I sometimes have a hard time getting things done. I get distracted. I procrastinate. Now, psychologists have tested methods for me to control my worst instincts so that I can make progress toward my goals. Britain’s PsyBlog summarized the top ten techniques to aid self control.These include pre-committing to beating a bad habit and being optimistic that we will be successful.
In September 2007, Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, then outwardly hale and hearty, spoke about his life and imminent death (he would pass away from pancreatic cancer 10 months later) (“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo). He wanted us all to know that time is our most precious commodity and that the best reason to save time at work is to increase the amount of it we have to share with the people we love.
Pausch died on July 25, 2008, leaving behind a wife and three young children. He knew that the memories of the time that he spent with them would be his most precious legacy. He prioritized his time with this rule: “If I do X, will it matter? And if I have to pick either X or Y, which one is more important? At the end of my life, which of these things will I be glad I did?”
That is reason enough to stop wasting time.
The Lifehacker blog is like having a super-smart friend with excellent answers for practical life questions. Here, it presents ten strong ideas for boosting productivity and subduing procrastination. Tips include “Use Minor Distractions to Fend Off Big Distractions” and “Set a Timer and Crank Until It Beeps.”
The most popular productivity philosophy of the moment is David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD. Based on Allen’s 2001 book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Viking Adult, ISBN 0670899240), the method advocates recording and sorting to-do lists. (You know, the ones that float around in your head and make you crazy … unless they disappear completely.) The method dictates that complex tasks should be broken down into small, doable bits. We should dispatch things that can be done in less than 2 minutes immediately. We must write down our ideas, not try to keep them in our heads. This should impart a sense of calm, a “mind like water,” which is an effective state in which to solve problems.
Allen has the soul of a super library cataloger. If only we could categorize our tasks properly, he seems to say, they would practically complete themselves. Such a system would be ideal to keep complex operations on schedule. Although this procrastinatrix resists the idea of applying so much structure to my piddling projects, I could make me more productive if I adopted some GTD tactics. Perhaps I should give myself a leg up by purchasing some of the books, software, and notebooks available on Allen’s site. More likely, I’ll catch his articles on the Huffington Post [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-allen].
Timothy Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa and an expert on procrastination behavior, writes this blog to provide the psychological know-how needed to overcome our tendency to put things off. Three big tips: just get started; don’t expect to feel good (at least at first); and “Be honest with yourself.” Oh wait now, there’s the problem…
Procrastinating again? Use the 10 minute dash technique from 43 Things: http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/11/procrastination-hack-1025