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Why Are Some To Dos Just So Hard to Get Done?

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The first rule of productivity: Make a To Do list. But why do some things on your list get done the minute you write them down while others linger for days?

Your task completion probably has more to do with your efforts to maintain a strong self-esteem and social esteem (or how others see you), says Joseph R. Ferrari, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at DePaul University and author of the book Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done.

So whether it's the little things, like writing those thank you notes or folding the laundry, or the bigger things on your list, like prepping for a work meeting or planning the menu for your dinner party, you're not just avoiding them because you're apathetic. (We've got 3 Ways to Find More Time Every Single Day.) "We avoid the things that people can verify and see, and therefore evaluate us on," explains Ferrari, who has been studying procrastination since the 1980s. "But if you never finish a task, you can never be judged or evaluated on how well you did it." Usually people are concerned about others judging them, but you could also be resisting self-judgment.

Maybe, now that you think about, you're not writing that thank you note to your boyfriend's grandparents because you don't want to screw it up. Or maybe you're putting of the prep for an important work meeting because you know your work is a huge representation of yourself.

"People don't want to come across to others as looking incompetent or unskilled, and they don't want to feel that way about themselves either," says Ferrari. And most people feel that projecting an image of a lack of effort is better than one of a lack of ability. Lack of effort means you didn't try, while lack of ability says that no matter how much you try, you just can't do it. (Here, 3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating.)

Researchers still haven't found specific tasks that people collectively procrastinate on more than others—so look at what you routinely avoid to determine why you're really have such an aversion to the task. Then tackle it! (Good news? Not all procrastination is bad! Check out these 9 "Time Wasters" That Are Actually Productive.)

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