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Do You Have Gotta-Do-It-First-itis?


Does this sound familiar?

You are headed to the office or studio, only you pass through the kitchen and see the dishwasher needs to be emptied. Well, it won’t take that long. You do it first and just get it done.

Now you are back on track headed to the office or studio only you are now  distracted by the stack of laundry as you pass by the washer. Well, let’s just throw that one load in. You decide it will only take a minute or two.

You pause to looking at the messages that came in the night before. One was from a friend down the street. Well, what could she want? It’s just a quick phone call, and it will be out of the way.

Finally you’ve made it to your studio and are ready to get to work. Wait, you decide to quickly check your email. Oh, some of these look really quick to answer. So you decide to do them first and get them out of the way.

Did you just lose half your day because you had what I’ve termed “gotta-do-it-first-itis”?
Any chance this problem crops up more than one day a week?

Welcome to the club. Most of us think that we can do the one quick task and then get on with what’s on our agenda. Problem is that that one quick task can lead to another quick task. Before you know it, all you’ve accomplished is quick tasks. You haven’t made a dent in work that moves your business forward.

Working on important tasks

Are you familiar with the late Stephen Covey’s 4-quadrants from his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?

Tasks can be either urgent and important; important and not urgent; urgent and not important; or not important and not urgent.

The problem with “gotta-do-it-first-itis” is that you are spending too much of your time in the not important and not urgent box.

You figure if you can just do those things first, they’ll be out of the way and you’ll have enough time for what is important.

Meanwhile, those items that are important and not urgent tend to move toward become important and urgent.

Here are some examples to help you distinguish between the quadrants:

Urgent and important: deadline driven projects, crises

Important and not urgent: planning; relationship building

Urgent and not important: interruptions, like phone calls and email

Not important and not urgent: trivia and busywork, time wasters, like Internet surfing

What to do first

Stephen Covey based his work on the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower saw that prioritizing your tasks into these categories resulted in specific work strategies for each.

This is how he approached each:

Urgent and important: Do First

Important and not urgent: Schedule

Urgent and not important: Delegate

Not important and not urgent: Don’t do

Move out of do-it-first-itis

How can you leave do-it-first-itis behind?

First, start your day with an agenda of what you need to accomplish that’s in the important and not urgent category.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. Start with three that you want to accomplish and if/when you finish those, you can add another.

Remember, accomplishing three tasks is a great accomplishment.

Second, schedule those not urgent, not important tasks for outside work hours.

Hopefully, as you work this system,  you won’t encounter too many distractions of the truly urgent/truly important.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule,  but to schedule your priorities.
Stephen Covey
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Dwight Eisenhower
Action expresses priorities.
Mahatma Gandhi

It’s your turn!

Do you have ways that you’ve eliminated “gotta-do-it-first-itis?”

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4 Responses to “Do You Have Gotta-Do-It-First-itis?”

  1. Bunnie Cleland said:

    Yes, I gotta do it first-itis, sometimes called But(t) first.
    I will do that, but first I will do this, but first I must do that…
    So to accomplish my work, I must schedule my priorities, but first I need to clear off my desk to find my papers, but first I must empty the trash that is too full to put more papers…
    Thank you, this does help to IDENTIFY a problem.

  2. Morna said:

    Bunnie, thanks for adding to the conversation. For me the agenda makes a big difference – and finding those papers the night before.

  3. AnnaLee said:

    Yes – I have Gotta-Do-It-First-itis. I have a messy studio and get super distracted. Your blog is a great reminder about doing what is Urgent and Important first. I do work in blocks and have a set weekly day to do administrative work. Example – Tuesday is bill paying and accounting.

  4. Morna said:

    AnnaLee, Thanks for adding to the conversation. Recognizing the program is definitely the first step. And, time blocking is one way to get past it.

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