To Do or To Do Later, THAT is the Question

Does it feel like the world is split between people who realize that they need to buy more toilet paper when they run out, and people who buy more when they use the second to the last roll? And woe betide you if you marry – or share living quarters with — the wrong kind of person!

People often accuse me of being the second kind of person (aka: the organized – or on bad days, obsessive – one) and in many areas I am. I buy food and toilet paper before I run out. I set up bills for payment (or put them on autopayment) as soon as they arrive. Junk mail gets discarded before it comes into the apartment – unless it includes PII in which case it goes straight to the shredder. When the new issue of a magazine arrives, the old issue goes away immediately. I do laundry and drop off dry-cleaning on a weekly basis.

I’m the same way at work: when I build a project plan or a meeting facilitator’s guide, I think about how we may use it in the future and set it up to be adaptable and repeatable because I don’t want to do the work again. My latest trick: during meetings, I bring up the agenda on shared-screen and take notes right on the agenda; at the end of the meeting, I pull the action items to the top of the page, rename the file “minutes,” and send it off. What I love about it is that the other attendees watch me type what I think they’re saying and stop and correct me, if necessary, in real time.

Lest you think I am bragging about how I always plan ahead, I have to confess: I do procrastinate a lot. I procrastinate about making doctor’s appointments. I put off anything related to financial planning or taxes or health insurance. Reorganizing my sock drawer – desperately needed as it overfloweth – has been on my list since December. And I’m terrible about scheduling time with friends, just terrible!

Why, why am I so organized in some areas of my life and not in others? I could make a list of things I am organized about and another about things I’m not organized about (I think I just did, actually) and conduct pattern-analysis… There are some obvious similarities: routine tasks and setting up systems get done; stand-alone projects and things that depend on other people get delayed.

But I think it comes down to something simpler: Heuristics. I like things to be easy and if I can make something easy, it will get done. For a few years, I set up a checklist of all the documents that my tax preparer would need me to provide. As the envelopes started arriving – I ask for everything on paper – I put them all in a giant envelope. Then, at the beginning of February, I emptied the envelope and went down my checklist. When I had everything, I made copies for myself, and emailed the tax preparer that it was time to meet. Things got much easier and taxes got done on time. Then I got the new job and I needed to update my checklist. This year, I’m back to my old ways.

My old dentist (also on my list: find a dentist under my new plan) figured this out. When I finished an appointment, his assistant would make my next appointment before letting me leave. She also printed out everything I needed to submit to my insurance company, put it in a stamped and addressed envelope – all I had to do was drop it in the mailbox on my way back to my office. This is just one of the reasons that I loved this dentist and I’m so sorry my new plan doesn’t cover him! Other doctors who I see annually won’t make the appointment in advance – they say they’ll send me a postcard. Yeah, right, see you in 18 months, if we’re both lucky.

So one of these days I need to sit down and think up a system that will make it easy for me to do all the things that I procrastinate about.

I’ll have to put that on my To Do list.

Right beneath finding a new dentist, pulling together my tax information, and making the three appointments my PCP wrote me scripts for.

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