Shaky beginnings

First things first, principal tools for management of this site and any project of yours.

Do you struggle taking first steps? Is there a deadline ahead of you and you feel obliged to get going?

This one is for all of you dreamers who have an amazing re-ocurring idea, but it fails to see the light. You, who are stuck in thinking and planning process and find it hard to start.

Sometimes we choose immediate pleasures which serve as a distraction to a task at that hand that makes us feel anxious or overwhelmed. We tend to seek immediate emotional relief.

Myself, I would clean the whole house, schedule my week, set-up meetings, call my friends, and finish homeworks. Basically anything that would distract me from actually doing what is a priority. Subsequently, after wasting some time doing irrelevant tasks, we are often left with guilt, stress, and frustration after realising we haven’t made any progress.

If this all sounds familiar you are probably going through struggles of:

Procrastination

Researcher Klingsieck recently proposed an integrated definition of procrastination framing it as:

“the voluntary delay of an intended and necessary and/or [personally] important activity, despite expecting potential negative consequences that outweigh the positive consequences of the delay.”

True procrastination is a complicated failure of self-regulation: experts define it as the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result. Although it has short-term benefits, procrastination in the long run increases stress levels and lowers well-being, say the researchers. Chronically putting things off can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and may even contribute to physical illness.

Knowing this, why do we still postpone?

Freud related this behavior to problems stemming from poor toilet training…  We’ll take a step further than that (and please, if someone wants to go into Freud business, explain it to me).

A poor concept of time may exacerbate the procrastination problem, but an inability to manage emotions seems to be its very foundation. People who are high in impulsivity and low in self-discipline might dawdle (yes, it’s a word, and it means waste time; new find for me too) more often. Recognition of belonging to that group of people might enable you to take necessary steps to prevent falling deeper into procrastination cycle.

Moreover, from the self-regulatory perspective most interventions focus on how people can be supported in maintaining their initial intentions and following up till the accomplishment of a task. Yet none take into account what’s happening in between the intention – finalization and that is the nature of these intentions. Who are they made by? Why are they (not) being pursued?

To deal with these questions, the newest research by Grund and Fries (2018) took a different approach claiming that the reason lies in motivation (e.g.: goal selection) rather than volition (e.g.: goal implementation). Participants of their investigation were undergraduate students. They looked into congruence with personal values and basic needs in the pursuit of goals. It was shown that nowadays students value more their free time than getting things done.

Additionally, teachings from self-determination theory (SDT) claim that a locus of control, i.e.: whether one has self-set goals or they are introduced by another person; strongly influences execution of actions. In the current study this was confirmed discovering that students completed more of the activities which they felt were within their own control.

SDT stems from motivational theories. Motivation is the essential and irreplaceable element of success. From a motivational perspective, the procrastination is not irrational nor negative behaviour because incentives tied to an action or goal are not in line with one’s basic values and needs.

There are two main reasons why people initiate and maintain actions. First, the action is pleasurable in itself. When this is the case,there is no need for further justification to act. Such forms of regulationare typically referred to as intrinsic motivation. Second, the action is seen by the individual as a means to a valuable and/or pleasant end. Usually it is connected with awards and reprimands. Such instrumental forms of regulation are typically referred to as extrinsic motivation.

We often fall into a trap of setting too big of a goal ahead of ourselves. Instead, we could fragment this goal into smaller steps. This way, by checking our ‘to-do’ list our brain is experiencing stimulation in form of rewards. In turn, it releases dopamine, a tiny little neurotransmitter that is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation. When we feel the effects of dopamine, we get a small productivity boost. Thus, we are more likely to start crossing off tasks from the list thus coming closer to the final objective. Moreover, a number of earlier studies have shown that motivational strength increases as distance from their intended goal decreases which is what happens as we tick more tasks.

Besides, goal-setting has some handy rules to follow. Goals should be SMART, a derivation from business world but highly applicable in many situations. It stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

However, only setting our goals does not guarantee the implementation of steps. There is a great gap between intention and finalization of the action. Often times we get caught up in daydreaming and lots of thinking but little doing.

 

 

To skip this annoying phase, I wanted to share some valuable tips with you.

Basic tools

  1. An objective
  2. Motivation
  3. Focus
  4. Discipline and commitment

None of that in your toolbox? Let’s try to obtain it…

  • Set goals & specify them as much as possible answering following questions:

What is it that you want? When do you want to do it? How are you going to do it? Are you able to do it? Do you need help? Who can help you?

  • Reward yourself: tasty food shared with friends, a short trip in the nature, anything you like
  • Remove barriers:
    • Physical ones – reduce distractions, clean up your work space – put a photo of a clean desk space

    • Mental ones – set up a buddy system where you are responsible for another person too, this one works miracles for me!
  • Limit your time
  • Don’t wait for the moment when you ‘feel like it’ – jump into it and get into the mood
  • Sharpen your mind: Meditate, improve your concentration abilities

  • Don’t rely on your willpower – it is like a muscle and it can exhaust quicker than you might imagine
    • It’s hard to approach tedious tasks with enthusiasm. Make a game plan and just tick tasks one by one, you will feel accomplished even if you’ve checked only one thing off the list.

  • 3 minutes rule
    • If it takes you less than 3min to do it – immediately do it!
  • Know what you want! Is it important for you? Why are you doing it? Take some time to think and note down your answers.

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Chuck Close

A little inspiration ain’t gonna hurt nobody, but logging in quality hours of work is what actually matters. So now that you have some info and the practical tools, what are you waiting for?

 

REFERENCE

Brown, A.L. and Lahey, J.L. (2015) Small Victories: Creating Intrinsic Motivation in Task Completion and Debt Repayment. Journal of Marketing Research. Vol. 52, No. 6, pp. 768-783.

Grund, A., & Fries, S. (2018). Understanding procrastination: A motivational approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 121120-130. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.09.035

Pychyl, T.A. (2013) Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change

Pychyl, T.A., & Flett, G.L. (2012). Procrastination and self-regulatory failure: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. DOI: 10.1007/s10942-012-0149-5

Sirois, F.M. (2015) Is procrastination a vulnerability factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease? Testing an extension of the procrastination–health model. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 38: 578. doi:10.1007/s10865-015-9629-2

Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). Longitudinal study of procrastination, performance, stress, and health: The costs and benefits of dawdling. Psychological science, 8(6), 454-458.

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