Real progress or faux progress?

When you have a difficult, intimidating, or otherwise unpleasant task ahead of you, it’s tempting to start by doing things that don’t actually get you closer to finishing.

First, I’ve got to respond to all these emails so I can empty my inbox.

First, I’ll organize my desk.

First, I want to finish these other tasks [that aren’t nearly as important] so I can clear my mind.

First, I’ll check social media, poke around the internet, trade emails with people, repeat repeat repeat until I throw in the towel and say that I had writer’s block or just couldn’t find inspiration today.

I’ve done it. We’ve all done it, at least on occasion. You fill the time with seemingly related tasks and then call it a good day’s work. But what we’ve really done is spent that time hiding from the difficult or scary work. And even worse, that work will be there staring at you tomorrow, only now you’ll have one fewer day to complete it.

The best way to stop this is to recognize the behavior for what it is—a way to avoid that which you want to avoid. And once you commit to stop making faux progress, it’s that much easier to start making real progress.