A tag for us procrastinators

I learned a trick from Merlin Mann a long time ago that has served me well when I’m procrastinating and I’ve recently combined it with OF’s tag feature. It helps me fend off procrastination, so I share in case it helps you, too.

So, the trick from Merlin is this: When I find that I’m avoiding things and letting that escalate into a state of procrastination, I’ll make a list of all the things I don’t want to do. I’ll go through that list and put a star next to the ones I really don’t want to do. Then, I’ll go down the list of starred items and put a star next to the ones I really, really don’t want to do. Then, I’ll go down the list of double-starred items, and put a star next to the ones I really, really, really … you get the idea. I do this until I get to a list with exactly one item that has, like, 17 stars next to it. I set a pomodoro and I work on THAT THING. Normally the <17 starred items are a lot less scary after that.

I can’t remember what he called it but for some reason “bear traps” comes to mind.

Anyway, this is a successful strategy I’ve used for years and with tags, I am using OF to help me operationalize it. I’ve created a tag called Avoiding and I’ve assigned it to my Forecast. Now, I can right click and mark any tag “Avoiding” and I can see where those tasks in my everyday view. Putting the things I’m procrastinating front and center invites me to tackle them in that brute force way: JUST DO THE DARN THING. It’s not quite the same as my list of star-spangled bear traps (or whatever Mann called it), but I’ve come to appreciate that I can make the OF interface work with me to manage this frustrating response I can have to some types of work.


Great idea. Finally a reason to use a second tag on my legacy contexts :-).

Speaking of procrastination… I came up with a MOOC course where they have a good theory of why! you don’t want to do certain things… ( …you may have conflicting inner values or beliefs on those things you really don’t want to do). In case anyone is interested, it in is named ‘Unlocking the Immunity to Change: A New Approach to Personal Improvement’

As a matter of fact, I first found this course an then I started searching and found about Omnifocus and GTD. Reverse path to the one I’m suggesting here.

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A great suggestion. I’ll try it.

I usually find that the task or project I’m avoiding becomes doable when I thoroughly review it. It’s then that I name it more accurately, or split it into sub-tasks, or decide I’ll never do it. I discover that I’m not doing it because I have the wrong idea about what I need to do.