Procrastinating? This exercise might help you

Unless you are a happy procrastinator, chances are you can use some help activating your proactiveness. Since procrastination can be both your source of stress and the way you are trying to deal with it, it makes sense to tackle stress as a strategy to stop delaying what you want to do.

So grab that cup of coffee, something to write on, and something to write with. This exercise will satisfy your crave to stall while you boost your productivity. It will take you about 15 minutes.

Step 1: Create your matrix. Divide your whiteboard, notebook or Excel sheet into three columns. Write the headers: should, need, and want. You can download a printable PDF at the end of this post.

Step 2: Fill out the "should" column. Start by saying out loud this sentence "Right now, I should..." Write all your answers in the first column, as a list. Keep on going until nothing else comes to your mind.

For example, let's say you begin with "Right now, I should be writing the project report." So you list "write project report" on your matrix.

Step 3: Fill out the "need" column. For this, you will need to start with the phrase "I need to...", followed by the first item on your "should" column, and continue with "because..."

Let's continue with our example. "I need to write the project report because it is the only thing left to close the project."

Your "need" column will say something like "close the project". If the task has a deadline, you can add it if it seems helpful.

Step 4: Prioritize. Remember priority scheduling? Now is a good time to practice it. Go through your "need" column and mark with a dot all the items that need are related to deadlines, appointments, or meetings in the next two work days.

When you decide to do something because you want to do it, it is more probable that you will remain committed to the process of delivering it.

Next, mark with a star all the elements that are related to your health or family/relationship well-being.

Also, mark anything in your list that would create a domino effect by setting up a situation in which it is easier to complete other tasks or that would make them unnecessary.

Here are some questions you might try:

  • How can doing this will help me complete anything else on my list?
  • Which of these items are related? Are they all part of the same process? Do I need to do all of them?
  • What thing could I complete that would make me feel productive and powerful so everything else seems easy?

Step 5: Make decisions. Your next step is to fill out the "want" column. This means you will be making decisions: instead of saying that you "should" do something, you will declare that you "want" to do it because it is important to you.

This is the moment of truth. Say out loud "I want to..." and write your answer in the third column.

Add your reason to do it. This will help you stay focused in case you are tempted to procrastinate again. "I want to write the project report now because that will clear out my schedule so I can kick off the new project on Monday". (What is more exciting than a project kick off, right?)

It's fine if you decide you don't want to do something and some spaces remain blank. By this point you might have realized many of the things you thought you should do are not necessary or don't make sense.

When you decide to do something because you want to do it, it is more probable that you will remain committed to the process of delivering it.

This matrix works because:

  • It provides the opportunity to take a break from your work
  • It engages you in a conversation with yourself to check on some of your needs
  • It helps you recover your sense of control over how you are managing sources of stress

Ready to try it? 

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