Sometimes I have a hard time getting around procrastination. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

I’ve been listening to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin’s podcast Back to Work lately and procrastination is one thing they address multiple times. Merlin is of the opinion that procrastination partly stems from having an item on your to-do list but not having a defined set of steps spelled out yet (in your head, on paper, whatever) for how to accomplish the task. You may not even know what the next thing you have to do in order to accomplish the task is.

So make a freaking list of actions!

The items on the list should be actions. Verbs. Things like:

  1. Drive to the mall
  2. Walk to shoe store
  3. Try on 5 pairs of running shoes in size 12
  4. Select 1 pair that fits the best
  5. Pay for shoes
  6. Drive home


  1. Launch web browser
  2. Navigate to Zappos
  3. Locate 5 pairs of running shoes in size 12
  4. Pay for shoes
  5. Try on all 5 pairs
  6. Select 1 pair that fits the best
  7. Request to return other 4 to Zappos
  8. Pack 4 pairs of shoes into box
  9. Print return shipping label
  10. Apply shipping label
  11. Drive box to UPS store
  12. Leave box at UPS store
  13. Drive home

All the italic words are verbs. Now you have a list. This makes buying shoes brain dead simple. Execute the list, check off each step. Now you have no reason for not buying shoes, unless…

If buying shoes is really that important to you, execute the list. If buying shoes isn’t that important, WHY THE HELL IS IT ON YOUR LIST?!?!

Buying shoes doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I’ve had “buy new shoes” on my to-do list for at least 2 years. It’s clearly not that important to me.

Time to either execute or remove it from my list!

(Yes, this also relates to Planning, Specifying and Documenting work projects. No one at big companies likes doing their work, that’s why they write big lists of actions that have to happen. You should, too.)


06 July 2012