The Question that Slays Procrastination

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Hello there!

It’s a beautiful day to steward your gifts for the glory of God.

Welcome to another edition of Reagan’s Roundup, the weekly newsletter about personal productivity from a Christian perspective.

So, I’m currently working on a series of new articles exploring and critiquing popular productivity books from a biblical worldview. (Stay tuned!)

In preparation for this series, I’ve been re-reading some of the most popular productivity books and taking copious notes. But I wanted to share a concept with you that struck me afresh as I was re-reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.

The concept is called the Next Action.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a long list of projects you’d love to do, but they remain mere lists (sometimes for months, if we’re being honest). Most of the time, the reason we’re not taking the next step is that we literally haven’t taken 30 seconds to decide what that next step actually is!

We haven’t asked this very simple question of our projects:

“What is the very next physical action that can be taken with this project?”

For example, I might have a project called “Get the car fixed” that sits on my reminders app for months.

It sounds simple enough, so why don’t I just do it?

Frequently, the reason we put off doing things like “get the car fixed” is actually because the project is just vague enough that we don’t know exactly what to do next.

So, we go through this cycle where we think about the project, mentally slap ourselves for not having taken care of it yet, then realize that getting the car fixed actually brings up several unanswered questions, like…

  • Which mechanic should I go to?
  • How will I get to and from work while it’s being repaired?
  • What’s our budget for a repair?
  • What if the mechanics laugh at me when they find all of the Sour Patch Watermellon candy wrappers under my seat!? 😬

What sounded like a simple task, turns out to actually be much more complex. So instead of doing anything, we get overwhelmed and we tell ourselves we’ll deal with it later.

But what Allen points out is that we don’t need to solve all of those problems at once to start the project. We just need to decide where to start. And you can do that by asking yourself, “What is the very next physical action that can be taken with this project?”

In this case, the next action is “I need to call Pete to ask what mechanic he recommends.”

Suddenly the project has gone from a nebulous and overwhelming amalgamation of ill-defined tasks to a specific, singular next physical action.

Now I can actually do this to-do.

What you’ll find is that once you start defining your next physical actions, your projects magically get “unstuck.” The rest of the project just starts snowballing to completion once you define and execute that next physical action.

And the amazing thing is, this process literally only takes about 15 seconds. 🤷

It’s funny how sometimes the things that get us hung up for months or years are often merely a matter of us refusing to make a decision.

🎙On the Podcast

The Christian Habit Everyone Forgets

Sometimes when we think of habits, we think of prayer, Bible study, and other personal practices. But if you want to lead a productive Christian life, it’s impossible to do it alone. You need fellowship.

The Redeeming Productivity Show is my weekly podcast on a biblical approach to personal development and productivity. Subscribe on your favorite platform.

▶️ New Video

What to Do When You’re Burnt Out at Work

If you’re feeling burnt out at work, the first step is to understand why. There are actually six types of burnout and more rest won’t fix them all.

👍 Something I like

I’ve been enjoying the book Heart & Habits: How We Change for Good by Greg Gifford.

It’s a deeply biblical look at how heart motivations and godly practice work hand-in-hand for our growth as believers.

If you liked the latest season of Redeeming Productivity, you’re really going to appreciate this book. Dr. Gifford is a Biblical Counseling professor at The Master’s Seminary and offers some super insights on Christian habit formation in this book.

🧑‍💻Happening on the Web

‘Maybe Tomorrow’: How to Overcome Procrastination

Here are some great biblical thoughts on why we like to put things off. I especially appreciated how he linked anxiety and procrastination together.

“Our inner procrastinator loves tomorrow, but only because he does not see tomorrow clearly. If he did, he would notice the coming harvest and know that today’s nap might be tomorrow’s barren field. In other words, we reap tomorrow what we sow today.”

(Scott Hubbard / Desiring God)

Obsidian Released a Mobile App is an awesome personal knowledge management app. It’s a lot like Roam Research. Now they’ve got one more feature that’s making this Roam user jealous, a mobile app.

How to read the Bible the way you need to

This article by Darryl Burling has a lot of practical advice on different ways to approach reading the Bible.

“Paul prayed for the Colossians that they would increase in the knowledge of God (Col 1:9) and we saw that this means knowing God’s character, plans, and purposes. The purpose of the Bible reading principles below is to help you determine what growth goals to set for your quiet time.”

(Darryl Burling)

▶ ️Apple Reminders Is Getting a Big Update

iOS 15 is on the way and among the list of exciting new features is a pretty significant robustifying (my word) of the default to-do list app. This video runs through some of the biggest changes coming to Reminders.

I always try to use native apps when I can, just because they tend to be better integrated with the rest of the iOS. And if I’m not careful this update may just sway me away from my favorite 3rd party to-do list app, Things. We’ll see.

(DailyTekk / YouTube)

Good Works Are Less Complicated Than You Think

Loved this from David Qaoud👇

“Christian productivity is about faithful stewardship. It’s about using your spiritual gifts, talents, and time to glorify God and do good for others. You can’t do something about every issue in the world, but you can be faithful with the opportunities God places in your path right now— and this is when you will be doing the good works God created you to do.”

(David Qaoud / Gospel Relevance)

✍️Quote of the Week

“Better that you sow a single grain of corn, or plant a single blade of grass, than dream about fertilizing the Sahara, or reclaiming from the mighty sea untold acres of fertile land.”

– Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon “The Time is Short

⌛️That’s All for this Week

Thanks for reading!

Writing the Roundup is the highlight of my week. If you want to say “Hey” just hit reply to this email. I love talking to readers.

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See you next week!

– Reagan

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