Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Psychology of Not Doing Things

How many things can we get done today that have nothing to do with what "should" be done?

Where does this so-called "should" come from? Why do we end up not doing things that have an obvious logical benefit? There's something small that makes these tasks impossible, and I suspect has more to do with priorities over lack of motivation, personal accountability, or passive barriers. The barriers are the symptom of a value conflict, which I most frequently encounter with my to-do lists.

I have lists from six months ago where stuff still hasn't gotten done, but the consequences of not getting those things done clearly aren't strong enough for me to make them a priority. In many cases, I'll just let these things slide for days, weeks, months. Spoiler alert: I haven't washed my car in a year. My favorite things to NOT do are:

Getting my car cleaned or clothes tailored
Updating my passport
Cleaning the bathroom
Filing away papers

I know I should just file away the tax papers in a separate folder, so tax season won't be a struggle. But that damn folder is so elusive (and upstairs), so I just don't feel like making the extra effort to put the paperwork away... especially because it won't make taxes any easier or more fun. 

For the most part, these things get done eventually. Should I have spent time on these things over other things? No. But a pile of papers on the counter or a stack of ill fitting pants give me a slight ping. Over time, I've realized that most of the things on my to-do lists probably aren't that crucial anyway. Why would I spend my waking hours on lots of unimportant tasks?

My wish for today is for everyone take one thing on their to-do list and  NOT do it.