Chasing Calm — Day 10 — Preview
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Doesn’t it feel fantastic when we reach the end of the day and can look back with satisfaction on the things we have achieved? However most of us have an important task that we are avoiding? For me, it’s doing my tax.
When we are on auto-pilot, our behavioral patterns begin to take over. And guess what? We then repeat our behavioral patterns. Self doubt, worry, overthinking, fear, procrastination. These are all thinking patterns we have formed.
The good news? You are actually not a procrastinator. You have a habit of procrastinating. These thinking patterns can be replaced using science.
The thing that is so difficult for most of us, is how do you push through these habits that you have in your life so that you can make the pivot and make a change?
How then do we become more diligent about the things on your list? The answer lies in these 4 things:
1. One question
Write this down on a post it note or on your computer where you will see it every morning. “Out of everything I have to do today, what is going to give me the greatest return on my efforts?”
This will keep you focused on the item that will make your day the most productive. Brian Tracy author of Eat that frog! uses this as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day in the morning. The task that you are most likely to procrastinate on, and perhaps the one that can have the greatest impact on your day. You will not only become more efficient, but you will get the right things done.
Research shows us that there is an effective way of making inaction look even less appealing, by making a public commitment to getting something done. Oxford University neuroscientist Molly Crockett has shown that pre-commitment works better than willpower alone when people are trying to resist temptation.
3. Set yourself time-bound goals
Break the project into a set of smaller tasks. We need to take a break, and we need to do this about every 90 minutes, but most of us aren’t doing that. Dr Nathan Kleitman a researcher back in the 60s identified patterns in which we sleep. Kleitman found 90 minute patterns in our days too as we move from higher to lower alertness. We have about 90 minutes where we can be really absorbed and do great work.
However as we come to the end of 90 minutes we begin to hit a physiological trough and it usually shows up with obvious signs like we are getting fatigued, distracted, we are more irritable and its harder to focus. That’s when your body is saying, it’s time to take a break. It doesn’t have to be long. It can just be stepping away for 5 minutes and getting a drink, having a stretch, going to the bathroom or meditating!
4. Get a good why.
If you are struggling to begin a task, why not spend a few minutes thinking more deeply about exactly why you need to do it. The research shows you have to go a little deeper to find personal meaning. This taps into our intrinsic motivation, which will give you a sense of purpose to achieve it.
Finally, make sure you bring a sense of mindfulness to your tasks by listening to your inner dialogue. Anything less than productive thinking, take a deep breath, and bring your focus back to the task at hand.
Continue with 10 minutes of guided meditation today. If you are finding yourself falling asleep, try either sitting up, doing a walking meditation or lay down somewhere outside of your bedroom.
Think about something you have been procrastinating on. Write down at least 3 things you can do to work towards that goal and try to accomplish one of those things today.
Suggested TED talk