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Zen and the Art of Avoiding Everything

There aren't many things in this world that I can say I've mastered. But one thing that I've mastered is a very rare skill. One that has served me well, protected me from failure and humiliation, and allowed me to relax instead of overwork myself.

I could train you in this skill. It is called Avoidance.

  • Why risk failing at something when you can avoid starting it altogether?
  • Why risk humiliation and ridicule when you can safely keep goals to yourself, or better yet, not even make goals to begin with?
  • Why stress about things that have been on the back burner for weeks when there is a whole world of distractions? What's another day on the back burner?
  • Why push yourself to get a project or a paper done when the due date isn't for another week?

I am a Zen Avoidance Master!

"Avoidance wants us to believe that it's actually healthy. This kind of avoidance is NOT!"

I would love to be able to say that Avoidance is a good thing, it really isn't. And it is something that I have recently had to face and acknowledge as a problem.

Ever wonder why I launched my website months ago and I'm just now getting around to putting up my first blog post? Avoidance!

Avoidance, or the layman's term -- procrastination, is very subtle and starts out small. "Let's put this off until tomorrow, and do something more fun today. I promise myself that I'll do it tomorrow."

Then tomorrow, Avoidance kicks things up a notch. "We put this off yesterday and everything turned out fine. It doesn't have to be done today either, so what's one more day? Or one MORE day? Or one MORE day?"

Avoidance can become so deeply rooted, that it can affect every aspect of our lives including our relationships, our finances, our physical health and especially our mental health.

Avoidance promises that we can relax and not stress about something by putting it off for later. And we may do something to take our minds off the task at hand (play games on our phone or computer, get lost in social media, read all the news headlines we can find online), but these are only distractions. They aren't really helping to relax, the stress is still there and when we're faced with it later, it's usually more intense than it was before the avoidance.

"The saying is very true: If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail."

So, let's talk about really mastering Avoidance.

First, acknowledge that avoidance or procrastination is a problem. Avoidance wants us to believe that it's actually healthy. This kind of avoidance is NOT!

Second, make a plan. Write things down, either in a "To do" List, a project manager, or as goals and steps, whatever you prefer. Have them written down, prioritized, and give things a target date earlier than their due date. The saying is very true: If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Third, share your plan with others. Even if you only have one person that you share your plans with, share them. Sharing them solidifies your commitment to getting things done.

Fourth, take action! Each night, look at your schedule for the next day and pick three tasks or steps as Targets for the next day. When you wake up in the morning, you will be more motivated to take action because you've already decided what actions you are going to take.

Now, if you're like me and need an app to help with all this. Here are some suggestions:

Trello - This is my current Task/Project Manager. I like how visual and versatile it is. You can create Boards for different projects. On each Board you can create Lists for different categories, different people, or different steps. In each List, you can create Cards for each task or step. The Card can contain a checklist, a due date, links to resources, attached files and images. You can share boards with others in order to collaborate and leave comments on Cards for the other members. Trello also has a web browser interface. You can set up an email address for each board so that you can forward emails and they will be added as new cards. Just FYI, I am composing this blog post in Trello. It's definitely my favorite.

Nozbe - This was the task manager that I used before switching to Trello. It's a feature rich app that lets you create tasks, assign due dates and categories, and it allows you to create tags for each task. I learned about Nozbe from Michael Hyatt and he wrote a great post on how he uses it. Nozbe can integrate with Evernote and can sync with your calendar so that you see upcoming tasks there.

Remember The Milk - This was my first venture into a Third Party task management app after giving up on Google tasks.

I know there are hundreds of other apps out there, but these are ones that I've used personally. They are all free for the basic version, and they offer a pro version you can get with a subscription.

So, how has Avoidance affected your life? Let me know in the comments!

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1 Comment

  • Nancy Turner

    Oh my! I’m so glad I found this… Several months ago I was listening to a minute devotion on a Christian radio station that talked about ignoring the giants in our lives (David/Goliath…) and how they get bigger and nastier the longer we avoid taking action. It hit me hard. Thanks for the timely reminder.

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