Take a Pass on Task Shunting

Meggin McIntosh
3 min readMar 13, 2022


Getty Images (iStock): Christian Horz

Life becomes anything but productive (in a hurry) if we are forever shunting tasks that need to be done. To shunt a task is to become aware of it more than once, and to continue to put it off. Here are some ways to avoid the “shunt.”

  1. Do the task. Really. Just stop everything else and do it.
  2. If you’re missing information and that’s what’s making you shunt the task, make an “action note” for the task. “Call John to ask how many feet of cable it will take,” is a real action note. Writing “get information” on a sticky-note doesn’t keep you from re-reading the task every time it appears in your calendar or task management system. (I have “Next Action” sheets you can download at no cost here).
  3. Do you know how to do the task? Perhaps you’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of situation. Talk to someone — admit that you’ve forgotten — and learn what you need to finish the task.
  4. Number your tasks at the beginning of the day. Do not let yourself go out of numerical order. It can be like a game–and you want to win! My favorite way to decide how to number the tasks is to do a Forced Choice.
  5. Confirm that the task really needs to be done. Nothing is worse that getting a task done that we’ve been shunting and then find out it didn’t have to be done at all!
  6. If the task involves paying for something and you’re waiting until you have money, throw away the order form, note to yourself, web address, or other reminder. Later, when you have money, you will have something else you need or want to do with it and there’s no need to have this “task” hanging over your head.
  7. If you can’t make yourself do #6, then buy the thing, for pity’s sake! So often, shunted tasks that are related to making a purchase are not particularly consequential (e.g., get a new printer, replace kitchen dish drainer, buy second stapler for the kitchen office space).
  8. Delegate the task if it truly isn’t in your bailiwick.
  9. Vow to stay late once a week or once a month until every shunted task is complete. It’s a wonderful feeling.
  10. Don’t do the task. Really. If it were that important, you’d have done it by now, anyway.

I know you have at least one task that you can identify as a recently-shunted task. Run it through this list of Top Tens and see if you can get it off the “shunt” list. Try dealing with at least one each day. And even better, keep tasks from becoming “frequently-shunted” by keeping these ideas in play.

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Meggin McIntosh

Meggin McIntosh, “The PhD of Productivity®”, invests time & energy with people who seek ways to be overjoyed instead of overwhelmed. https://meggin.com