The most dangerous word in the English language
Let me tell you how I grew a beard over the course of two weeks. It really wasn’t hard and it just took one little word that I’ve told myself every morning in the mirror: “later.” The only thing is, “later” never came around. Instead, every morning, I kept fooling myself that I’ll just do it later. I still have time, it doesn’t look that bad so I’ll just do it later. It became sort of a mantra and this magical “later” became a wonderland where things would eventually get done. I never really had the time to visit wonderland and see how crowded it really had become.
Things you’d rather do later will rarely get done at all
In wonderland, I had to shave, work out, eat healthier, write to my friend half-way across the world, play with my dog and tell my wife I love her. Slowly, but surely, later-wonderland began to fill up. That client email, that invoice reminder or submitting the tax forms to my accountant. They will surely get done later.
Out of sight really became out of mind and wonderland became neverland. Because the more things you have in wonderland, the less likely you are to ever do them.
Schedule, do immediately or don’t even bother
There’s only one way to get rid of neverland. Whenever a new task lands on your plate, you have two options:
- Schedule it
- Do it now
Anything short of that, it’s likely not going to get done.
So how do you decide if you should schedule it or if you should just do it now? Simple math. If what I’m doing takes me less time than it would take to think about when to schedule it and then actually schedule it, I just do it right then and there. Otherwise, I schedule it. A good rule of thumb for me is, if it takes less than 3 minutes, just do it now!
A good rule of thumb for me is, if it takes less than 3 minutes, just do it now!
If you decide to schedule it, the minimum you need to decide is when to do it. Ideally, you want to create a proper time slot for your task, which should include a date, a start time and an end time. The more precise you are, the better the chances you will actually do it at the schedule time.
Use a good scheduler
Regardless of how you like to schedule your day, make sure you stick to it. If you use a calendar, find an empty time slot and assign your task there. If you use pen and paper, have your little notebook and pencil always handy. I wouldn’t recommend post-it notes, because they are easily misplaced. If you use a to do list app, make sure you can add anything to it in less than a minute. Ideally, you can go through scheduling tasks for an entire day in under 3 minutes, whichever method of scheduling you prefer.
Whatever you use, be consistent and don’t schedule tasks in more than one place. And under no circumstance should you use your mighty brain to keep track of tasks.
I personally use an app to schedule everything. Todoist is my lifesaver. Adding tasks to Todoist cannot be easier!I personally use an app to schedule everything. Todoist is my lifesaver. It takes me under 10 seconds to add a new task, schedule it, assign it to a list and add tags to it.
Of course, the worst thing you can do is have a list called “Later.” Tasks on this list rarely get done. I guarantee it, that list will grow and you’ll feel the urge to organise it and inevitably create another list called “Later 2.”
What if you already have a “Later” wonderland of your own?
Chances are you are already living in a “later” wonderland. You probably carry around a load of tasks you’re meant to do. Eventually, just not right now. Fear not, there is a simple solution to getting rid of your “later” list. The answer is simple. Just treat it like you would any other task. Schedule the task of going through your “later” list or do it now.
- Go through your list one by one and pick any task that would take longer than 3 minutes to do. Schedule it.
- Any task that is still left on your list, do it now, in the order you see it on your list. Don’t waste time prioritising these tasks, just do them in the order you see them. And if you feel the need to say maybe I’ll do this later, delete that task immediately. You’ll never do it.
- Once you have an empty “later” list, just delete it. Congratulations, you’ve reached #LaterZero.
Get rid of “later” now, rather than later. I shaved this morning. I fell great and only took 5 minutes. One less thing to do later.
Originally published at www.fry-it.com.