I noticed recently that when there's something on my to-do list that I really want to avoid, I start searching for something else -- anything else -- to do instead. Sometimes that means I end up baking banana bread at 2 in the morning. Sometimes I discover an awesome new blog. Sometimes I end up surfing my favorite time-wasters on the web. But most of the time, that search for a distraction brings me right back to my to-do list, and I end up knocking tons of little line items off and being productive in spite of myself.
Case in point: I needed to re-read a book that I'm reviewing, because I loved it but I read it so long ago that can't figure out how to describe it in 500 words without completely giving away the plot. So what I did I do instead? Wrote a month's worth of product reviews, cleaned out my work bag -- twice -- and sorted coupons. (Yes, Kathy Spencer inspired me, too!)
Another example: the post that appeared last week at The 36-Hour Day. I should have written it days earlier, but I've been soloparenting while my husband is away and after I got home from work I hung out with my kids and fed them dinner and put them to bed and stumbled downstairs and looked at my computer and thought, "Um. Anything I type is not going to be coherent. It might not even contain actual words. Don't I have a book to reread for that review?"
Which meant that, when the piece was actually due, I was running out of items with which to procrastinate. If you've been procrastinating for a while, eventually you come to the big thing on your to-do list, the one you were trying to avoid to begin with. And there's nothing left to do but tackle that item head-on.
That post was not that item. The thing I'm really trying to avoid is cleaning my house in advance of my youngest child's 3rd birthday party, which is taking place this weekend. Which means that I've suddenly discovered a few other things I can get done before I can't procrastinate about the cleaning any longer.
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