When Doing Nothing Is Doing Something

Sometimes doing nothing is doing something. Procrastination has long been called the thief of time, but apparently it is now being viewed in a new light.

The issues we all face today are of constantly being on the go, making quick fire decisions, giving time and attention to trivial matters and then feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of each day.

Some people have a habit of ignoring stuff they don’t want to do and it then ceases to be important and in essence, ‘goes away’. However, these people can also be frustrating as they prove unreliable when some things must be done.

What is the key to getting this right? The trick is working out what is truly important and requires attention and what is trivial and can be ignored. When should you be doing nothing?

Stephen Covey sums this up beautifully in his quadrant method of time management. Divide a page into four quadrants with two lines splitting the page, one vertical, the other horizontal.

The vertical line down the page provides a scale of importance from low to high, the horizontal line represents urgency, also from low to high.

When Should You Be Doing Nothing?

Your page has four quadrants representing Q1 (urgent and important), Q2 (not urgent and important), Q3 (urgent but not important and Q4 (not urgent and not important).

The key to positive procrastination is to focus on your Q2 tasks, which are normally for long-term goals and proactively planned into your life. Q4 tasks can almost be ignored as they are not moving you towards your goals and are not urgent. Q1 and Q3 tasks are the typical sort of activities that need consideration as to whether they can be put off. Often Q1 activities are reactive and have to be done but it is worth considering what would happen if you didn’t do them…yet. Many may disappear.

Email is a classic case of how this can work. If you go on holiday or are away from your inbox for a while, essentially doing nothing about them, a lot of your emails will become irrelevant after a while.

So how can you put this into action? Keep your focus on your goals and consider your actions in line with what you are trying to achieve. Obviously some things must be done – tax returns, dental check ups, but  a lot of noise will just fade into the background and you will move more calmly towards your goals.

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