Take a look at the below list of pending tasks:
o Do the monthly payments (electricity bill, Netflix, Mobile Telephony, etc.)
o Do my monthly accounting staff (VAT payments, bank transfers, billing, etc.)
o Fix the broken door in the garden
o Take care of the dog’s vaccination
o Fix the water leakage in the kid’s bedroom
o Exercise 4 times a week, for at least an hour each
o Attend the monthly department meeting via teleconference
o Complete all the pending employee personal development sessions till next Wednesday
Do you relate with any of them? What do you think, would someone feel motivated and happy doing them? Truth is, there are tasks we are more willing to take care off, compared to other tasks. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits and creator of The Habits Academy, the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: akrasia. Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgement. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control.
When referring to procrastination, some people may think of it as poor time management, an inability to organize and prioritize tasks, meaning that we do them at the last minute, or even past their deadline. Recent research on the matter reports that people who procrastinate tend to have higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-compassion (Fuschia Sirois, Ph.D). Sirois explains that “serial” procrastinators are stuck in a vicious cycle, in which the thought of previous uncompleted tasks haunts them, paralyzing them, and stopping them from completing present tasks, as well.
How can we get unstuck? After a lot of research, trial and error, and feedback from coachees, I think I can suggest a simple framework that actually works: The 4Ds (introduced by Jack Canfield in his famous Success Principles). The 4Ds are 4 distinct options to deal with a pending task: Delegate, Do, Delay or Dump. Using those strategies in the optimal way will result in reducing your pending tasks, hence decreasing procrastination.
The first option to consider is delegating the task to someone else. A very crucial thing to decide is whether you will delegate the responsibility only, or the accountability as well. If it is difficult to delegate both, then delegation should not be your first option. The reason is that even if you delegate responsibility, you cannot move the task away since you still own the accountability.
If delegation is not an option, then just do the task and remove it from your list. Your only worry is the time you will spend in doing this task and the potential opportunity costs (the potential impact of not doing another task instead).
You may choose to delay a task if you value that you will benefit from this delay. For instance, you may choose to delay a loan payment for 2 weeks in light of a better cash flow. But what the heck will you earn from delaying fixing a water leakage at home?
Last choice is to dump the task, provided you are well aware of the benefits and the corresponding risks from doing so. You choose to dump a task if the odds of returning in another form (in your to-do list) are low.
When using the 4D framework, it is crucial to remember that a “D” is not a task status. It’s a way of dealing with it. Just pick the right one, act accordingly and remove it from your list. Good luck!