Getting Things Done
Procrastination, the bane of everyone’s life.
You’ve prepared everything for work. All in place, your journal and favourite pen on the side and headphones around your neck but, you just cannot start.
It feels like there’s this force field that stops you from doing anything….
What I normally end up doing is opening up Youtube to sort of ease into work ( I know I’m not alone in this). And we all know that’s probably THE worst way to start doing work. But hey, if it does work for you then, no judgement here.
This is especially for those who procrastinate a lot.
So here are some tips which I find helpful and hopefully, it’ll help you focus on what you need to do.
Let’s get procrastination out of the way once and for all.
How? I’ll tell you: Do two push-ups, then hit the shower.
OK, I know two doesn’t sound much, but let me explain why it’s so effective.
The first step is to actually notice what’s going on in those moments when you’re having trouble getting started - typically when you begin to feel distracted.
This is something I picked up from Psychiatrist Judson Brewer. He gave a talk on “Simple ways to break bad habits” where he mentions that you can use mindfulness to stop cravings that lead to bad habits.
He briefly explained a situation in an experiment with smokers. They were simply asked to be curious about their smoking cravings whenever it appeared. The point was to understand it and not to focus on the “Oh my god, I need a cigarette” but instead, focus on “I guess I’m a little tired and irritated with the slow internet, so I’m expecting a cigarette would make me less comfortable.”
And just by taking a moment to understand the craving, the smokers had unprecedented success with abstaining from smoking.
I started implementing this and analysed why I was having trouble starting a task and I found out, I was irritated with how slow I was progressing on a project. Because of this, I let my mind wonder about Saturn and when it was discovered then I start looking for a documentary about it. Totally unnecessary, I know.
Taking notice of the reason behind this distraction was effective but it didn’t work all the time. It was easy to say “That’s a stupid reason to stop working” in the beginning but eventually, my brain would catch up with the lie I tell myself.
More research comes into play. Just how do I stop procrastinating?
BJ Fogg described in his TED talk about two effective ways to create positive habits:
You can change your environment.
You can track the habit you want to create onto an existing behaviour.
Let’s focus on number 2 since it relates to what I’ve been talking about.
BJ talks about how he was able to get in 100 pushups a day by simply pairing it up with going to the bathroom. So every time he needed to pee, he would do pushups (which really questions how many times pees in a day but you get my point right?)
One might say “Why not 10 at a time or 50 at a time?” Actually, you’re more likely to commit to doing something when you aim in small numbers. Over time, it’ll eventually turn into a habit.
You can do all sorts of things with this concept,like as simple as flossing after brushing our teeth. I choose to make it a habit of doing exercise every time I catch myself procrastinating.
I tell myself “If I’m going to slack off, I might as well get some exercise.” And this helped me in a way I didn’t expect. It gave me a boost of willpower to get back into work.
Richard Branson has claimed that working out gives him 4 extra hours of productive time each day. Several studies have shown that exercise increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which stimulates the production of new neurons. BDNF is very important to learning, memory and higher thinking. While a couple quick pushups aren’t going to grow me a whole ‘ nother hippocampus, it will increase blood flow, getting energy and oxygen to the brain, making it perform a little bit better. Better performance also means increased willpower, which is usually enough to get control of me and stay on task.
If you find yourself getting stuck, create a habit that will link up to that sticky situation.