Life can become chaotic in a hurry if you are forever shunting tasks that need to be done. Shunting is not the same as simple procrastination. To shunt a task is to become aware of it more than once, and to continue to put it off. Here are some ways to avoid the shunt.

  1. Do the task. Really. Just stop everything else and do it. If you keep moving that pile of papers around on your desk (the ones that really need to be graded), then stop moving them around and grade them.
  2. If you’re missing information and that’s what’s making you shunt the task, make an “action note” for the task. “Ask John how many people have agreed to be on the committee” is a real action note. Writing “get information” on a sticky-note doesn’t keep you from re-reading the task every time it appears in your inbox. ( I have “Next Action” sheets you can download at no cost on my website.)
  3. Do you know how to do the task? Perhaps you’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of situation. Talk to someone - admit that you’ve forgotten - and finish the task. For example, maybe you are supposed to submit a purchase order and it’s been months since you’ve done one so you keep shunting the task. Ask for help and get it done.
  4. Number your tasks at the beginning of the day. Do not let yourself go out of numerical order. It can be like a game–and you want to win! You are reasonably competitive or you never would have gotten as far as you have….so win the competition with yourself to get your tasks done each day.
  5. Confirm that the task you’ve been shunting really needs to be done. Nothing is worse that getting a task done that you’ve been shunting and then find out it didn’t have to be done at all!
  6. If the task involves paying for something and you’re waiting until you have money, throw away the order form, note to yourself, web address, or other reminder. Later, when you have money, you will have something else you need or want to do with it and there’s no need to have this “task” hanging over your head.
  7. If you can’t make yourself do #6, then buy the thing, for heaven’s sake!
  8. Delegate the task if it truly isn’t in your bailiwick. You have others in your office, students, graduate students, outside help, etc. that you can delegate to. Do so.
  9. Vow to stay late or go in an extra Saturday once a month until every shunted task is complete. It’s a wonderful feeling.
  10. Don’t do the task. Really. If it were that important, you’d have done it by now, anyway.

Now, think about whether there is a task you are just shunting from day to day to day–and see if one of the ideas above will get it moving (or get it tossed). It’s worth a try!

And to help you with your productivity learn a simple system to finish your unfinished business. Experience the relief of confirming, carrying out, and completing your personal and professional commitments with the teleseminar Finish Your Unfinished Business, available for immediate download!


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