What’s the worst kind of procrastination?
Playing video games?
Scrolling on social media?
Nope, none of those.
The worst kind of procrastination is doing something ostensibly productive. Why? Because it doesn’t feel like procrastination, so you’re least likely to stop.
Turns out the skill of time management is just about learning what to say no to.
After all, we live in a world of endless opportunities.
Everything is constantly asking for our attention and there are a million things you could be doing at any given time.
And while this abundance of opportunity is definitely something we should feel thankful for, it also means something else:
You have to choose.
Doing one thing necessarily means you can’t do another. So saying yes once necessarily means saying no a million times — namely to all the other things you could have been doing. This is what economists refer to as “opportunity costs.”
As a popular psychologist put it “You get to pick your sacrifice, you don’t get to not make one.”
So what should you say no to?
Simple: everything that isn’t the very best use of your time right now.
Ask yourself: do you really need to do more “research?” Do you really need to browse the job boards for another hour? Or is there something better you could be doing?
If you really did take a minute to think through what you need to do to get closer to your goals, and this is what you arrived at, then great!
But chances are you didn’t.
Chances are that you could be taking some small step that would actually take you closer to your goals right now, and this isn’t it.
Chances are you know what needs to happen, but for some reason, you’re not doing it. Maybe you’ve been building it up in your mind until it’s this huge thing, and now you’re dancing around it, not sure where to start.
But the thing about big problems is that they always consist of a hundred small ones.
So pick the smallest sub-problem you can think of.
And just start.
Start somewhere. Anywhere. But start.
Take that first step, and then figure it out from there.
Look all those distractions straight in the face, especially the “productive” ones, and say no. Because you have something more important to do right now.
Go do it.
This post originally appeared in the DJH newsletter.
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