Make Time for Not Urgent But Important Work With “Pre-Fun”

Lack of urgency led to me doing fewer fun and important things, but now I have a new “pre-fun” system that’s working.

Updated:

For fun to flourish,
First purge lack of urgency,
Pre-fun waters roots.

My most effective strategy for self-helping myself might be helping someone else devise a new approach to improving their lives, then realizing, “Hmm… maybe I could benefit from trying it, too!”

I shared one example last issue about getting more of what you really want. And it happened again with the idea I want to share with you today. I think it can help you and me get more not urgent but important things done.  

More Challenging Than a Misogi?

Last month, I helped a guy named Julio fine-tune his 2024 “life workout plan.”

Julio’s 2023 went so well that hearing about it made me feel bad for my relative lack of progress. He left his investment banking job, successfully started new money-making ventures, enjoyed way more time with his friends and family, got jacked, traveled, golfed, and mastered the art of soft boiling eggs. 

One of the rare disappointments from Julio’s year—a small window of opportunity for me to help him!—was that he didn’t accomplish his goal of doing a misogi. 

A misogi is an endurance challenge. You concoct your own. The only rules are 1) It has to be so hard there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll fail, and 2) Failure shouldn’t put you at risk of death. An example from The Comfort Crisis, the book Julio and I both learned about misogis from, is taking turns with a buddy walking an 85lb rock 5km along the bottom of a 7-to-10-foot-deep ocean. 

Why didn’t Julio attempt a misogi in 2023?

The best excuse he could muster up is he didn’t come up with a good idea.

Why’s that?

Because he never got around to spending time thinking about it.

(Funny, isn’t it, how planning an extreme physical challenge can be more daunting than doing it?)

So how can Julio make a misogi happen in 2024? 

Schedule time for concocting and organizing a misogi. Duh.

I suggested Julio do the same for the other things he wanted to accomplish in 2024: throw an epic birthday party, spend quality time with his parents, go on a father-son trip, coordinate sessions with coaches and mentors, and become a master at frying his boiled eggs. 

Given Julio’s lengthy list of important but not urgent goals, I offered him a suggestion:

Why not make it a routine by blocking out an hour every week for this type of planning? 

This was when I realized I could benefit from doing the same. 

Unfortunately, Plans Don’t Make Themselves

Fellow self-help over-thinkers will recognize not urgent but important activities as “Quadrant II tasks” from the Eisenhower Matrix:

Eisenhower matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix, popularized by James Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.

As this table (and simple logic) says, to make Quadrant II tasks happen, you need to plan them

The problem is that planning is boring. 

I rather do other important things instead, like take naps. So I need to force myself to plan. 

As it happens, I did exactly that last year for the month of July. 

One of the many not urgent but important tasks I procrastinate on is networking. So I set myself a “Networkout” challenge: every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 2 to 5 pm, I proactively engaged with people I wanted to build relationships with. 

My Networkout went well! I pumped up my online social skills and made a couple of lasting contacts. But then, in August, I reverted to my old anti-social routine. 

The lesson I’ve had to learn one too many times: 

One-time interventions don’t do you much good if they don’t lead to ongoing changes. 

To heed this lesson, I was keen to follow the advice I gave Julio and make planning not urgent but important stuff, aka boring admin, a routine weekly fixture. 

“Quadrant II” Needs a Rebrand

I figured Fridays after lunch would be the best time for my not urgent but important work, such as:

  • Networking. 
  • Organizing date nights for Kim.
  • Booking accommodation and flights.
  • Finding classes, courses, and coaching.  
  • Planning my own misogi to keep up with Julio.

But then on Jan 5, the the first Friday afternoon of 2024, we went to our friends’ house, so I didn’t get around to it. Then on Friday, Jan 12, I got distracted writing about life’s optimal level of difficulty. Then on Jan 19 my parents were visiting. 

Crap! I thought to myself. Do I now need a plan to plan to make a plan? 

Nah.

First, I needed to reschedule my boring admin for the morning instead of the afternoon. 

Second, I needed a reframe to make not urgent but important work feel sexier than “boring admin.” I needed a better name. 

I love giving names to abstract things. Names are easier to wrap your head around. They provide an identity. And they make things more fun. 

Fun had clawed its way up my priority bucket after reading The Power of Fun by Catherine Price. Price defines “True Fun” as the confluence of three components:

  • Playfulness
  • Connection
  • Flow

But, by putting off Quadrant II work, I get the opposite of those rewards. I either stick my future self in un-fun situations (such as stressing about booking last-minute flights) or enjoy fewer fun experiences (such connecting with cool people or attempting misogis). 

So I decided to rebrand my not urgent but important work. Instead of calling it “boring admin,” I’d call it “pre-fun.”

Schedule time to use yours!

Using Your Pre-fun-tal Cortex Is Fun!

I like the term “pre-fun” because it makes me think of the prefrontal cortex. According to Wikipedia, “The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.” 

Perfect!

The name worked. On Jan 26, I had pre-fun for the first time. That morning I:

  • Saved myself $80 by snagging the last budget seat available for a guys trip to Utah in April. 
  • Found and reached out to someone here in Cape Town about having a “curiosity conversation,” an idea I took from this podcast interview with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. 
  • Inquired about a date night with Kim at Ellerman House. 
  • Began compiling my list of other pre-fun things to work on. 

I also realized a bonus benefit:

Pre-fun is two-for-one because it turns worry into anticipation. 

For example, before booking my Utah flights, any mention of the trip gave me a nagging sense of dread. “Chris! You gotta finalize your plans.” But now that it’s fully booked, I’m 100% looking forward to it. 

Speaking of anticipation, I’m almost looking forward to more pre-fun next Friday. So I think the routine’s going to stick.

Your Challenge: Have Some Pre-Fun

Step 1: Block an hour this week for making a list of not urgent but important things you’d like like to get done this year. 

Step 2: Next week, use that same time window to for having pre-fun. 

Step 3: Keep at it.

Step 4: Enjoy more fun stuff (and fewer preventable un-fun distractions).

Bonus Challenge

Comment or email me with advice that’d you benefit from heeding yourself.

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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