Tasks Undone Create More Work

Action is one of the most important aspects of a good time management system.  It seems like common sense, once you organize your todos, you need to actually DO them.  (Hence the getting things done part…)
However, most time management systems lack this sense of urgency.  The urgency to take action and close things.
Some people’s systems leave them in a perpetual state of “organizing paralysis.”  They are so consumed with tracking and organizing their tasks that they fail to get much accomplished.
What happens to all those undone tasks that just sit on your todo list?
In some cases, undone tasks will simply go away.  This can be both good and bad.  Good if it was a minor task that did not need to be done or should have been done by someone else.  Bad if it was a missed opportunity that is now gone.
But, what about the tasks that need to be done?  That have to be eventually done.  Those are the ones that cannot be left unchecked.  They will actually create more work for you.  This sounds disturbing.  And it is.
If left undone, many tasks will actually take more effort and time to complete at a later date.
How does this happen?
Well, the best analogy is that they actually rot.  Yes, almost like food left in the fridge.  You put off cleaning it out.  And you put it off.  And when you finally get around to it, the food is rotten and now you have a much bigger cleanup task.  (Or you simply throw the plastic container away instead of trying to clean it…)
Tasks left undone create more work in 3 ways:
1 – Wasted Time
When you are familiar with the details of a task it is easier to do. But, when you let it sit, it gets more complicated just by time passing.  A great example is that expense report that you should have done the day after a business trip.  If you did it while it was fresh in your mind and your receipts/paperwork were close at hand, it would have only taken a few minutes.
But, when you put it off and do not get to it for a week or two… then it gets more complicated.  You may not remember all the details and have to look up some of the expenses.  And you may have misplaced a few receipts.  Now the task that should have taken 15 minutes takes 1-2 hours.
What if every task you needed to do took 4-5 times more that it should?  You can see how this builds up quickly.
2 – Increased Life Friction
In a previous post (see here), I defined Life Friction as the unnecessary complications in life that happen due to our disorganization or poor planning.
Having to run to the store at the last minute because you did not pick up those supplies or groceries is an example.  And when do you end up doing this?  The same time as everyone else…  after work at the grocery store or on Saturday for the Mall.  You end up wasting even more time because of your last minute task.
3 – Penalties
Finally, undone tasks can hit you with a direct penalty.  Who knew there were straight up penalties for not doing your stuff?  Well, there are.
Have you ever paid a bill late?  You will have to pay extra for that.  (Or you may end up paying for a long time if it ends up on your credit report).
What about mundane tasks like mailing or ordering things?  Need that in a rush?  It will cost you.  You could have ordered it earlier but now expedited shipping will cost you.
These penalties can also be in the form of time.
Have you known someone who had to get a last minute passport because they put it off?  They knew they were going to need it, but they waited and waited.  Instead of simply waiting for their passport to arrive via mail, now they have to locate an office that does last minute passports and stand in line for hours.
So, what are you waiting for?  Let’s take some action and get some stuff to DONE.
What are your best examples of tasks undone that have created more work for you?
Tell us about them in the comments.
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Layla

    Great post!! :) Love the apple analogy..It’s true, I put off things.. and then when I looked at something, it was, ‘Uhm, how do I do this again?’ (prompted me to start a How To section) or ‘Where is it?’ – stuff usually gets found, it may take a while though..Thing is, sometimes stuff does get done if one just waits.. So, how to differentiate these from those you’ll have to do anyway? Better communication with other people on the team (who might or might not do it if unprompted) seems one of the obvious things..

  • Layla

    Great post!! :) Love the apple analogy..It’s true, I put off things.. and then when I looked at something, it was, ‘Uhm, how do I do this again?’ (prompted me to start a How To section) or ‘Where is it?’ – stuff usually gets found, it may take a while though..Thing is, sometimes stuff does get done if one just waits.. So, how to differentiate these from those you’ll have to do anyway? Better communication with other people on the team (who might or might not do it if unprompted) seems one of the obvious things..

  • Stormbringer

    Time, blood pressure, materials… People love the mix CDs that I give them. I kept putting some off, and found out that I had problems with the burning software, the label-making software, printing media, etc. Lots of anger and hurrying around, trying to buy some things, download others, learn how to use new software. If I had started sooner, I could have done it all with less panic and rage, and be on time, too.

  • Stormbringer

    Time, blood pressure, materials… People love the mix CDs that I give them. I kept putting some off, and found out that I had problems with the burning software, the label-making software, printing media, etc. Lots of anger and hurrying around, trying to buy some things, download others, learn how to use new software. If I had started sooner, I could have done it all with less panic and rage, and be on time, too.

  • http://www.queenofkaos.com/ Jan – queenofkaos

    You are so right! Thinking of things that I put off instead of doing as rotting is such a great visual – sort of :0))

    I will start thinking in those terms and see if it gives me a kick when I need one.

    The biggest thing that I put off is bookkeeping and you are right, it is much harder and more stressful to do later.

  • http://www.queenofkaos.com/ Jan – queenofkaos

    You are so right! Thinking of things that I put off instead of doing as rotting is such a great visual – sort of :0))

    I will start thinking in those terms and see if it gives me a kick when I need one.

    The biggest thing that I put off is bookkeeping and you are right, it is much harder and more stressful to do later.

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  • http://jlmade.blogspot.com/ Jacob Yount

    As always, another home run, Craig. I read this and the “friction” post and they both spoke to me. This is why we get over annoyed at interruptions and people just being people…to make up for a lack of handling our business correctly. If we would stick to the game plan, do what we ALREADY KNOW TO DO, then life’s normal obstacles won’t be magnified. They grow in our minds because we cultivate the friction mentality. Thanks for all the sharing.

  • http://jlmade.blogspot.com/ Jacob Yount

    As always, another home run, Craig. I read this and the “friction” post and they both spoke to me. This is why we get over annoyed at interruptions and people just being people…to make up for a lack of handling our business correctly. If we would stick to the game plan, do what we ALREADY KNOW TO DO, then life’s normal obstacles won’t be magnified. They grow in our minds because we cultivate the friction mentality. Thanks for all the sharing.

  • http://jlmade.blogspot.com/ Jacob Yount

    As always, another home run, Craig. I read this and the “friction” post and they both spoke to me. This is why we get over annoyed at interruptions and people just being people…to make up for a lack of handling our business correctly. If we would stick to the game plan, do what we ALREADY KNOW TO DO, then life’s normal obstacles won’t be magnified. They grow in our minds because we cultivate the friction mentality. Thanks for all the sharing.

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