
And then step three, which is the last mindset component of our seven steps, is to identify why this task is important to you.
You’ve decided that you want to keep this task on your list. You have identified why you haven’t started and created strategies to overcome all of those obstacles. Now is the time to remember why you want to complete this task in the first place.
And for this step, I recommend brainstorming a big list of reasons. Now, I do think there’s a lot of value in identifying your big reason why — in knowing your overarching why when you’re working toward major goals and big projects. That is often what keeps us going when things get tough. Now, I think it’s a similar concept for these smaller projects and tasks, too.
Because when we take a moment to identify the reason why we want to submit the expense reports, or answer that one email that you “marked as unread” in your inbox for a very long time, or upload our first YouTube video to our YouTube channel, it helps keep us moving forward too.
And you may have many different reasons and many different angles for why you want to do those tasks. If we think about submitting expense reports – which could quite possibly be one of those boring things to do – you still probably have a lot of reasons for why you want to do it. For one, you want to get reimbursed if it was your own money you first spent. Second, you want to do your job, and if that’s not true, you do probably want to keep your job by doing what you’re meant to do. Sabai simply remembering why you decided to keep this task on your list and why it’s important for you to complete it, it helps you get in the mindset to get started, work through those obstacles, and make things happen.
Alright, so we’ve gone through our first three steps. We’ve finished the mindset component of my 7-step strategy. And I want to simply reinforce the importance of these three steps. doing this foundational work is really helpful in setting yourself up for success in order to follow through on the tactical steps that we’re going to talk about next.
Step Four: Do I Know the Complete Step-By-Step Process to Complete the Project?
So step four is to ask yourself, “do I know the complete step-by-step process of completing this project or task?”
Project vs. Task
Now, I have been using both of these terms throughout this episode. And I want to just quickly clarify the difference between a project or task.
I got this terminology from David Allen in his book Getting Things Done, which is a very popular book in the productivity world. Basically, according to Allen, the difference between a project and a task is the number of steps involved. The project is essentially anything that takes more than one step to complete it. And a task is anything that can be completed in a single step, and you can usually complete it in a single period. You can definitely break down tasks into subtasks as I’ve talked about. But I generally like to think about the difference between projects and tasks in terms of how much time it would take – whether you can get it done in one single sitting or over a longer period of time as well as the number of steps involved.
Create the Step By Step
So as you are looking at that one project or task that has been sitting on your to-do list for too long, and you’ve decided that you do want to do it you know why it’s important and you have the obstacles and strategies figure it out, it’s now time to ask yourself, what is the step-by-step process to completing this thing?
Because chances are, we are stuck because we’re telling ourselves we don’t know that I could step, or we don’t know where to start, or we don’t know how to get the end result. But of course, we do know where to start. We do know how to figure it out. we probably just haven’t taken the time to break it down. That’s usually one of my hangups when I notice I’m transferring one project from week to week. I am lacking the direction of a clear step by step process.
My Example – Facebook
So for example, for a very long time, I simply had on my to-do list, “figure out Facebook ads.” Now, here’s the deal. I know better than that. I know I’m not going to take action on that. first of all, what does that even mean? This is way too elusive of a task. What does figuring out mean? How do I know when I’ve done that? And what’s more, because it’s so big in Vegas, I don’t take action. Because my brain wants to get confused.
So then I started breaking things down.
The Step-By-Step Breakdown
- One: learn terminology
- Two: watch the training videos I have
- Three: ask my friend about any specific questions I have after watching the training
- Four: write the copy
- Five: design the ads etc.
So after breaking down that bigger sing on my list, I created smaller projects, which were much more actionable gave my brain some direction.
So think about that thing on your list that you keep moving from one to the next. Is it too big and vague? Do you know the step by step process? If not, break it down. Give yourself some direction.
And perhaps most importantly of all, put a date on each task. Make sure you know exactly when – both in oth in terms of the date and the time during that day that you are going to complete that specific portion of the project.
Step Five: Do I Have What I Need?
Once you have your direction, and you know the first task you want to work on, then it’s time to ask yourself the next question, which is Step number 5. And this is the question, “do I have what I need?”
One thing I found is that we often hold back from doing the test because we are missing something. Maybe we are missing some information, maybe we don’t have the right materials, maybe we have a logistical problem. Whatever it is, we get stuck because we don’t have the thing we need in order to move forward. It’s really important to identify what it is that you are missing so that you can solve for that obstacle.
For example, on my to-do list for months I had clean fence. We have the white vinyl fencing in our back yard, and we’ve had it for a couple of years. It’s gotten super dirty in some areas and I want to clean it up.
First of all, this is not something I’m super excited about. I do want to do it. I want to get it done. But I’m not jumping up and down excited about it. So I wasn’t spending much time thinking about why I wasn’t working on it I just kept transferring it from one lift to the next. And then I decided to finally pause and figure out what was going on. I wanted to get the fence cleaned, but it wasn’t happening. Why not?
And I realized the thing that was holding me back was that I didn’t have the right materials. I didn’t have the brushes I needed. I didn’t have the pressure washer I wanted to use to really scrub it down. And so I wasn’t moving forward. But once I identified what was missing, then I had a much easier time creating that clear plan in order to move forward. I just had to figure out what I was missing – what tools I needed – to get the job done.
Step Six: Do I have My Getting Started Sequence In Place?
Now, step six is another really important step that’s often overlooked. And this is asking yourself the question, “do I have my getting started sequence in place?”
As we talked about on the podcast before, it’s really easy for our brain to get overwhelmed when the task seems vague, or unclear, or too big. It’s really easy for us to indulge in overwhelm and indecision because we’re thinking things like, “it’s too much, I don’t know where to start, it’s going to take too long, etc.”
Create Quick Wins
What’s more, our brain really likes having quick wins. And this is especially true for those of us with ADHD brains. We are looking for that quick-hit of dopamine, which is one of the chemicals that people with ADHD have less of in our brain. Having that really easy, step-by-step of small wins that we get to check off the list at the beginning of the project helps us get the ball rolling. It gets us taking action.
So whenever I am planning out my schedule for the day, I love breaking down the beginning of my tasks into very small, incredibly doable steps. And it may seem over the top, but I’m telling you – when it is something that you have been putting off, you aren’t particularly excited about, or maybe you’re a little intimidated by, having those simple guidelines to follow, and the opportunity to check off lots of things all at once, helps keep you moving forward.
My Getting Started Sequence
So for example, if we go back to my Facebook ads, one of the projects I mentioned within that overarching goal of learning how to run Facebook ads was to create the imagery.
So I decided to break that down into even smaller steps. Because we could easily just say, okay, I need to make some images. Let’s get started. But I can tell you that my brain pushes back against that. Because it wants to make sure that I find the right images, and I do it exactly the right way. And I start getting into indecision and overwhelmed before I even get started. So here’s what I did.
My Simple Sequence
First, I reminded myself – and I even wrote down on a post-it-note why this step is important to me. So I wrote down, “using Facebook ads allows me to help more people, and by creating appealing visuals for those ads, it will make this process even more effective.”
After I reminded myself why this is important, then I wrote down very clear steps. 2. open Canva. 3. choose the template size. 4. open the stock image site. 5. choose 3 images. 6. upload those images to Canva. By that time, I had gotten the ball rolling, I was in my group, and I had an easy time moving forward. But I know from experience, that if I didn’t break it down and tell my brain the step -step process, I would have kept putting it off.
I don’t want to note that if you are doing a process that you are not particularly excited about, then I would recommend breaking down the steps that small throughout the entire process. Because it’s going to keep you moving forward. so in other words, if you’re just dragging your feet to get started, but once you dig in you’ll have an easy time continuing, then just map out the beginning handful of steps to get the ball rolling. But if it’s something that you’re not especially excited about but you want to get it done anyway, then really break down every step to keep you moving forward and on track from start to finish.
Step Seven: What Does Done Look Like?
Now the last question and step in this process he’s checking in with yourself and identifying what done looks like. Now, I talked about this concept way back in episode 16. And I talked about it in the bigger picture sense. So if you’re looking at your to-do list for the day and it has 15 things on it, what is done look like for you? Does it mean completing five of the tasks? Does it mean completing one project that’s made up of four or five smaller tasks? And we talked about the importance of making “done” clear for yourself so you know when you’ve reached the end of the workday and can tell yourself it’s time to power down.
Now I love this concept. And I use it often. And I’ve also started playing around with it as I am learning more about myself and where I personally get stuck in terms of following through and completing my tasks.
What I’ve learned about myself is that I need to get incredibly detailed about what done looks like on individual projects as well. I’ve found it this has been a huge help in getting me to follow through all the way and complete my tasks from start to finish. Because here’s the deal. Everyone struggles with follow through every once in a while. Everyone has a hard time finishing up the last details. Or sticking with something all the way through to completion. people with ADHD often take the struggle to the next level. It’s one of the challenges that we work through with executive functioning.
So for me, if I’m not careful, I get about 80% through the particular project or goal or task and then I will leave it there. So what does this look like?
In terms of small things, you could say something like laundry. For me, if I’m not being mindful, I will do the wash, I’ll dry the clothes, I will even pull them out of the dryer and hang them on hangers. But then, it stops. And I will leave the basket of clean clothes and clothes on the hangers sitting down in the basement or I might even bring them all the way up to the bedroom and just leave it by my closet and not do that last 20% of Simply putting away the laundry. Or if I am cleaning the kitchen, I will wash the dishes, wipe down the counters, wash the floor, clean out the fridge, Etc. But then I won’t put away the dishes after they’ve dried. So it’s that last 20% that I struggle to finish.
So if you’re making a cake. Maybe you find the recipe, you get the ingredients, you bake the cake, you frost the cake. But then you don’t clean everything up. Or the dishes sit in the sink soaking with water in it. Can anybody relate to these smaller things? If so, you’re in good company.
And, of course, this is true for bigger things, too.
For example, as I went through the process of finishing in publishing my book this year, I kept thinking that I was done. I kept thinking that I got through the last step. But then my editor kept needing more stuff. The meeting stuff in that last 20% that I didn’t plan for. I had done the research. I wrote the book. What else do they want from me? Turns out, they wanted things like an index for the book. Getting copyright permissions for the images. Writing the acknowledgments section. Writing the blurb that you put on the back of the book. All of these things all of these details on stash I just didn’t plan for in my mind. And so that last 20% probably dragged out a bit further than if I had planned it and created a clear step by step plan.
So when I encourage you to do is to work step by step through your plan all the way through to completion. Define what done looks like all the way through to the end. Including the cleanup. Including those extra details. Think about what everything will look like once you’re completely done and ready to move on to the next project or task. And again, this is especially important for those of us who really struggle with following through.
And if you don’t know what done looks like – if that is unclear to you – then it’s possible that you haven’t broken down your project into small enough steps. So take a minute to break things down a little bit further. Map out what done looks like for what you do know. Get to that place. And then create the next steps that help you figure out the next piece of the puzzle.
So there you have it, my friends. That is my simple 7-step process to finally complete those nagging tasks on your to-do list. So it was a quick recap, I’ll read through each of those steps again.
First of all, check-in with yourself. Decide whether you want to keep this task on your list. Do you want to actually complete it? Is it still relevant? Or, do you want to simply eliminate it and move on to the next thing? Either way is fine. But just decide. You don’t want to be continually transferring this task from one list to the next when you don’t even want to actually do it.
The Seven Questions
Second of all, do with that download answering the question. Why haven’t I done this yet? Offer all of your answers to help you uncover both your thoughts and the obstacles, which help you generate strategies to overcome them.
Step 3, identify why this project or task is important to you. Remember why you are doing this in the first place. Why do you want to get it done?
Step 4, check-in with yourself to ensure that you know the step by step process to complete the project. Is your task too big or vague? If so, break it down into clear actionable steps.
Step 5, figure out whether you have what you need. Do you have the actual tools or information that you need in order to move forward? If not, what do you need to do to get those resources or tools?
Step six, make sure you have your “getting started sequence” in place. Give yourself those simple quick wins to get the ball rolling so that you can get into the flow and continue moving forward.
And finally, step 7, decide what done looks like. Picture yourself moving all the way through to the finish line. Include the cleanup. Include the index and acknowledgments. And include all of those little details so that you are completely and fully done and can finally check that nagging task off your to-do list once and for all.