How to Combat Procrastination
I was reading recently about David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.
I will admit I haven’t read the book itself, I guess it comes back to the idea of action boards: rather than reading about getting things done it is probably better to actually do something. This applies to my bad habit of researching ‘How to Organise the Laundry’ or checking out Pintrest for ideas on how to get control over the kids’ clothes. Anyway…this book apparently tackles the problem of procrastination by proposing the:
TWO MINUTE RULE.
The rule has two parts.
The first is the basic idea is that if something takes less than two minutes you must do it NOW.
The second part is that starting a new habit should take less than two minutes.
Just a quick note, I realise many other people have also claimed ownership of the two-minute rule but it seems it was originally put forward by Allen.
So let’s look at the first part.
If it takes less than two minutes do it now. It is just that simple.
Grab all the dirty clothes off the floor, even if you just put them together in a pile for now
Clear a space on your desk (again, even if you just dump it all into a box next to your desk you will benefit from the image of a clear, clean space).
Write a list of all the emails/phone calls you need to attend to.
Write a list of all the to-do’s that are playing on your mind: putting them down on paper means you won’t forget them and if you can manage it, gives you a little bit of freedom to forget them for a while.
Take something out the freezer for dinner or look in the fridge/cupboard and plan what you are going to make. Just plan, you don’t have to make it right away but knowing you have a plan will help closer to dinner time when all things and people go crazy * I am certain that doesn’t just happen to me*
That gives you a bit of an idea about how this works. You make lots of little gains and achievements. And get many of those niggly things done.
For example I have been meaning to order my graduation photos since the ceremony which was over a year and a half ago. Because I couldn’t chose which photos to buy I kept putting it off but this job always features on my to-do list. So I decided to go ahead and practice what I preach here. Two minutes, log onto website, chose photos, then pay for them. Ok, maybe a little longer than two minutes but certainly not a huge task. Well…it has turned into that because I had left it so long my images had been archived and I needed to contact them to get access again blah blah blah, so what could have been a quick task if I had done it in a timely manner has become somewhat of a hassle.
Ok, well that is all very well and good for small things that can be done in two minutes but what about the BIG things? Those massive jobs or projects that you just don’t have a clue where to start?
I don’t think this is a problem confined only to mums who study but what is an added pressure when you are studying with kids is that your child-free time is so precious. It is like not being able to sleep at night, the more you think about how tired you are going to be the next day, the harder it is to fall asleep. There is nothing worse than staring at a blank screen, not knowing what to write or where to start when you can literally hear the minutes ticking away and knowing that your small window of opportunity to work is getting smaller and smaller with nothing to show for it. The added pressure can make you want to pack it all in and go and drink tea and eat biscuits and think about it another day!
According to this two-minute rule what you do for the big tasks is make a start or do something towards it that takes less than two minutes. While obviously you can’t accomplish every goal that you want to achieve in less than two minutes you can certainly make a start in the right direction. Back to the two-minute idea, you should be able to make a start on the goal within two minutes.
How would this work?
You can open up a word document, type out the essay question or list the components of the chapter you are writing (the method chapter is superb for this) and save the document with the correct name: Research Methods 101 Essay One. That sort of thing. Then next time you attempt to work on it, you have some sort of structure rather than a blank document again.
Exercise whilst studying is very challenging BUT incredibly important. The bigger goal might be to improve your physical condition and get back into exercise but in two minutes you can make a start by doing some stretches for your neck and arms before you sit down to type.
Eating well is also very difficult. In two minutes you can gather together some snacks that you can grab when you are peckish rather than raid the biscuit jar – if you are lucky enough to have one of these in your uni common room or, worse if you are desperate at home, the cooking chocolate which is hidden in the back of the freezer…desperate time, desperate measures. If you don’t have any snacks on hand, two minutes to write a list of things to get next time you are shopping and then when you are eating the cooking chocolate just think next time you will be better prepared
It’s worth a try. And when they start writing self-help books I can read in two minutes I might read the whole thing but until then I will stick to the summaries.