What to Postpone: Daily Tasks or Important Work?

March 21, 2021

Last night, I faced an interesting problem.

It was 9 p.m. and I had not yet meditated or studied Turkish—two tasks that I promised myself I’d do every day. I wanted to go to bed around 11 p.m., so there was some time left, but I also wanted to edit a few videos for a new course that I’m working on. And there wasn’t time for all three of these things.

On the one hand, I don’t like to miss my daily tasks. My meditation practice is important to me, because it lowers my stress level, helps me understand what I’m feeling, and generally makes me feel happier. Studying Turkish is also important to me, because I want to be able to communicate better with my girlfriend’s family, who generally don’t speak much English.

On the other hand, creating course videos is literally my #1 most important work task. That’s how I make a living. I could eliminate, automate, or delegate most other work, but I absolutely cannot do that with creating course videos. And it isn’t easy to get myself to create course videos. I often procrastinate on doing so, and when I do get around to it, perfectionism can hold me back. It’s a small miracle that today I managed to record eight (!) videos for my new course.

My dilemma was: Should I maintain my streaks of daily meditation and Turkish study or ride the wave of creative energy and channel it into my course videos?

There wasn’t one right answer, but I want to share my considerations, because I know many of you also struggle with these decisions. Students tell me all the time that they either (a) never get around to their most important work because they’re lost in daily tasks or (b) always postpone exercising, journaling, or learning an instrument in favor of doing that little bit of extra work.

Here’s what I asked myself:

  • How have I done on the daily tasks recently? (I’ve skipped them once or twice a week.)
  • Is my reason for postponing my daily tasks likely to come up again? (While I’m working on the course, yes, but after that, no.)
  • What will be harder in the coming days: to meditate or study Turkish a little longer, or to spend more time editing videos? (The latter.)

Notice that I did not ask “which task is more important to me?”

I can’t answer that. The question doesn’t make sense to me. These tasks are all important, but they’re in different areas of my life. I can say that one business task is more important than another, but I can’t say whether editing one course video is “more important” than meditating for 20 minutes. I don’t find that a useful frame; it doesn’t lead to answers.

So what did I end up doing? I edited my videos for 1.5 hours, then meditated for 5 minutes, rather than 20, and studied Turkish for 15 minutes, rather than 30. I compromised. 🙂

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