I believe some procrastinators have hidden tasks on their
lists that are wreaking productivity havoc. I’m not referring to the
time-wasters like web surfing that we fail to record, although making a habit
of adding these to our list can work wonders. I’m talking about the tasks we
may have subconsciously added to our lists at our own or others’ initiative.
Here’s an example. Your higher-up tells you he’s very unhappy
with the work performance of someone in your department. You’ve talked with her
before with no results. You wonder if you didn’t train her well or communicate
the problem effectively. Your hidden task is “improve employee’s work
performance.” If you’re particularly intuitive, you may have added a task like,
“Decide if I need to do anything about employee” to your list. But many people
won’t do that unless they have a specific task assigned to them. In this
situation, your manager hasn’t told you that dealing with the employee is your
responsibility. Yet you’ve taken it on.
Hidden tasks are common at home, too. We may unknowingly add
tasks of solving family members’ problems, resolving conflicts, or making them
happy. To-do’s that start with, “feel guilty about…” are often embedded in our
lists or concealed behind more traditional tasks like, “call mom.” Other hidden
tasks start with “feel responsible for…” and can be extended to every facet of
our lives like church or community roles.
Because these tasks are not in black-and-white, we do not have
the opportunity to put them up for review. If we did review them, we could
plainly see that our adult son’s happiness is not our responsibility, but
making sure he has our records for his college financial aid application is. If
we put “improve employee’s work performance” on our list, we may recognize that
we’ve already fulfilled our responsibilities to her and cross it off the list.
The emotional energy devoted to hidden tasks of guilt and
misplaced responsibility makes procrastination of our real responsibilities
more likely. As we work on our written to-do list, we are subconsciously
crossing off tasks that require a great deal of emotional energy. At the end of
the day, we may feel we’ve accomplished little of value, yet feel drained.
So how can we bring these hidden tasks to light? Write the
answers to these questions on your task list where you can review them or cross
* What work, home, relationship, church, community problems do
you feel personally responsible for?
* What or who do you wish you could change, but you haven’t
been able to?
* What tasks that are currently on your list provoke guilt?
* What responsibilities have others assigned to you that might
not be yours?
Some examples of answers you might add to your list include:
Am I responsible for making my siblings get along?
Should I feel guilty that I don’t want to spend time with a
certain old friend?
Can I improve our family finances single-handedly?
When you come to these newly revealed tasks, consider them
consciously. You may find that you experience more peace and much less procrastination.